The clubs that are making huge profits through hosting weddings

Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir September 12, 2011 14:54

With almost every golf club exploring revenue streams in addition to selling golf memberships these days, it is hardly surprising that many have now set themselves up as wedding venues. Often out of town and off the beaten track, lush scenery and sweeping panoramic views provide the perfect backdrop for that special day, while clubhouses, with their large reception areas, kitchens and bars, are perfectly primed and ready for major functions.

However, demand from soon-to-be newlyweds to get married at golf clubs, which can also offer a convenient venue to host both the wedding and reception, is incredibly high at the moment, and, reading the testimonials below, you can see why:

Lindsay and Bradley Thatcher, who got married last year, told the website “I want to reiterate just how much we enjoyed our big day at Manor House Golf Club. It really was everything we could have wished for and more – the venue was nothing short of perfect! We were lucky enough to be able to enjoy the views over the golf course and Manor House did a fabulous job of making the main room itself look stunning as well.”

While published the following review: “My husband and I chose to marry at a golf course. The golf club’s co-ordinator helped us with our budget in choosing the perfect DJ, florist and bakery. It truly was a ‘one stop shop’ for us. It took the frustration out of finding a wedding and reception location. After the ceremony, we were whisked off to the 15th hole in a golf cart for a few quiet moments together – and some beautiful photos.”

And the editor of Golf Club Management, Alistair Dunsmuir, who attended a wedding at The Grove last month, said: “The Grove is a wonderful place to have a wedding. We played golf on the Saturday and a group of us kept the groom company in the bars there that evening – a great way to calm his nerves! – before staying in the hotel. The following day we had the convenience of the wedding ceremony, reception and pictures all being in the same place.

“The Grove organised everything impeccably; the wedding did not impact on any other part of the business there – we never bothered golfers on the day and vice versa. I also appreciated the extra touches such as a magician and mind reader walking around the tables and performing a few tricks between courses for the meal. “Everyone enjoyed themselves and, of course, not least The Grove, which made tens of thousands of pounds in profit from the experience.”

In fact the money that a club can make from a wedding is eye-catching. Last month, one club in the south of England hosted a wedding reception (the ceremony took place at a nearby register office), in which the couple and guests were photographed on the course, and the entire entourage were given their own bar area – selling drinks and cigars, which proved to be particularly popular – for 24 hours (from midday to the following midday, even though the reception didn’t start until about 3pm and the bar was almost empty by 3am). The club, which includes a hotel, provided accommodation to 90 guests, all paying £150 per room. The married couple also paid £95 per head for the food and wine for all guests, and this excluded expenditure on welcoming drinks. All in all, the club turned over approximately £30,000 for the day – equivalent to about £1.5 million a year if this occurs once a week, every week. While this is at the premium end of wedding revenues to be made, it should not disguise the potential that there is for every club.

Also, between £3,000 and £5,000 is usually spent on weddings at Dartmouth Golf and Country Club, but, warned a club spokesman, “the high-level of service and attention to detail required make the weddings very staff intensive.”

Dartmouth has created an independent micro-site with the separate branding of ‘Dartmouth Weddings’ to promote its facilities, and it also advertises across wedding-specific publications and websites. However, the bulk of its business comes from referrals, with around 50 per cent of couples making a booking after attending a previous wedding there, which echoes the positive feedback received by attendees.

Another potential marketing opportunity is via wedding fayres, which are popular with brides and grooms to be, as well as wedding planners. Some clubs even run their own fayres, promoting themselves, and market this in marriage and local publications.

“Our wedding fayre offers the opportunity to see our fabulous venue in its entire splendour,” said a spokesman for Silvermere Golf Club in Surrey. “The day allows people the opportunity to see and use our services and meet providers of florists, balloons, gifts, cakes, fireworks, entertainment and lots more.”

Reaction from Members

The burning question on everyone’s lips though, is how do golfers react to the clubhouses being used for weddings?

For Andrew Cook, director of golf at QHotels, the member problem is one he is glad he does not have to face. “Golf clubs do make excellent wedding venues, however they are certainly not without their headaches. At QHotels we are very fortunate as our five courses are ‘golf resorts’ – a combination of hotel and club – rather than just standalone clubs. This does not mean that there is any compromise on quality or standard of play – all five are championship courses and have a healthy number of active members, but it does mean that when it comes to hosting events, weddings and special occasions, we have a dedicated team of separate event organisers to call upon.”

QHotels has five golf resorts – The Westerwood Hotel and Golf Resort near Glasgow, Aldwark Manor Golf and Spa Hotel near York, Forest Pines Hotel and Golf Resort in North Lincolnshire, Telford Hotel and Golf Resort in Shropshire and Hellidon Lakes Golf and Spa Hotel in Northamptonshire, all of which can be hired out as wedding venues for receptions ranging from 30 to 300 guests. All have rooms licensed for civil ceremonies.

“The benefit of a golf resort is that all our hotels have multiple function rooms, many with their own private bars, entrances and even car parks, so there is little or no detrimental impact on our regular members or other guests,” continued Andrew. “The wedding planner will advise on where to take the best photos to make the most of the often stunning landscape, without interrupting play! Many of the QHotels golf members have held their daughters’, sons’ or even their own weddings at the resorts and will often recommend them to friends, neighbours and family looking for a venue.”

Similarly, at Dartmouth G&CC, the wedding facilities are completely self-contained, so they don’t impact on members’ use, and ample car parking on site is provided to cater for everyone.  If you’re able to do likewise, then a potentially lucrative offering to couples would be that they can have the ceremony at the club as well as the reception.

Licence for the ceremony
Golf clubs have only been allowed to host wedding ceremonies since 1994, when the then Conservative MP, Gyles Brandreth, introduced a private members’ bill allowing ceremonies to be conducted away from churches and register offices. Since then, interested golf clubs have needed to apply for a civil marriage licence or for a specific area to be designated as a ‘marriage room’ (the superintendent registrar will deem what is suitable for this). Clubs can either apply for one-off licences for each booking or seek a more permanent arrangement, depending on anticipated demand, costs and licence duration. Generally, to secure the licence, the venue must be a permanent structure with a roof and the room that the ceremony takes place in must contain no religious artefacts or anything with religious connotations. Furthermore, as a condition of the licence, no food or drink may be served in the room for at least one hour before a ceremony.

Other things to consider: Interior design
The lucrative nature of wedding venues mean that some golf clubs have revamped their offerings in order to bring more money in. Recently we looked at Cuddington and Wildwood golf clubs, which have either spent, or are going to spend, millions on renovating their interiors to create extra clubhouse and / or hotel space to accommodate more guests at functions. In addition, Birchwood Park GC recently invested £46,000 in an upgrade to its Kelvedon Suite (pictured bottom left), which hosts wedding receptions, formal dinners and private parties.

The area now has a new landing area, dance floor, décor, curtains and carpet, and can accommodate 140 seated diners and up to 200 for buffet-style functions and dances.

Graham Rolland, Birchwood Park’s general manager, said: “The Kelvedon Suite has received a complete makeover. The room looks much fresher and lighter, and enjoys stunning views over the 10th and 18th holes, making it the ideal party venue.”

Meanwhile, Dartmouth Golf and Country Club embarked on a £100,000 renovation of its facilities in order to host around 25 weddings a year.

The new Kingsbridge and Dartmouth suites boast their own private lounge, bar and sun terrace, and can accommodate up to 160 guests for a sit-down wedding breakfast, or 200 for a buffet. More intimate occasions can be situated in the Dartmouth Suite which caters for parties of up to 60 people and boasts picturesque views across the 225-acre estate’s lakes and countryside.

And, unsurprisingly, QHotels believes that offering hotel rooms can be very popular as well. “It is an additional benefit,” said Andrew Cook, “guests can enjoy the leisure and spa facilities or even on one memorable occasion at Forest Pines, a quick round of nine holes the morning of the actual wedding!”

Catering and insurance
When viewing the glowing testimonials that many golf clubs have received from newlyweds, the impressive quality of the food is an issue that appears even more frequently than the scenic beauty that contributed to the photographs-to-remember. Some clubs, such as Frinton Golf Club in Essex for example, use an outside caterer to work with the in-house banqueting team, to make sure this aspect of the day is as close to perfect as possible. However it is achieved, most clubs offer an extensive range of menus to satisfy all needs.

Insurance is another area to consider: “Clubs must have the right events’ insurance to hold a wedding,” explained a spokesman for the National Golf Clubs’ Advisory Association (NGCAA). “Who would be responsible if wedding presents or jewellery disappear from the club? Is there a secure area available where the couple and their guests could store valuables?”

Wedding co-ordinator
Most clubs that offer weddings also have a designated wedding co-ordinator to ease the stress burden and workload of the couple, who can assist in designing a décor plan for the ceremony and reception, including seating arrangements, selecting appropriate music, place cards, linen placement, flower arrangement, centerpiece setting and so on. The wedding co-ordinator may also be involved in the dietary and accommodation requirements of guests, plus the selection of the wedding cake and caterers, the designing and printing of invitations, selecting florists, photographers and transport services and so on. However, many clubs utilise an existing member of staff to fulfill this function – West Hove GC’s wedding reception co-ordinator, for instance, is also the club’s accounts’ assistant. Dartmouth Golf and Country Club however, has a dedicated wedding co-ordinator who will sit down with the couple and discuss what they want before suggesting a range of suitable alternatives, while the resort works with a variety of suppliers and agencies to outsource other services such as florists and DJs.

“Have a dedicated wedding / events team on hand but make sure there is good communication between them and your golf team,” advised QHotels’ Andrew Cook. “Each has a different job to do but everyone’s priority should be to make sure that wedding guests and members alike have a positive and memorable visit – whether they are attending the ceremony or simply practicing their swing!”

Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir September 12, 2011 14:54
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1 Comment

  1. Banja Vrujci smestaj March 26, 23:28

    Great delivery. Outstanding arguments. Keep up the good effort.

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