Warrington-based retailer American Golf has been named as the new operator for Barnehurst Golf Club in South-East London. The plans submitted include a substantial investment for the site, which has been closed since the start of the pandemic in 2020. New additions will include an Il Corso Sports Bar and Lounge, a refurbished driving range with Toptracer technology, and a state-of-the-art retail space with custom fit technology, planned for later in 2022.
American Golf owns an expanding portfolio of leisure sites across the UK including golf courses, high tech ranges, food and beverage and adventure golf. They are also the UK’s leading golf retailer with 95 stores nationwide.
As American Golf’s first municipal site, Barnehurst Golf Club will extend the brand’s vision to make golf accessible to everyone. It plans to work with the Council to introduce schools and clubs to the wider enjoyment of golf.
Cabinet Member for Places, Cllr Peter Craske said: “This is excellent news for the borough. Having such an established name running the course is exactly what is needed to help it develop and grow into a key golfing venue. The new operators are already brimming with ideas for the site and I’m looking forward to seeing them start work.”
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American Golf’s CEO, Gary Favell, said: “We are looking forward to being part of the Barnehurst community and to welcoming past and new members to the club when we open our doors in Spring.
“The acquisition of Barnehurst Golf Club supports our wider vision to make golf accessible and fun for everyone. We want to break down the barriers to entry and to inspire as many people as possible to try golf for the first time. We are looking forward to announcing details around membership in the coming weeks.”
Future proposals include an ‘adventure golf’ course, subject to the usual planning application process.
Barnehurst Golf Course was designed by world renowned James Braid in 1904 and is built within the grounds of Barnehurst Manor. The golf course is flat and in traditional parkland form. It is a 9-hole golf course with two sets of tees that offer a test for golfers of all handicaps. It is tight off the tee so straight drivers of the ball will be rewarded at Barnehurst Golf Course. 18 holes is an option, requiring golfers to play off the separate tees for their back nine.
American Golf reported record results for the year to January 30, 2022, the best in its 52-year history.
International Leisure Group (ILG), the holding company for American Golf Trading, American Golf Leisure and International Leisure Brands, said total sales topped £166m, up 43.8% compared with the previous 12 months.
EBITDA before exceptional costs for the financial year was £12.8m, marking a significant swing from £1.6m in 2021. The figures represent an impressive turn-around for the business, which was losing £3.9m (FY19 EBITDA) when it was acquired by private equity investor Endless in October 2018.
The business bucked UK retail trends with sales in bricks and mortar stores outstripping ecommerce sales by more than two-to-one. More than £108.5m was generated via physical retail sales, compared with £44.1m spent online.
The remainder of sales were driven by ILG’s expansion into golf ranges, as well as the company’s International Leisure Brands division, which includes Germany-based golf fashion brand Golfino, which the business has recently bolstered by signing Germany’s Golfer of the Year and German National Team pro golfer, Esther Henseleit, who will be endorsing Golfino clothing and footwear.
American Golf now has 95 bricks and mortar stores in the UK and Ireland, as well as a buoyant ecommerce operation. According to Golf Datatech market share analysis, the retailer dominated in 2021, taking a 31.4% share of the UK golf market, with clothing alone commanding a 56.1% share in December 2021.
The company has also made its first leisure acquisitions of entire golf courses, including Cheshire’s High Legh Golf Club, Cambridgeshire’s Hemingford Abbots Golf Club and Lancashire’s Rossendale Golf Centre.
American Golf’s own equipment, apparel and footwear brands, including Benross, Rife, Fazer and Stromberg are also proving popular with all levels of golfer, with Stromberg having risen to the number two brand in the UK.
Gary Favell, CEO of ILG and American Golf, said: “We’ve taken what was an ordinary golf retailer and reimagined the user experience to create immersive, technologically-advanced environments that everyone can enjoy – men, women and children of all ages, backgrounds and abilities – we’ve made the sport accessible to all.
“Couple this with a lively acquisition strategy, of strong, multi-category golf brands and golf courses, and the result is year-on-year double digit growth since 2019 and a leading market share.”
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