The balls land on the range and are collected by a network of flumes, which gently wash the balls back to the ball management centre where they are re-distributed to the ball dispensers.
Previously Grant had senior management experience with David Lloyd Leisure and was then headhunted to lead the World of Golf group. He has been instrumental in the development of Adventure Golf and is personally invested in a group of adventure golf courses based around the M25. At World of Golf in Beverly Park, he has ensured that the golf range is still one of the busiest golf ranges in the world, coupled to a major adventure golf course and a huge American Golf store.
He also believes in the future of golf, successfully creating thousands of golfers every year, providing free coaching (with the customers paying for range balls only) for beginners and intermediates.
There are some major things happening in the Golf Range industry, and Golf Features caught up with Grant recently to see where the industry is heading over the next 10 years.
Golf Features: At Beverly Park, you have always been at the cutting edge of the user experience. Can you explain what you are offering to the customers when they visit the centre?
Grant Wright: We want to make practice something you look forward to. We were a very early adopter of Powertees and of Tracking Technology as we want out customers to have an enjoyable and hassle-free experience. For many years we have surveyed our customers and this feedback has been vital in shaping the product. It is important in any service business not just to listen to the vociferous few.
Golf Features: What are your thoughts on booking bays rather than selling so many range balls?
Grant Wright: Lockdown spurred us to change model, and I give great credit to Declan at Greenwich who developed a model for this. With the purchase of balls, rather than bay time, it avoids the disadvantages of having to queue and or finding you are waiting behind the wrong person, as well as the issues of unfairness of pricing for elite golfers who use far fewer balls, but still take an hour of range time. The scarce resource we had was range bays, not balls, and it is a better system to book the bays. The eradication of queuing at busy times has made the whole business more relaxed for customers and team-members. The other positive effects are that people can see the busy times when booking and we have enjoyed a shift to increased off-peak usage.
Golf Features: How does giving free tuition to thousands of golfers work as a business model at Beverly Park?
Grant Wright: We have been doing this now for more than ten years, and as a true Scotsman I would not continue unless it was driving value. Our proposition to customers is six, one-hour lessons in a small group at no cost other than the cost of the balls. We have three full-time, employed pros, who deliver around 96 hours per week to these groups.
The customers come from a Google Pay-per-click campaign and are flagged on our system so we can calculate the average life-time value. Introducing new people to golf in this way builds huge loyalty, and the whole scheme is masterminded by Jon Woodroffe who deserves all of the credit for this scheme which, to the best of our knowledge, is the biggest learn to play scheme in the world.
Golf Features: You have provided magnificent space for American Golf to have one of the largest shops at the centre. How does the retail experience work within the wider business?
Grant Wright: In the early days we ran the retail business ourselves and it required our full attention and constant management. The decision to outsource to a specialist retailer was the right one for us. American Golf has been through significant problems in recent years, but we are lucky as this is a flagship store so they have always invested in it.
I recently met the new management team from AG and was impressed and I look forward to them making improvements to the operation. For our customers the retail experience is a key part of the overall experience and it is vital to have high standards of customer care and access to the best products.
Golf Features: How successful is the adventure putting course at Beverly Park, and also the other adventure putting courses in your group?
Grant Wright: The adventure golf course here was a big gamble fifteen years ago when we took an American vacation product and built it in residential London. The course here has proved to be a fantastic and growing business. We do not take that growth for granted and invest in theming and hole improvements every year. This adventure golf is the highest returning business I have ever known. The other courses have also done well in an increasingly competitive market by being focused on customer service. Adventure golf is here to stay and future growth is about finding the best locations.
Golf Features: What part does the weather play in adventure putting? Do you think the way forward will be more covered putting greens?
Grant Wright: The weather this summer was pretty terrible with most of the school holidays being overcast or rainy. This definitely affected our courses but we know that those with a good cafe offering suffer less as people pile in to that if the rain starts, and then rejoin the course when the shower is over. Indoor adventure golf for competitive socialising such as Puttshack is a great new addition to the market, but our courses and holes are much bigger and would require a significant building. We are exploring options to achieve this.
Golf Features: Technology has been a huge driver for mini golf and ranges up and down the country and across the rest of the world. How has this technology impacted your customers at Beverley Park?
Grant Wright: The rise of competitive socialising brands like Puttshack and Swingers have had no effect on us, as they are very clearly for a young adult market and we have always been mostly about families. We have not yet added the scoring systems available where a chip in the ball counts the score and there are leaderboard screens around the course, but we would like to.
Golf Features: What do you think the future looks like in terms of range technology?
Grant Wright: In London we are seeing a flood of high-quality simulator centres being built. The quality of the latest sim offerings from Trackman and others is fantastic. I think these are a natural addition for most golf ranges. These have become very popular in the USA with companies like Five-Iron rolling out centres. The first 60 bay sim centre has been planned. Rather than allow these to become a competitor to us we will add them to our offering for those wanting a private, heated, premium experience and to provide a great alternative on a rainy, cold day.
Golf Features: Food and drink is important to everyone on the planet. How does your Costa Coffee offering work at Beverley Park and where do you see that side of the business going over the next few years?
Grant Wright: We love our Costa and have had it for 15 years. It is no longer acceptable for any leisure business to offer a vending machine and a polystyrene cup. Our Costa glues the whole experience together for customers and especially families who may come together, but then go and do different activities. Our next development is to deliver in-bay food and drink that is delivered to every bay having been ordered on the customer’s phone via a QR code.
Golf Features: What would you like to see the R&A and England Golf doing to promote golf to a wider audience?
Grant Wright: Our free beginners programme is designed to attract a diverse audience and achieves 40% female uptake and very strong ethnic minority groups. We have a great model that really works for us and for golf. The governing bodies should be backing schemes like this to broaden the appeal of golf and to bring the sport to the many who may choose to never join a golf club. We have never had any financial support for our scheme and yet what we achieve is exactly what the governing bodies are trying to do. They will also need to move quickly on the new wave of simulator centres.
Golf Features: What do you think about the future of reduced flight ranges, golf pods seem to be becoming more popular, even when the customer may be only offered 40m or less of actual ball flight?
Grant Wright: For a while I became a little addicted to our CCTV and I can state with certainty that our customers typically hit a ball and watch the first second of flight then turn to the Toptracer screen to see the outcome. This could be done in a net-pod and I am sure we will see more of them. The popularity of ultra-long hitting and ever-improving clubs has been a headache for the range industry and resulted in higher and higher nets. It may be that the future is a net cage rather than net wall.
Golf Features: What are the main differences between the customer experience at Beverley Park and a customer’s experience at Topgolf?
Grant Wright: Topgolf is a great product and I would urge people to visit the new one in Glasgow. It is attracting a group of young adults where they are enjoying time together with a burger and beer and golf is the entertainment. They provide this brilliantly. Our customers are driven to become better golfers and generally take their golf practice seriously. Ours is a training facility and Topgolf is an entertainment facility. Our customers are not against enjoying food and drinks on the bay, but have made it clear that they want the great sport of golf to be the heart of what we do.