One of the most knowledgeable and respected people in the world of luxury golf and travel, Bill Hogan has specialized in creating unforgettable golf adventures around the world for discerning travelers since 1988. Having played golf in 58 countries, Hogan is regarded the foremost authority in the world when it comes to golf and travel. Born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, Hogan serves as a panelist for GOLF magazine’s World Top 100 Courses, as well as for the World’s Top 100 Clubs for Platinum Clubs of the World. Hogan now lives in Austin, Texas, with his wife and their three children.
THE HOGAN STORY —
During my sophomore year of college in 1981, I moved to Salzburg, Austria, to study abroad and fell in love with traveling in Europe—from behind the Iron Curtain in East Germany and Russia to Italy, Greece, France, Holland and other western countries. I found I had an affinity for experiencing new cultures, new places and meeting people.
You wake up in the morning — what’s the driving passion?
My goal is to create one-of-a-kind, high-end travel experiences that are truly unique. I enjoy being creative for our guests and coming up with things to blow their minds, where the “wow factor” is present every day. I am fortunate to have many contacts around the world to pull these things off. That’s really fun.
How has the golf travel industry evolved from when you first started to now?
When I started, there were only a handful of companies that specialized in golf travel, which has evolved to a multi-billion-dollar industry. There now are 700 specialists from 65 countries in the International Association of Tour Operators. It is very exciting to stand out with Garmany Golf, designing lifetime experiences with uber-high service.
From your experience is there anything that distinguishes Baby Boomers and Millennials in terms of their booking habits / needs?
Millennials book on a whim. I have New York-based clients who go play golf in Ireland for a three-day weekend and think nothing of it. Their parents wouldn’t think of going to Europe for less than seven to 10 days. Boomers are more knowledgeable about international destinations; the large majority of them have been to that continent, but this time they are taking their clubs along. And guys in their 30s say they want to go to Ireland next month, but their parents would book the same trip nine to 12 months in advance.
Booking travel is a very competitive arena — what elevates the efforts of Garmany Golf above the others?
At Garmany Golf, we give each guest an experience paired to their lifestyle. We ask them about specific likes and dislikes, weave it into a profile and share that information with our destination partners. That pre-communication makes the difference.
Define who your core customer is?
The country club member who loves the better things in life. This includes people who travel on private jets, who take money-is-no-object vacations, who strive to make every minute of every day count. But not all are super affluent, many are the golfer who just wants to make sure everything is done right.
Numerous companies routinely tout their ability to deliver on customer service. Some do — many don’t. Define the term and outline the approach followed by Garmany Golf.
We take a personal interest in each guest to create the best experience of their lives. We find out what they like and discover any special interests so we can provide personal touches. We are the company that goes the extra mile.
Given your experience in the industry – curious to know of any unusual customer needs you were asked to provide and were able to deliver.
I had a client traveling to Scotland who required large amounts of distilled water, which for a week was cases and cases of distilled water. Perhaps he was bathing in it. We had to find where to buy distilled water in bulk and have it delivered to the hotel. While he was at the golf course, the staff stocked the room with the distilled water – some on ice, and some room temperature.
Most golfers are aware of the top tier golf destinations — but what are a few locations you’d recommend that often “fly under the radar” but are well worth including for both the golf they deliver and the costs charged?
A superb destination, particularly for Americans, is Canada, which has incredible golf. Two of the best cities in North America, bar none, are Vancouver and Toronto. And Quebec City is unique, exotic, multi-cultural … like being in France, but only a very short hop from northeast cities in the United States. During May through mid-October, it’s a fantastic destination for golf in many regions of the country, and it’s 70 cents on the U.S. dollar.
If you could change one thing in golf unilaterally — what would it be and why?
I wish golf clubs in the United States would be as reciprocal to international visitors as the private clubs when we go overseas. Internationally, 99 percent of private golf clubs, even the most famous, are available to American visitors. Muirfield in Scotland – you can play it. Sunningdale in England – you can play it. Valderrama in Spain, Royal Melbourne in Australia – you can play. But the top 25 percent of private clubs in the United States are inaccessible. I wish we were more inclusive.
Best advice you ever received – what was it and who from?
Two things. Early on, a customer told me, “Know your customer.” For example, an affluent guy from Pebble Beach going to Ireland doesn’t need to save 50 bucks on subpar accommodations, or pass up a top restaurant because it’s expensive. Give him the once in-a-lifetime experience he expects. Also, I was on one of my first trips working for Mike Roseto at Wide World of Golf in Carmel, Calif., and he told me: “If something goes wrong, throw a cocktail party.”
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