Escape From Reality
Home to the craziest golf, epic cocktails, great-tasting food and a whole load of unusual stuff, Junkyard Golf Club is where people go to take a walk on the weird side. Here, RLI sits down with Managing Director, Sam Jones to discuss the meteoric rise of the business as it makes its mark in the world of competitive socialising.
The Junkyard Golf Club story began when a street food market in a warehouse in Manchester had some last-minute space, due to a late withdrawal of a vendor. To fill the space, a couple of golf holes were installed and they became the most popular part of the venue that week.
Sensing an opportunity, the founders re-purposed the warehouse space by removing all the food vendors and replacing them with two, nine-hole golf courses. After a sold-out six-month run, the money gained from this went towards launching a pop-up venue in the event space in the Truman brewery in London. The same happened here, six months went by and all available tickets were sold.
From here, the money earned was reinvested into more permanent fixtures and features and led to the company’s first permanent space in Manchester. A site in Oxford came next which was followed by Leeds, Liverpool and London. After global events slowed expansion down, the business returned after lockdown with its Newcastle location and an expansion to its Manchester site with a roof terrace. Most recently, a site in Camden opened its doors back in August and it has become their biggest site to date at 19,000sq ft.
“Moving forward, we are looking to launch in Birmingham in the first quarter of next year and this will be followed by sites in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Cardiff, Southampton, Bristol and Bath,” explains Sam Jones, Managing Director of Junkyard Golf Club. “There are a number of sites across the UK that would allow us to grow organically. As for international growth, the headroom in the US is almost limitless. Our priority is to get a proof of concept site launched in the US and then explore some opportunities for more rapid, aggressive growth in the US.”
As we discuss with Sam what it is that has assisted in the company’s quick growth in the UK and what will be the platform for international expansion, he explains that they focus on every aspect of their environment, making it different to anything else on the market and this all begins with the golf offering.
Within a warehouse in Trafford in Greater Manchester, the Junkyard Golf Club team make, develop, refine, maintain and play golf, all with the aim of coming up with the best version of each hole. They forensically assess if they can improve the theming of the holes, the immersive experience, the lighting, the length, difficulty, audio, height and scenery, no element is left out in making each hole as diverse as possible.
Away from the golf experience, food and drink is another stand out element for anyone who visits a Junkyard Golf Club venue. The food and drink menu is always being adapted based on market trends and its drinks offering is refreshed twice a year.
“I am a big believer that within business we talk about the most important part of our business, the people within it. We look after the people because these are the people who look after our guests. Our employees are happy, engaged and they understand what they are meant to be doing. To ensure this does not change, we do group-wide listening surveys twice a year and we always implement what our staff members are telling us.”
While there are other companies that offer crazy golf and competitive socialising, Sam feels it is the uniqueness of Junkyard Golf Club which has helped it stand out, I mean it is not just anywhere that you are trying to sink the winning putt next to eight foot fighting bears! Amongst its courses, guests will go on slides, spot a Reliant Robin and even come face-to-face with a volcano.
Because of elements like this that make it very Instagrammable, social media has been a major source of marketing for the company and in the last couple of years they have been actively growing their presence on TikTok and speaking to a different audience. So to ensure they put across the right messages on different platforms they have a company marketing team and one person within this is dedicated to content and digital marketing, whether that is database marketing, web-based marketing or social media strategy.
As the topic of conversation turns to sustainability, Sam admits that for too long they were not doing enough, but they are now a carbon neutral business and are well on their way to becoming a zero landfill business, with four of their venues already zero landfill and the other three set to be fully converted within the next 12 months.
Moving back to what makes Junkyard Golf Club a memorable experience, Sam explains that they want to give people somewhere to escape, somewhere they can come and have fun, get away from their reality and enjoy themselves for an hour or two. “We are a place where you can have a laugh and relax with your friends, have a drink, some food, fun, get a group photograph and make some great memories,” Jones highlights.
Discussing what comes next and the challenges being faced, Sam feels that we are in a tricky economic period, that there are still labour issues in the market and that the cost of electricity and goods is not helping anyone and that everyone in the hospitality industry is suffering because of it.
“Despite all of this though, people will always want to go out and have fun. The whole pie might get a bit smaller, but we as a company and myself, are pretty confident that we can keep our piece of it by just doing the best we can and continuing to offer our audience a chance to escape from reality.”