James Shippey, the Managing Director of Absolute Golf Services, took time out of his hectic schedule to talk to Gulf News.
Where did your journey in golf and the golf industry start?
My golfing journey started in the UK, at Flamborough Golf Club, a small club in East Yorkshire, when I was around nine years old. I then moved to Filey Golf Club a few miles up the coast where I would eventually turn pro at the age of 17 and start my journey as a PGA professional. I made my move to Dubai in 1999 at Emirates Golf Club, after applying for a teaching professionals job. This was the start of my international career. I see myself as being very fortunate to have been given the opportunity to make my passion for golf my career. Although, now I am not so active on the golf course.
Tell us about your career progress through Dubai and the Middle East and wider region.
After close to five great years at Emirates Golf Club, I moved over to the then named Desert Course at Arabian Ranches to set up the Golf Academy at the newly opened facility, which was very much at the heart of the impressive Emaar community. 2008 saw my initial time in Dubai come to an end, as I jetted off to the land of the Pharaohs, Egypt, to be General Manager of Taba Heights Golf Resort on the Sinai Peninsula. A couple of years later I was returning to my second home, Dubai, to take up the position of General Manager at Al Badia Golf Club, then managed by Intercontinental Hotel Group. Sadly, this amazing facility is now closed for operations and prior to the course closing, I took a leap of faith and headed off to Bangkok, Thailand, to lead a burgeoning golf and leisure management company, Absolute Golf Services.
What are you up to now in Asia?
I have been six years as Managing Director of Absolute Golf Services. This has been a roller-coaster and a great learning curve, as I’ve managed golf facilities from the outside, further developing owners’ assets and businesses, working with great clubs and teams enhancing the golf industry in Asia. As a business we have solidified our currently managed facilities and steered them though the challenging times that the COVID-19 pandemic has seen us all face. 2021 has been a positive year thus far, as we recently opened our new facility, Aquella Golf & Country Club in Phang Nga, close to Phuket in Thailand. We are all proud that we have managed the process from construction of the golf course, the clubhouse build right through to operational opening.
Where do you see yourself and the golf industry going over the next few years?
We believe the future of the golf industry is very bright, as the world comes out of travel restrictions and business picks up. International golf travel will return with a bang, with Asia being at the heart of it, as a ‘must visit’ destination once again for travelling golfers. As for AGS, we have some ongoing great discussions with owners and developers, so we are bullish for our pipeline conversion over the next 18 months. With my experience and contacts in the UAE and the Middle East, this region is very much on our radar to assist in the development of the golf industry and the game. Our development of offering bespoke consultancy services to golf clubs looking for specific operational support and a very exciting education platform that can be rolled out at any golf club in multiple languages are two areas that are attracting local and international interest.