Gower Golf Course

Origins

The business started as a diversification from farming in the late 1980s when it became to the owners that farming was heading for tough times. Their agricultural business was lucky enough to feel the first ripples as BSE decimated the pedigree livestock export market and the desire to recognise new sources of income became a major imperative. Initially, the potential of Swansea as a market place was recognised and considered milk processing and retailing as possible options. However, the main opportunity arose with the Ministry of Agriculture approving land-use for non-agricultural activities and the publication of the report "The Demand for Golf" published by the R&A governing body of golf. However, it took three years to win the planning consents necessary by which time golf had become bad news for the banks. As a result, the large capital requirement for setting up took another 12 months to negotiate and then project was phased as two nine hole developments. In this time, the Inland Revenue introduced discriminatory VAT laws against proprietary golf clubs and this has remained a millstone to the present day. Despite this, the business has become a very successful example of agricultural diversification.

Success Factor

No other golf developments have threatened to compete for trade in the area. While planning proved a headache in the early years, the business is on the right side of the fence now! The course has settled in and it now receives popular acclaim in the area, with a corresponding increase in sales have increased as a result. Spreading the risk from golf only into hospitality and catering have virtually introduced a new business into the company, which largely resulted from an expansion of the clubhouse in 1998.A shortage of hospitality venues West of Swansea/Gower area has enabled the rapid expansion of the catering operation and clubhouse sales now exceed golf sales.

The Future

In the last 12 months, barns have been converted into bedrooms to initiate a visitor trade on a much wider scale. With the Ryder Cup arriving within the decade, there is a new impetus for golfers to visit Wales and Gower is pursuing a gap in the market as there are no golf/accommodation providers in the area. This aspect of the business may well expand further than the existing 11 bedrooms and the firm is striving to become a ‘golfing destination’. Revenues are growing slowly but it is receiving bookings for 2003 regularly, and it hopes to match its Wales Tourist Board Four Star rating for accommodation with a restaurant of similar standing. On a local basis, the firm hopes to create facilities to increase golf participation that would ensure future demand for the game.