Kings Hill Golf Club Ltd

A Message from Lord Pickles and Lord Blunkett, followed by Kings Hill Golf Club Ltd's best practice article

The ability to listen and learn from one another has always been vital in parliament, in business and in most aspects of daily life. But at this particular moment in time, as national and global events continue to reiterate, it is uncommonly crucial that we forge new channels of communication and reinforce existing ones. The following article from Kings Hill Golf Club Ltd is an attempt to do just that. We would welcome your thoughts on this or any other Parliamentary Review article.

Blunkett signature Rt Hon The Lord David Blunkett
Pickles signature Rt Hon The Lord Eric Pickles

Duncan Kelso, co-owner and
managing director
First green at Kings
Hill Golf Club
Before 1995, Duncan Kelso worked in golf course
architecture and construction. When he took on a new
project called Kings Hill – located in West Malling, Kent –
he watched the 1,000-acre development on the site of an old
aerodrome become a versatile, mixed-use community space.
The idea underpinning this joint venture between KCC and
Liberty Property Trust was to construct a residential and business
estate with the appropriate capacity for leisure. The site, a
groundbreaking and all-encompassing lifestyle solution for its
residents, now sustains 2,500 properties, over a million square
feet of office space and, at the heart of it all, Kings Hill Golf
Club – of which Duncan, along with Dave Hammers, is now co-
owner and managing director.
We are a proprietary golf club with the majority of our customers playing on a
membership basis. We enjoy a number of golfing and non-golfing visitors at the
club; for the latter, we provide a social membership for those who live on Kings
Hill, but who are not necessarily players. A recognisable percentage of our business
covers lunches and other groups of visitors – remaining an integral part of the
community is important to us.
The club offers an 18-hole course with extensive practice facilities. A big focus is
our teaching academy, and we were one of the first clubs back in 2003 to develop
a purpose-built coaching facility. This is not just for people who want to get into
golf, but for coaching at all levels: whether the player in question is a beginner,
»Co-owner and managing
director: Duncan Kelso
»Established in 1995
»Based in West Malling, Kent
»Services: Golf course with
teaching academy
»No. of employees: 30-35 with
seasonal fluctuations
»18-hole course with a
constantly upgraded challenge
»Built on the site of the old
West Malling aerodrome
Kings Hill Golf Club
Highlighting best practice
junior, veteran or elite. We offer the
capacity to learn either indoors or
outdoors, alongside a broad range of
other services such as a putting studio
and custom fit capabilities.
Our evolution
Above all else at Kings Hill Golf Club,
we want to provide a social experience
that people enjoy, whether it’s golf-
related or not. To achieve this, we
continually reassess what we’re doing.
This is by no means a quick process;
golf clubs evolve in a slow, controlled
and measured way over many years,
and the market has already changed
dramatically over the last ten. Whether
it’s out on the course, looking at
presentation or the challenge for
our players, or in our clubhouse with
regards to our service, we never stand
still, and always look at how we
As a result of this, we have seen
growth since our inception in 1995.
We then employed 15 people
between course maintenance, food
and beverage services, administration
and professional staff. This number
has now increased to around 30,
split equally over the same areas with
five dedicated department managers
led by our general manager, Glen
Halsey. When Kings Hill was first
developed, there were few houses
or roads nearby, but that has
changed enormously, and, naturally,
the business has grown. We have
employed specialised professionals
to manage the golfing side of things,
and ensured that their skills are of the
highest quality.
This attitude has led to a significant
increase in turnover over the past 23
years, a figure which has reached
£1.4 million at the close of the last
financial year. This growth has not
been steady and consistent; during the
recession, golf, as a leisure industry,
saw a significant downturn. It was only
after 2011 that we saw things begin to
improve, and, from an industry-wide
point of view, we have returned to a
point of historic success.
Thanks to this, we have been able to
concentrate effectively on a clubhouse
extension project. This will include a
new members’ bar and a veranda, and
has been our first financially viable
opportunity to expand since 2008. The
last development prior to that was our
teaching academy established in 2003,
and it retains the accolade of being
one of the first of its kind nationwide.
Our colonial-style
Remaining an
integral part
of the
community is
important to
Setting the bar high
Around 70 per cent of our custom at
Kings Hill is repeat, member-based
business. Our members expect the
best when they come to play, eat or
socialise at the club, and that’s what
we provide – the standards that we
have set and that our patrons look
for are undoubtedly high. Of special
importance, when it comes to service,
is our welcome. For people who
may well spend an entire day at the
club, it can be the most important
part. Listening to both customers
and members of staff to consider
opportunities for improvement is of
paramount importance.
Achieving these goals constantly,
however, has not been easy. Leisure
businesses are built on the back of
disposable income; with the recession
several years ago, anything inessential
was cut out of people’s lives, and on
one membership renewal day, we lost
20 per cent of our business overnight.
A massive reorganisation was required
in the business, and employees were
unfortunately made redundant.
We have since recovered, and our
workforce has been restored; losing
good people, however, was a serious
blow, and has been one of our biggest
challenges to date.
The biggest issue in the golf industry
at present is VAT distortion between
different golf businesses. At the
present time, golf clubs are split into
two categories across the country:
proprietary or privately owned clubs,
such as Kings Hill, and member-
owned clubs, where a membership
subscription entitles you to a share in
the business. Both have different VAT
arrangements: the former pay 20 per
cent on membership and green fees,
whereas the latter pay nothing. This
disparity means that, for proprietary
clubs, a significant part of any given
income is taxed. Recent challenges
to HMRC have resulted in member-
owned clubs receiving windfall
repayments of VAT on green fee
income, stretching back seven years,
gaining unfair financial advantages
over proprietary golf clubs.
The VAT sports order was intended
to tax proprietary clubs who could,
in theory, undertake any business
they wanted, whereas members-only
clubs were restricted to serving their
members. Across the country, however,
these two kinds of clubs now exist
side-by-side, often geographically, and
the two types compete against one
another for any business opportunities.
The only difference, however, is that
one such as ours will be unfairly taxed,
and the other will not.
These issues aside, it is a good time
for our club. Our new expansion
project is particularly exciting, and we
are constantly working with course
architects to improve and tweak the
challenge we can offer – keeping up
with the demands of the modern
game is incredibly important. You have
to constantly reinvent yourself and
offer new services and practices to
remain a key player; that’s what we’re
doing. Above all else, we just want to
deliver the highest quality of service we
possibly can, and ensure that golf stays
fun for everyone.
Above all else,
we just want
to deliver the
highest quality
of service we
possibly can,
and ensure
that golf stays
fun for
We constantly focus on
tweaking the challenge
of our course

This article was sponsored by Kings Hill Golf Club Ltd. The Parliamentary Review is wholly funded by the representatives who write for it. The publication in which this article originally appeared contained the following foreword from The Rt Hon Theresa May MP.

The Rt Hon Theresa May MP's Foreword For The Parliamentary Review

By The Rt Hon Theresa May MP

This foreword from the then Prime Minister appeared in the 2018/19 Parliamentary Review.

British politics provides ample material for analysis in the pages of The Parliamentary Review. For Her Majesty’s Government, our task in the year ahead is clear: to achieve the best Brexit deal for Britain and to carry on our work to build a more prosperous and united country – one that truly works for everyone. 

The right Brexit deal will not be sufficient on its own to secure a more prosperous future for Britain. We also need to ensure that our economy is ready for what tomorrow will bring. Our Modern Industrial Strategy is our plan to do that. It means Government stepping up to secure the foundations of our productivity: providing an education system that delivers the skills our economy needs, improving school standards and transforming technical education; delivering infrastructure for growth; ensuring people have the homes they need in the places they want to live. It is all about taking action for the long-term that will pay dividends in the future.

But it also goes beyond that. Government, the private sector and academia working together as strategic partners achieve far more than we could separately. That is why we have set an ambitious goal of lifting UK public and private research and development investment to 2.4 per cent of GDP by 2027. It is why we are developing four Grand Challenges, the big drivers of social and economic change in the world today: harnessing artificial intelligence and the data revolution; leading in changes to the future of mobility; meeting the challenges of our ageing society; and driving ahead the revolution in clean growth. By focusing our efforts on making the most of these areas of enormous potential, we can develop new exports, grow new industries and create more good jobs in every part of our country.

Years of hard work and sacrifice from the British people have got our deficit down by over three quarters. We are building on this success by taking a balanced approach to public spending. We are continuing to deal with our debts, so that our economy can remain strong and we can protect people’s jobs, and at the same time we are investing in vital public services, like our NHS. We have set out plans to increase NHS funding annually by an average by 3.4 percent in real terms: that is £394 million a week more. In return, the NHS will produce a ten-year plan, led by doctors and nurses, to eliminate waste and improve patient care.

I believe that Britain can look to the future with confidence. We are leaving the EU and setting a new course for prosperity as a global trading nation. We have a Modern Industrial Strategy that is strengthening the foundations of our economy and helping us to seize the opportunities of the future. We are investing in the public services we all rely on and helping them to grow and improve. Building on our country’s great strengths – our world-class universities and researchers, our excellent services sector, our cutting edge manufacturers, our vibrant creative industries, our dedicated public servants – we can look towards a new decade that is ripe with possibility. The government I lead is doing all it can to make that brighter future a reality for everyone in our country. 

British politics provides ample material for analysis in the pages of The Parliamentary Review 
The Rt Hon Theresa May MP
Prime Minister