An annual top tier tour event – perhaps something as big as a World Golf Championship – could be coming to the new JCB Golf & Country Club in Staffordshire from as early as 2020.
Conversations are currently ongoing with ‘three or four’ different management and event hosting bodies to stage an event at the course, which is situated on the doorstep of construction giant JCB’s world headquarters in Rocester.
An official announcement on the club’s plans is expected by the middle of 2019 but, given that billionaire owner Lord Bamford’s aim for the course is to help expand the brand’s global awareness – taking inspiration from the PGA Tour’s John Deere Classic – golf fans have been told to expect something pretty significant.
“We’ve got three aims,” general manager Euan Grant told to bunkered.co.uk’s sister title, UK Club Golfer.
“The first is to deliver a relationship-building opportunity with new customers; the second is to strengthen relationships with our existing customers and suppliers; and the third is to showcase the brand around the world.
“How we achieve that final aim is through hosting a golf tournament, so we’re planning on hosting an annual event for the top professionals in the world. The course will be ready from next summer. We want to make sure the infrastructure around the facility is 100% correct and finished so we’re talking about 2020 [for the event]. That would line up with JCB’s 75th year of operation.”
A standard European Tour event, however, wouldn’t suffice in Lord Bamford’s ambitious plan to expand the company’s global awareness, particularly in North America, where JCB is still a relatively small player despite opening a US headquarters in Savannah, Georgia.
A European Tour event attracting a number of American players would appear most likely to begin with, while a UK-based PGA Tour event and even a World Golf Championship haven’t been ruled out as possible options.
“There are conversations going on with various bodies, which we can’t really give further details of at the moment,” added Grant. “But we would like to position ourselves on the golfing calendar with a tournament equivalent to a BMW PGA Championship or a John Deere Classic.
“We’d love to have the aspiration of hosting a WGC and that’s not a secret at all. But if it’s not a global event, as long as we can entice some global players to it, that gives us the exposure in those countries. We’re very aware that, unless you have Americans playing in the event, you won’t get American TV.”
Gary Player and Matt Fitzpatrick are among those to have paid a visit to the 7,308-yard course – designed by Robin Hiseman of European Golf Design – since it opened earlier this year.
It isn’t currently open to the public – only JCB business and corporate memberships – although JCB staff who work at any of the company’s factories are allowed to play in a two-hour timeslot at the weekend with their guests on a first-come, first-served basis.