Golf club entrepreneur, Sandy Ganatra on running a service business during a pandemic

Flempton Golf
Some say that you can’t or shouldn’t mix business with pleasure, but for entrepreneur Sandy Ganatra, it isn’t a problem. In 2007, he blended his love for golf and enterprise to create One Golf Club, a private members club that allows golfing enthusiasts, including business networkers, to work and play by giving them access to over forty golf courses in Greater London.

However, like in many industries, the ongoing COVID-19 crisis has meant Ganatra has had to pivot his business in a direction he would have never believed would be necessary.
Real Business sits down to hear his story…

Real Business, (RB): Where did the idea of One Golf Club come from?

Sandy Ganatra, (SG): In 2017, I decided to start One Golf Club. Fast forward three years and we now have 500+ members. What’s amazing is that we are growing every year in an industry where golf is perceived to be either too difficult to play or too time consuming.

RB: What are the business benefits of getting a membership at One Golf Club?

SG: If you use One Golf Club, you have the benefit of having your clients’ attention for four hours and the flexibility of playing only six or nine holes. This means the concept appeals to avid golfers because of the variety of golf courses on the portfolio, but also business people and social golfers who could not justify membership at a local club.

Today, we have secured over 40 golf courses in and around Greater London and host corporate golf events for our clients and hold pro-amateur events for the more competitive golfers.

RB: How do you manage a service-based business during this pandemic?
SG: Whilst golfers cannot play, it is likely to be one of the sports that will return soonest. Most European countries already restrictions for golf had been lifted as early as May 13th with golfers back on the course as it is easy to social distance with the average golf course being over 120 acres.

Fairways and greens have sufficient space to keep more than 2m apart. It has been perceived as a safe sport to play, allowing our members to meet safely at a portfolio club.

The members are still able to use receive golfing tips from our list of professionals which they can practice at home and we hold virtual golf events to ensure members remain engaged.

For this the period of lockdown, we decided to credit all our members for the portion of their subscription lost due course closure. Our office remained open for any questions or concerns members may have, but we are also able to remain in contact with our members through the unique marketing tools we use and social media.

RB: What have been your biggest struggles since coronavirus began?
SG: The biggest loss to us was the events in the diary from March to August. These are unlikely to return this year and they will not be hosting two events next year to make up the lost days.

However, membership numbers are up year on year as the concept is unique and many golfers are unlikely to join a single club in the near future as they will be unable to justify the fees during this unprecedented time. The lockdown has also given us the time to pursue opportunities which we had missed in the past and are now able to progress with and monetise for the coming year.

RB: Do you have exciting projects in pipeline after the crisis ends?
SG: Currently we operate in Greater London where most of our individual members, corporate clients and courses are located. By 2021 however, we would like to extend the concept to Birmingham and Manchester. We have already secured the golf courses from which our members will benefit and who would, in turn, be suitable venues.

We are also launching an online golf shop for members, have negotiated member benefits at restaurants, golf tuition and golf travel.

In addition to this, our monthly member events will return and that will allow the group to reach our corporate members once again whilst also allowing us to continue supporting our charity affiliations such as the Royal Marsden, Disabled Golfers Association and The Kidney Fund.

In September we have provisionally booked three venues around London to hold a golf event in aid of the NHS staff. Key workers will be invited to participate at no cost and be paired with a One Golf Club member.

RB: Can you share with us any growth and sales statistics that you’re especially proud of since starting One Golf Club?

SG: Membership numbers are up 40% in the current times and we will approach the 2020 limit of 750 members within the next quarter. There are currently 3.5m ‘nomad golfers’ in the UK and with an average spend of over £1,050 per golfer excluding the green fees, we feel there is a lot more room for growth.

RB: What’s ensured your business’s survival at this time?
SG: We have been fortunate to focus on temporary staff and contractors since the inception of the business. Events are not held daily and the busy season for golf tends to be now until mid- October.
We’re also lucky that the One Golf Club team can work remotely and the business has continued as normal.

Virtual networking with clients with some added fun at each event (the last one finished with a wine tasting) and keeping the channels of communication open is key to our membership relations.
With membership subscriptions and the additional income streams, we have been more resilient at this time than many other businesses and we are thankful that we are able to continue as normal, even without playing golf.

Now the lockdown restrictions are lifted that have eased golfers will once again look towards how they are able to recover their business and social relationships in a safe environment. I feel that One Golf Club may be the answer to their wishes!

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