GolfBIC – the Golf Business Industry Convention – returned to being an in-person event for the first time since 2019 when members of the UK Golf Federation and the Organisation of Golf Range Owners, along with a wide range of golf industry professionals, gathered at The Belfry Hotel & Resort on March 21 to listen to a programme of quality speakers, meet with suppliers and sponsors, share experiences, and enjoy a drinks reception followed by a gala dinner.
With both GolfBIC 2020 and 2021 held as online events, there was a real sense of community among the 80-plus delegates who attended, with many proprietary golf club owners choosing to share their experiences of the challenges of the past two years and how they have managed and learned from them.
Also attendance in The Belfry’s Warwick Suite were a wide range of golf industry suppliers, whose stands proved popular with delegates before and after the presentations. The companies present were Citation; City Golf Europe; Club Car; fibodo; Eagle Promotions; Golf Club Screens; Golf Clubs 4 Cash; Greenspan; Huxley Golf; Inrange; Intuitive Edge Marketing; PGA; Reesink Turfcare Star; Tickbox; and Your Golf.
The impact of the pandemic and the subsequent boom in golf club membership proved a theme that underlined much of the conversations during the day, while issues around member and staff retention, along with sustainability, inclusivity and creating pathways for new players to be welcomed into the game were also investigated through the guest speaker programme, which was preceded by brief welcome introductions by UKGF chairman Richard Haygarth and UKGF chief executive Doug Poole.
Mark England, Chef de Mission for Team GB’s Olympic squad since 2014, and also leading the team in Paris in 2024, gave an insightful and emotive talk on how he engendered a sense of ‘team’ and belonging among a disparate group of 350-plus athletes at the Rio and Tokyo Games, all of whom have different demands and needs to perform at their best. His methods for creating pathways to success provided lessons that managers in all walks of life could learn from, while the videos that he shared that were created exclusively for Team GB members also proved both inspiring and moving.
With climate change at the forefront of many minds inside and outside the golf industry, a presentation by Environmental Solutions International’s Tony Hanson on how to develop a water resilience plan proved both timely and hugely informative. With 65% of golf clubs in the UK currently relying on mains water for golf course irrigation, and with water consumption per capita having almost trebled in just the last 50 years, the need for golf clubs to develop more sustainable solutions to their water management practices was put into stark focus.
Golf clubs are being encouraged to sign up to the newly created Leisure Operator Water Charter, which commits clubs to make more efficient use of their water resources, including reducing leaks, losses and run offs, creating flood relief, installing more efficient irrigation systems and reducing the use of potable water on golf courses.
After lunch, guests listened to an inspiring presentation given by Yvonne Brooke, the founder of Ladies Golf Lounge, a Facebook group she set up during the first lockdown in May 2020. Initially launched as a way for women golfers to engage and support each other while courses were closed, since golf’s return LGL has succeeded in attracting over 7,700 followers and has become a forum for a complete range of activations, including arranging games between members, sharing swing tips and course reviews, discussing topics such as rules, lessons and etiquette, and sharing experiences, both good and bad, at UK golf clubs.
Yvonne organised a number of Ladies Golf Lounge golf days last year and more are planned this year. Yvonne’s passion for the game as both a competitive, physical and social activity, and her desire to get others involved, came across clearly and she provided plenty of food for thought to golf course owners present at GolfBIC on how they can make their facilities more welcoming to female golfers of all ages and experience levels.
The final guest speaker of the day covered an equally hot topic across a wide range of sports in the UK today, that of diversity and inclusion. Kate Miller, England & Wales Cricket Board’s Chief Diversity and Communications Officer, provided a fascinating insight into the challenges of broadening cricket’s player base at club, county and international level among ethnic and underprivileged communities through outreach programmes into schools and local community projects.
The ECB’s diversity, equity and inclusion programmes, first launched in 2018, are beginning to show positive results, but Kate revealed that despite having millions of pounds of TV sponsorship money to help fund these initiatives, discrimination and exclusion exists and all levels of the game, and it is only through the influence of parents, teachers, friends, community leaders and clubs at grass roots level can issues of diversity and inclusion be properly tackled.
In addition, the conference opened up even more opportunities than the key insights these leading speakers presented, with pre-dinner drinks – generously sponsored by Citation – and a Gala Dinner in the evening providing attendees with the chance to connect and discuss potential business opportunities. The evening’s festivities ended on a suitably high note with an entertaining and informative post-dinner speech by Barry Hearn, the legendary sports events promoter and founder of Matchroom Sport.
Summing up the day, Richard Haygarth, Chairman of the UK Golf Federation, said: “We would like to thank all our industry and corporate partners who joined us at GolfBIC 22. They make GolfBIC happen and their input into all our businesses is very important. GolfBIC is about growing business relationships and making all of our businesses develop strong partnerships that grow our profitability and this year’s event certainly did not disappoint.”
Marc Newey, CEO of Roehampton Golf Club, said: “As a first-time attendee, GolfBIC 22 was hugely enjoyable. Iconic venue, really informative speakers and it felt so good to be able to network again in person. Congratulations to the UK Golf Federation on a well-organised and fruitful day.”
David Bainbridge, Director of Golf Club Screens, a UKGF corporate partner, said: “The response we had to our business model from those attending GolfBIC 22 was huge. The event, from start to finish, was organised superbly by the UK Golf Federation and their team, which made it a total success.”
Kevin Hart, Club Car’s Sales Director Golf EMEA, commented: “It was an absolute pleasure to be able to attend and support, as a long-standing sponsor, the 2022 GolfBIC Conference. It was so good to spend some quality face-to-face time with so many golf course owners and colleagues from the golf industry. As well as the invaluable networking I enjoyed all the presentations, in particular the one by Mark England on his time and experiences leading the GB Olympic Team. Well done to GolfBic for bringing in speakers from outside of the golf industry so that we could learn from them. I also greatly enjoyed the after-dinner speech given by Barry Hearn, who summarized the current position of the UK golf industry in his own inimitable way and offered a number of interesting solutions to go with it. All in all, a cracking event.”
For more details about GolfBIC, visit www.ukgolffederation.com