When I began writing my blog, I wanted to find luxury brands that had a small following in the golf market and had the appetite to grow. When I was doing my research, I came across Royal Albatross, a golf footwear brand I had only heard little about before but looked like the perfect company to be associated with.
I reached out to them and they kindly sent me two pairs of shoes which I have worn consistently over the summer both on and off the course and are the most comfortable shoes I own. Always handy for someone who spends his time reviewing and playing golf courses
Fast forward to the end of the season and I met with Simon Lee the new CEO of Royal Albatross who I had been introduced to several years before by Mark Vickery who I help place as CEO at Cannes Mougins Golf Club in the South of France. Simon is the former vice president of Ralph Lauren golf.
Simon is also the brother of Robert Lee winner of several European Tour events and the Sky golf presenter and broadcaster. We met at Sunningdale Heath on a lovely autumnal morning and the conversation flowed from the very first shot. Simon, like his brother, had turned professional at a young age and tried his hand on the Sunshine Tour in South Africa unfortunately unlike his brother his game did not progress and found himself working in the famous Stringfellows night club in London trying to supplement his earnings to save up for his next professional tour in South Africa.
One thing lead to another and Simon left the tour to set up his own bar-restaurant in Richmond, Surrey with the help of a friend and fellow member from Royal Mid Surrey. The bar became very successful in the early ’90s but Simon longed to get back into golf in some capacity. He sold the bar and became the European agent for the Clint Eastwood golf clothing brand Tehama and the putting company ‘Never Compromise’. This proved to be successful in attracting the attention of Polo Ralph Lauren and in 2000 Simon joined Polo as European golf manager and over the course of nearly 20 years held a number of senior positions including Vice President of Golf, Sports & Childrenswear brands.
Simon told me that he had not played since the end of lockdown when he joined his brother and Wayne Riley, also from Sky, for a game at Worplesdon. He was rusty but you could tell that he had been an excellent player back in the day and as we progressed through the front nine his game got better and better. Simon confided in me that two of the biggest achievements he was most proud of whilst working for Ralph Lauren were creating the Wimbledon partnership, redesigning and rebranding all the uniforms and becoming a patron to The Open Championship and official outfitters of the R&A, two of the biggest sporting events in the world.
In September of this year, he was asked to take up the reigns of Royal Albatross which in my opinion is a great appointment. It backs up my original thought that Royal Albatross should be a bigger player in the Luxury golf market globally. They have already a good following in America in elite country clubs and resorts and have created exclusive partnerships even designing tailored bespoke programs in some cases.
There is a lot to do Simon explained but that is what he likes about the role and is excited by the long term opportunity as well as the new styles and range that will be available for the 2022 / 2023 season.
Simon explained to me that he has always loved quality products and he feels fortunate to have been part of a great global brand like Ralph Lauren. He is now implementing what he had learned about premium and luxury products into his new position at RA.
When I asked him what drew him to Royal Albartross, he simple said ‘this brand really leads by design with lifestyle in mind. They stood out from the crowd, on the shop floor and especially on the feet’
‘Their ethos and product personality is something refreshing that they bring to golf. There is a ’slow fashion’ feel. The shoes walk away from mass production and are not just a commodity.’
I really enjoyed the game with Simon who had never been to Sunningdale Heath before, but I get the feeling it might not be his last time visiting.
I believe Simon and his team will be very busy in the next few months and years to come and look forward to following their story and continue endorsing their products as they really are the best and most comfortable shoes I have worn in 45 years of playing golf!
Until next time