Once the turkey has been eaten and pine needles start to fall off the Christmas tree, plenty of people turn their thoughts to booking a holiday, writes Tony Rushmer.
But PGA Professional Andy Fletcher has long had his 2020 travel plans in the diary. Indeed, they were confirmed before the tinsel even started to go up.
Fletcher (Lakeside Lodge Golf Centre) has been involved in overseas golf travel for 11 years and, through steady growth, it now represents around 40 per cent of his business. For example, in the next 12 months he has eight trips scheduled, including to South Africa, Mauritius, Abu Dhabi and Bulgaria.
The offering is extensive and varied. From coaching and playing experiences, Fletcher also provides the chance to watch top-class professionals in action – this year, as part of trip, he took a group to see the Turkish Airlines Open. Next year the stay in Mauritius blends golf and deep-sea fishing.
It all represents a sizeable success story – and ticks the boxes on a number of levels for the Cambridgeshire-based professional.
Fletcher, 44, explained: “As a golf professional working at a club, it can get very quiet in the winter months and I wanted to keep a constant revenue stream. I’d always had a passion for travel and realised that there was a gap in the market for more overseas-hosted golf trips. So, 11 years ago, becoming involved in golf travel for members and clients seemed a perfect way to explore the world and get paid for it.
“Over the years I have been fortunate enough to have visited and played so many beautiful golf courses. I’ve experienced some wonderful memories from watching Sergio Garcia win his first Green Jacket at The Masters to golfing in the amazing country of South Africa.”
Fletcher’s aspirations have increased in recent times. In early 2018 he teamed up with fellow PGA Professional Michael Chamberlain with the objective of raising the bar when it came to overseas golf travel.
Fletcher continued: “I wanted to expand my golf travel business and decided to join forces with Michael, who runs a successful corporate events company. We have now created a new company called IKE Travel (https://iketravel.com). Our aim is to provide the ultimate luxury golf travel experience to clients – coaching, hosting or tournament access. We are trying to redefine the golf travel business and are seeking to offer tailor-made experiences because no two guests are the same.”
So, with this increasingly popular revenue route being taken by PGA Professionals, Fletcher has one key piece of advice – give yourself plenty of planning time. He recommends six to nine months to build a European trip and up to a year for long-haul adventures.
He added: “You need to make sure that resorts are set up for large groups and that they are all-inclusive. Other factors to consider are whether they are near to the airport and also that the transfers are easy. The resort has to have good practice facilities and you also must be able to access these during the busy periods. And, of course, it’s key to be able to book good tee times for your clients’ golf. So, these are just a few reasons why I advise long-term planning.”
Fletcher’s successful overseas travels serve him well – and not just with repeat bookings. On these trips he has built strong relationships with members and clients that deliver on-going yields when he is at Lakeside Lodge. The obvious one is that he maintains a year-round home and abroad coaching relationship with a database of golfers of all levels. Those lessons are vital to the overall composition of his business model.
It all adds up to a fulfilling working life for the amiable and ever-busy Fletcher. Just don’t ask him when he’s going to find the time to get his Christmas shopping done, never mind put that tinsel up.