About 4 years ago my wife’s nephew, a successful builder and keen golfer told me he had joined a networking group called “Fore Business”. This allowed him to enjoy golf outside of his leisure time without feeling guilty, networking with potential clients and suppliers.
Remembering this conversation, I reached out to one of the founders Sean Fergusson on LinkedIn and as a professional networker, he came straight back to me. We agreed he and Co-Founder Arron Busst would join me at Stoneham Golf Club for my Top 100 England course review.
It was a hot late-summer Friday afternoon and the course looked so inviting. Fellow Top 100 Hundred panellist Ben Hunter has just joined the club as the Marketing Manager and was going to make up the fourball, but a shoulder injury prevented him from joining us.
I last played Stoneham about 30 years ago in a society day and remembered playing well and enjoying the 1908 Willie Park Jnr layout. The first person I saw when I arrived was Ian Young who has been a professional at Stoneham for 35 years and I knew well when he played on the South Region PGA circuit. He hadn’t changed a bit and the banter flowed from the start.
Ian was so excited to tell me that the club has just spent £1.2 million on a new academy and whisked me off to show me this fabulous new facility which was going to open at the end of September, more of which to come in another blog.
Ben is a terrific host and Stoneham are lucky to have him and when I returned from the academy, he was entertaining Sean & Arron. I could tell these guys were really professional both had very smart matching uniforms showing off their new logo. I asked who would like to take me on for “The Round with Niall Challenge”. Sean was nominated and we agreed that I would give him 7 shots.
Sean explained that “FORE” Business came about in 2013 when he & Arron met at a local networking event and got talking about golf as a common interest. They soon got round to talking about the business successes they had on the golf course and “FORE” Business was born with the thought, what better way to encourage successful business relationships than to create an actual members club for business owners who enjoy golf and love to network?’.
Fore is now all over the country and also has groups in Spain, Ireland, Colorado and Florida. When they first started, they would get up at 3 am and as they lived near each other share a car and drive as far as Manchester to form groups and promote the business. “FORE” Business offers its members a chance to sign up to become a member of regular local golf network events.
Within the membership business, owners attend monthly networking meetings and play golf, plus redeem a monthly 4-ball. They can also join other members from across the UK on over 100 courses and now they have over 1600 members in the UK alone and growing. Incredibly since its inception “Fore “business has accumulated over £50 million worth of business for its members through networking and playing golf.
Sean showed all the signs of a successful businessman he was competitive and focused and despite birding the 2nd hole I was 2 down after 6. It’s great to see a club, like so many other top 100 clubs, putting money back into the course. Currently, they are just undertaking to install a state-of-the-art irrigation system. Strangely enough, I bumped into the head man of the installation company who I first met when I worked at St Andrew’s Links Trust when he oversaw the installation of the system across the Links courses.
Matt Plested is the course manager and everyone I met highlighted what a difference he had made to the course. Matt apologised to me that they had undertaken some green maintenance three weeks prior to my visit and the greens were on the slow side. I could see some work had been done but most clubs would have been thrilled to have the standard of the greens we enjoyed on the day.
The pandemic did cause Sean and Arron difficulties as the restrictions prevented them from running their events and they saw people just exiting from their direct debits of £69 per month. However, it gave them time to rethink and they put on a number of Zoom networking events which proved to be successful as most members of the network are small business owners and missed the interaction through the lockdown periods.
They also took the time to invest in a new brand and also move into some of the top courses in the UK. They have created a Bucket List series for next year playing 5 Open venues Turnberry, Royal St Georges, Carnoustie, Royal Birkdale and Royal Lytham which I think will be a great addition to their portfolio.
America is also in their sites and with the success of their Colorado and Florida groups, they have split America into 5 segments and will actively role out their model once travel restrictions are lifted and permits them to enter the country.
My game came together and I managed to win the match 2 up but was taken all the way by Sean who was competitive to the end. I really enjoyed both Sean and Arron’s company and getting to understand their business model. They continue to work extremely hard and I can only see their business flourishing now that more people who own businesses are playing golf and want to network outside of the usual networking circles and clubs.
Stoneham was a real treat and got a great review from me and I urge anyone looking to play a course in that part of the world to give it a try you will not be disappointed. In addition for businesses looking to host a company day now the Academy has been built, it will be a great place to entertain clients. I know for one “Fore” Business will be back supporting Ben in his new role and letting their members know about the club as any good networkers should!
Until next time