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Mint Greens founder James Rogers: How corporate golf is changing
Golf has always been synonymous with business. But now other sports, as well as a general lack of time, have contributed to a 30 percent decline in golf in the last decade. Seeing the evolving trend, James Rogers decided to found a golf concierge service in London, Mint Greens, to cater to the new corporate way of the sport.
Mint Greens has a confidential agreement with some of the top clubs around London. As they have a portfolio of partner clubs, they can usually find tee times for their clients even during the peak golfing season.
“We are also in a position to help our clients when they are traveling as we have over 200 golf course partnerships overseas,” said Rogers.
Before founding Mint Greens in 2010, Rogers dabbled in law, medical research and software development, as well as advertising.
“I was destined to be a lawyer, did a placement at a big city firm and decided it wasn’t the career for me. I then worked for a medical research organisation and then a software business, where I cut my teeth in marketing.
“My dad was a keen golfer and I have been playing since I was ten years old and realised I could apply my marketing skills to my passion for golf,” he said.
Rogers had the idea of a golf marketing company in 2010 and launched an online service called iSpyGolf.
“Our new business, Mint Greens, has now developed alongside this but is an entirely different service that’s aimed at corporate and executive golfers here in the city. We’ve looked to create a new kind of solution in partnership with top clubs around London that sets new standards of service and value,” says Rogers.
There has reportedly been a 30 percent decline in golf in the US, UK, and Europe since 2004.
“There’s no question that golf is under pressure in the UK, as it is in Europe and the US, though some of our partner clubs are reporting positive noises again from the corporate market. It’s traditional memberships that have suffered in recent years. There are a lot of reasons for this, though I think demand on people’s time these days is the main cause,” he said.
“A lot of people would like to play more golf, but time just doesn’t allow it. But this dip isn’t a phenomenon that’s confined to golf and clubs are beginning to adapt to the changes. For companies like ours, there are opportunities to help the industry by identifying new and more flexible approaches,” said Rogers.
Golf still remains the sport of business, he believes. According to Rogers, recent research still has 97% of senior executives considering golf a great way to establish closer relationships.
But while business still gets done on the golf course, Rogers concedes that corporate budgets are under intense pressure now which makes it difficult for companies to entertain clients on the golf course. New regulations following the banking crisis have had their impact too. Corporate golf days have been scaled back and many companies are opting to spend their time on the golf course in the company of just their key clients.
Amongst Mint Greens’ clients, the financial services sector is the most heavily represented, with other clients drawn from across a broad range of industries including insurance, media and advertising.
The average annual service is £2,500 per year with the flexibility of use within a corporate or executive team. They also have a private executive service for individuals.
“We only launched Mint Greens last summer but we’ve made healthy progress and have a 100 percent renewal rate with our clients so far, so we know we are doing something right,” Rogers says, before explaining that the arrangements are good for the clubs too, delivering extra business and giving them the opportunity to showcase their venue to some influential people.
Gerard Kenny, CEO of Mansion House Consulting, said he would recommend Mint Greens and “their simple, but very effective business model.”
“I have been using Mint Greens for the past year and have been continually impressed with the high service levels that they offer and how effective it has been for my company to use their concierge service on a global basis,” he said.
Matthew Knowles, CEO of HiFX Foreign Exchange, agreed.
“They provide access to some of the best courses both at home and abroad and make the whole process of booking rounds of golf simple and hassle-free, whilst ensuring nothing is taken away from the experience for my clients as we are treated like member’s guests,” he said.
There are official rankings for the best clubs in the UK, but much is a matter of personal taste and varies from person to person, says Rogers. His personal favourite course would have to be traditional links, he says, in Scotland or Ireland.
When asked if he gets to play often, Rogers replies, “Sadly not. I don’t think anyone working in golf plays as much as people assume they do. We also have an ex-pro golfer on our team so often we’ll let him do the representing on the course. It’s certainly better than watching me flailing away,” he laughs.
Best clubs around London: bankers’ top 10
Mint Greens canvassed clients for thoughts on the best (or, at least, their favourite) venues for playing golf around London. The strictly private clubs were excluded, which means the likes of Queenwood, The Wisley, Swinley Forest, New Zealand, Centurion Club, and Wentworth don’t feature.
1. The Grove
Modern championship course and high-quality facilities with a reputation for first-class service that is second to none.
2. Stoke Park
Established and elegant club and hotel that has the wow factor alongside superior guest services and a classic Colt course.
Brilliant golf destination with three formidable courses that wind through the forest. An exceptional venue for a golf day.
4. Walton Heath
A traditional members’ club that guarantees a warm welcome to visitors and boasts two exceptional heathland courses.
5. London Golf Club
Arguably the most impressive club east of London offering a high standard of service and two quality championship courses (one for members only).
6. Burhill Golf Club
A golf club of the highest caliber with a glorious Georgian clubhouse and two contrasting but equally attractive courses.
7. Buckinghamshire Golf Club
A sophisticated modern golfing venue that is easily accessible from London and has a recent history of hosting leading professional events.
8. Moor Park
17th-century grandeur and the handiwork of one of the greatest golf course architects in history, Harry Colt.
9. St. George’s Hill
One of the great inland golf courses set in the heart of one of the most prestigious residential estates in the world.
10. Brocket Hall
A long-time favorite for corporate golf, the two courses wind through the parkland of a historic 18th-century estate.
This stroy first appeared in FinBuzz
Photo: John Haslam