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April 2024

Fairways, Fast Cars Drive Quail Lodge Cash-Flow

By Scott Kauffman

Fast cars and fast fairways are a combination most golfers aspire to have. And not necessarily gassed-up golf cars.

We’re talking about tight fairways and fast and luxurious motor cars. At Quail Lodge & Golf Club, it’s a time-tested formula for significant cash-flow.

Indeed, this semi-private course tucked in California’s Carmel Valley just a short drive from the Monterey Peninsula, annually plays host to one of the most unique revenue-generating non-golf events in the business. It’s called, “The Quail, A Motorsports Gathering,” and this August is the 21st edition of this creative confluence between first-class fairways and fine turbocharged cars.

And just like the 200-plus sleek and powerful automobiles on display, The Quail drives powerful revenue potential for the golf facility that closes 12-plus days each year to hold it. Though Quail Lodge does disclose specific figures generated by the event, the property’s Peninsula Signature Events department that runs it represents a significant double-digit percentage of the golf facility’s overall annual revenue.

Suffice to say The Quail’s ROI is more than worth the lost tee times each year, not to mention it’s the “crown jewel of events for the company as a whole worldwide,” according to director of club operations Bobby Barrett, and it’s the crown jewel for the company’s majority owner, billionaire Sir Michael Kadoorie.

And that’s saying a lot considering Quail Lodge is owned by Hong Kong and Shanghai Hotels, Ltd., a Hong Kong-based holding company behind the ultra-luxe Peninsula Hotel Group, and Kadoorie has one of the finest collections of rare motorcars in the world.

Fast cars and fairways were some of the compelling topics covered by Barrett during his presentation he gave at this year’s NGCOA Golf Business Conference in Orlando. Titled, “Rake in Off-Course Revenue – Ideas and Inspiration for Reimagining Facility-Wide Events,” the theme of the longtime PGA Professional’s interactive session was embracing a growth mindset and entirely new marketing outlook and approach to the underlying asset itself as it relates to “non-golf revenue trends, ideas and strategies.”

One of Barrett’s main messages for his well-attended presentation, saying it was especially crucial for “smaller golf courses,” was trying to get everyone to “kind of wrap their head around and understand” what Quail Lodge was able to create and “try to replicate on a small scale.”

For instance, he pointed out that everyone does course maintenance annually or bi-annually. And while he acknowledged August might not be the preferred month for maintenance, it happens to be the “preferred month weatherwise to probably get 7,000 people to Quail and look at cars.”

Or perhaps it’s some other creative non-golf idea that just so happens to be the solution for someone or something that needs a venue. Case in point, Barrett asked his audience how many have “dead space or you a piece of land you do nothing with.”

At Quail Lodge, it happened to be eight acres of dead space he said, which the county would not allow the owners to develop, so Barrett’s group came up with a creative new revenue stream and it goes back to cars.

“Basically we lease the land usage out to Land Rover now,” Barrett said. “They do an off-road experience across the eight acres. And we just take a commission.”

In other words, another imperative message that Barrett emphasizes as he watches the golf industry become increasingly more corporate-owned or driven by the corporate business mindset, is the need to embrace being more experience-oriented and flexible as an operator.

“One thing I think is extremely important to think about is clients, prospective clients, industry leaders or even in our case other industry leaders, they’re looking for facilities that offer the maximum amount of flexibility to deliver on their needs,” Barrett said. “And the kicker behind that is you get to charge for all that flexibility behind it. They will pay whatever it’s worth because you’re delivering exactly what they’re looking for. … So I posed this question during my presentation: If somebody came to you and said I want to buy out your facility for five days and I want to host the PGA Show on it; just gave them the equivalent concept (of The Quail car event). How much is that worth to you? It’s one of those things where you really need to look at your operation and think about where else can I squeeze to create an experience and increase our revenue.”

And equally as important, Barrett notes, is this experiential reputation you start to develop, which suddenly translates into sticky newfound marketing and awareness.

“One thing with me is there are so many golf courses out there, 13,000-14,000 in America,” Barrett adds. “And when I see a new golf course name, I say, ‘huh, I never even heard of it. Never even knew it existed. But oh my gosh, it’s so great, yet why haven’t I even heard about it?

“So think about where else can I squeeze to create an experience, and increase our revenue. But again, get people to keep talking about us.”

Something The Quail will be doing once again in August.  According to Barrett, when his event originally started in 2002 it was a more private ultra-exclusive gathering of around 100 hand-picked car aficionados, who used the driving range for staging to show their favorite cars, and the first hole as parking and transportation space. 

About five years later, Quail Lodge owners decided to turn it into another Monterey Car Week event, selling tickets and attracting a few sponsors for the first time but maintaining a very similar format in terms of intimacy. Then, around 2013, Quail Lodge’s owners “really wanted to kick it up a notch,” Barrett says, and that’s when the PSE group greatly expanded the field, attracted more sponsors and turned The Quail into the full-fledged commercial hit it is today with a couple hundred cars idling along the ninth hole and parts of the first hole and 7,000 attendees clamoring to purchase $1,000 event tickets in a matter of five hours last year.

In exchange, guests got to see four featured classes of cars, including the 50th Anniversary of the 1973 RS Carrera, Porsche 959s, Early Bentley 1950s R-Type Coupe and Eyes on Italian Design. In addition to the featured and returning classes, more than one dozen of the world’s most prominent automakers host vehicle unveils, with many more showcasing unique models from the past, present and future.

Additionally, guests get to enjoy an elegant outdoor family- and pet-friendly garden party highlighted by five gourmet culinary pavilions, award-winning wine vendors, live music and the Fireside Chat Series, which provides an opportunity to hear from motorsports legends and industry luminaries discussing the future of motorsports and the hobby of car collecting. Entrance also includes an invitation to attend the Bonhams Quail Lodge Auction, the longest-running auction held during Monterey Car Week, highlighted by another lineup of rare, unique and exotic vehicles.

What turns out to be a win-win for Barrett’s golf operations is during the two weeks the course is shut down, the maintenance team is able to do a lot of course agronomic projects like aerification. Indeed, The Quail has proven to be so successful, that the course is now hosting a two-day motorcycle event in May.
To be sure, The Quail is not a novel car-related show in this part of California. Perhaps you’re familiar with the famous Concours d’Elegance hosted each year by Barrett’s Monterey Peninsula neighbor, Pebble Beach Golf Links.

Founded in 1950, this preeminent Concours, a French term meaning “competition of elegance,” was originally held on a practice tee and driving range adjacent to the Beach Club, a private club near the Del Monte Lodge that later became The Lodge at Pebble Beach. Meanwhile, Monterey’s more modest Bayonet & Blackhorse Golf Club has also participated in Car Week festivities, previously hosting Concorso Italiano.

What it boils down to in Barrett’s opinion, is whether it’s a car show, motorcycle show or Land Rover leasing eight acres of once-former dead space, embrace flexibility and a growth mindset to non-golf concepts and it might very well lead to new streams of revenue for your course. And give perhaps non-golfers even more reasons to talk about just another golf course in America.


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