On the other hand, OGulf, 65 golf courses, 56 million euros in turnover. Strong presence in Ile-de-France, presence in the East, in the Toulouse region and abroad. On the other hand, Bluegreen, 47 golf courses, a strong presence in Ille-de-France and on the Atlantic Arc, 58 million euros in sales volume. These two have been talking about marriage for months.
Since Friday, June 24, 2022, it is now official. The competition authority has validated the file, so the Duval Group, which already owns Ugolf, is authorized to acquire Bluegreen, a former subsidiary of the Saur Group.
Commenting on the decision, Pierre-Andre Ulin, general manager of Ugolf and charged with the same tasks at Bluegreen, is now able to speak. In this interview, he announces new overseas construction, reveals his ambitions and partly reveals what awaits players who frequent the golf courses of these two buildings.
Pierre-André Uhlen, Why this merger between Ugolf and Bluegreen?
To understand, let’s start with a little history. O’Gulf is 40 years old. It began in the eighties with the opening of the first golf courses in the Paris region. I’m thinking of Saint-Aubin Golf Course, Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines and Villennes-sur-Seine. Suddenly, golf was opened to the general public. This is the time when, on the driving field, the horn call signals to the players, every quarter of an hour, to pick up the balls. At that time, Ugolf did not exist yet. It’s Sogel’s company in action, which would later become the Ugolf Company. When, along the way, Sogel had to sell her first three golf courses (Saint-Aubin, Saint-Quentin and Villennes), it was Bluegreen that took over. Thus, the two companies have a common history, and share the same philosophy of opening golf to all.
And in 2007, O’Gulf joined the Duval group…
Yes, at the time of the acquisition, Ugolf was then 13 golf courses. Eric Duval’s ambition was to develop this company. Today we have 65 golf courses under management, including 50 in France. We are also present in Polynesia, New Caledonia, Spain and now in Rwanda.
Golf courses that don’t belong to Ugolf?
No nothing. O’Golf just takes care of the process. But some nevertheless belong to the Duval group.
OGulf signs four new golf courses abroad
Why this last facility in Rwanda?
Our desire is to continue our development, particularly internationally. Rwanda was just a first step on the African continent, as we just signed a new operating contract for three golf courses in Madagascar.
And in Europe after Spain?
Germany! We just got the management of Germany’s largest conglomerate, Bad Saarow. Three 18-hole courses southeast of Berlin.
Does the Bluegreen acquisition fit into a more global context?
Yes, but it’s the Duval Group that buys Bluegreen. It’s not ogolf. Our two companies are basically two sister companies.
Will you lead the two entities?
Yes, I suppose the general management of the two structures. My first mission will be to own the way Bluegreen operates and its corporate culture. Then quickly find added value for the customer.
Coming Soon Ugolf-Bluegreen?
this to say?
For our customers, this integration means something in terms of offerings. From the first days of July, we will ensure that there are bridges for our clients.
Yes, but also national contributions. As long as we get all the green lights locally in the operating contracts.
Do you intend to unite the two entities in the same structure?
We will think about the future of the two brands, in their niche. Everything is open. Bluegreen has been around for a long time and has an exceptional reputation. Ugolf was, even before this merger, the No. 1 operator in Europe, and also enjoyed an international reputation.
Goal: 3rd place in the world in terms of the number of golf courses
The Duval Group now operates 115 golf courses. Are you planning to go further?
We have become the fifth factor in the world. The goal is to get to the top three, which are about 160 golf courses. But with us, nothing is impossible, so why not rank first in the world. What motivates us on a daily basis is to get people to play, to get them to play golf. But it is also a human project. I started in the company as an intern. I had the opportunity and held the position of General Manager for 10 years. This personal adventure I want to share. Each stage of our development must enable our employees to grow. I am very attached to him
How does the French Golf Federation view your ambitions?
Positive, because we have a close relationship. I have long been pressuring hard on all players to speak with one voice, rather than criticizing the Federation. I consider us partners, and as such, the more united we are, the more we can move forward in the development of golf. During the Covid, the union did a great job so we could reopen, and we were all behind it. Our relationships grew naturally. Our relationships today are based on three points. The first is to develop the number of licensees, in particular by attracting new players. The second is the development of the sports side, regardless of the level of play, age and gender. It also goes through high level development, so that in five years we can have players who are among the best in the world. As such, we support Paul Bargon and Perrine Delacour.
“Golf is open to all”
And the third point?
environment and environmental transformation. We must maintain the quality of our courses while adjusting the way they are maintained. In both the use of phytosanitary products and in water treatment and management. On July 1, treatments in rough spots will be banned. In 2025, phytosanitary products will be on the greens. We are conducting research with all authorities to find alternative treatments.
Read also: ‘We don’t think we’re polluted’: Are golf courses that green?
How is golf in France?
Regarding licensees, we are in the lead in France. In individual sports, there is only tennis and horseback riding ahead of us (note: golf had 436,000 members at the end of 2021, +8.4% in one year). Globally, with 90 million players, it is the most popular individual sport. So we have a way to grow in France. Our role, as I said earlier, is to open up the game of golf to everyone, by breaking down this incredible picture of inaccessibility that burdens it.
What prescription do you recommend for me?
Make learning golf as fun, simple and fast as possible. People were sent very quickly into courses. For this, the principle of the group lesson is decisive, it fulfills a simple goal: the search for pleasure and amazing effect. I’ll take an example: In terms of education, we chose Chris Cuomo as our sponsor. He coached Tiger Woods, and now he coaches Bryson Deschamps. Its principle is simple: whatever the level of the player, in five balls, the master must make an amazing effect, relying especially on digital tools such as the tracker.
The Blot Open de Bretagne on the DPWorld Tour?
I conjured up an image of not having access to golf. What do you feed on?
Golf is still seen as a sport for the wealthy and a time-consuming sport. These are the two points that we have to work on. To solve the first, we have to divide our width. At Ugolf, the initial offer is 60 euros per month. The maximum is 250 euros. For 90 euros per month, for one year, to learn, everything is included: equipment is provided, lessons and courses are unlimited. If we compare it, it is the price of a nice gym.
What about the time-consuming aspect of golf?
It is a wrong argument. Playing golf also means doing a combined drill, 9 holes, for an hour…Many golf courses offer all of these formulas. But an important point is playtime, once you learn, you must insist on playing quickly.
You mentioned the high level. How do you see Blot Open de Bretagne?
I figured it out, and I’m glad to see all of this organization. The strength of this opening in particular lies in the fact that it is long-term. The Challenge Tour organizers are very attached to it. They tell us that they are always happy to come here, and they are reassured by the professionalism of the organization’s team. The affinity between Bluegreen and Ugolf should allow the Blot Open de Bretagne to strengthen itself, to make it a more significant tournament, both in terms of fame and prize money.
So make it a championship from the DPWorld Tour?
With us, everything is possible