Return to news

I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here! An Interview with Abergele Golf Club

I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here! An Interview with Abergele Golf Club

2020 was a different year as we know it, and none more so than for Abergele Golf Club, who saw neighbours Gwrych Castle hosting I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here! With the show attracting a viewing audience of more than 12 million, it is fair to say the spotlight has been directly over Abergele these last few weeks – camera crews around town, Ant and Dec pop-ups in almost every shop, and a general buzz that really turned 2020 around for the community. We caught up with PGA Professional Stuart Runcie from Abergele Golf Club to tell us all about it.

Wales Golf: As we all know, Abergele Golf Club had some celebrity neighbours during the past few weeks… so how has it been for you?

Stuart Runcie: Firstly, what a brilliant opportunity for the Club. 2020 has been a real slog for most and so when we were contacted by ITV Studios in late summer, we could not really believe it! I think one of the best things has been the community spirit that has rallied around it – lots of businesses and locals have been engaging in the fun, dressing up windows etc, and the camaraderie has been great. For us, the feeling was it was a real turnaround to the whole year and so we were delighted to be approached.

WG: Sounds great! So, how did it all affect the Club in the lead up to the series?

Stuart: Our main priority was ensuring our members had unfettered access to the course and any health and safety concerns were addressed. The impact was relatively low-key – for example, some additional fencing – but with ITV Studios we took the decision to close to visitors during the time of filming as well. It was a good opportunity for us to review our social media too – we are on Twitter, Facebook and recently started with Instagram too @AbergeleGolf. I guess like many Clubs we are trying to connect with our golfing audience as much as possible, but social media changes the whole thing… it is a work in progress! We tried a few fun things, for example, we ran a ‘Free Round for Ant or Dec’ campaign, which meant anyone called Ant or Dec could claim a free round. We got some great local press, but it was just a bit of fun really. Interestingly, lots of Ants and very few, if any, Decs!

WG: Whilst the series was live, Abergele Golf Club became the base of many television programmes including This Morning and GMTV. How was this experience from a club perspective and how did you manage to keep all matters COVID-19 compliant?

Stuart: We hired an inhouse press officer to manage all the logistics and communications on this. To be honest, and again I am sure most Clubs would agree… before I’m a Celebrity we didn’t have much of a need for this role! But it was too high-profile an opportunity to not get it right. With COVID-19 compliance it was mostly planning, risk assessments and Plan Bs, for example, what if Welsh Government COVID-19 guidance changed. Also, while all this was going on, we were of course still functioning as a Club – competitions, lessons and fittings, bar and catering services… so we really needed one point of contact to take a lead on the logistics here.

WG: And so how was it hosting these programmes – for example, we saw Alison Hammond on This Morning…

Stuart: Ha! That was such a brilliant morning and such a different experience for us at the Club! We opened early doors, about 5 am, as we were hosting Richard Arnold from GMTV, Ria Hebden from Lorraine Kelly and Alison Hammond from This Morning… from our restaurant balcony we have an incredible view of Gwrych Castle, and so they had requested to shoot from there, which was great. With Alison, our press officer asked if I could be involved with their skit – so the narrative was Alison getting as close to the castle as possible… With me, aka Security Stu, in hot pursuit. It was good fun – and great publicity for the Club! We had clubs, a visor and buggy at the ready, but then – you won’t believe this – it had rained heavily overnight and buggies weren’t permitted! Our course manager was great, and we decided we could just use the footpath on the first, so got there in the end. A great team effort!

WG: On your social media platforms you clearly took to #TeamVernon. Has Vernon, Ant and Dec taken up your offer of a game?

Stuart: We live in hope! We were in touch with Vernon before the show – he has family in Abergele – and once things have settled down again with COVID-19 guidance we would love to have him come play. He is a keen golfer and so once conditions improve in summer… you never know! Again – for Ant and Dec, we would love to have them come back and play. Always happy to be a part of a four ball!

WG: Social media aside, how did your marketing change in general?

Stuart: I think this experience has shown the need for the club to have a robust marketing plan, that can respond to the challenges and opportunities such events entail. It has made us look forward and think more outwardly – it can be too easy to focus on what is happening right now, this week, and we need go out and find these exciting opportunities and be a part of them. This has given us a real incentive to move forward with confidence in the future.

WG: What effect do you think I’m a Celebrity will have at Abergele Golf Club in future? Do you think they will come back next year?

Stuart: Who knows about I’m a Celebrity 2021…! We would love for it to happen, so watch this space! I would say it has been a hugely positive thing for the area. For the club itself, if it can help us open golf up to a wider audience, then that would be great. A real benefit was it was an opportunity to talk about golf to new audiences, people who we would not have been able to reach before. Abergele, and the surrounding area, has some great courses and so if some of those visitors interested in I’m A Celebrity wanted to play a round or two with us, then fantastic. A real positive from the show was that two of our members, Dave Longworth and Paul Birch, did a 72-hole challenge in December – I’m A Golfer Get Me Out of Here! ITV Studios and the I’m A Celebrity Production Team sponsored £2000, which went to local hospice St Kentigern’s, Marie Curie and Cancer Research UK. Dave and Paul raised over £5400 in just over a week! It would not have been possible without the show’s support, so for that alone, it was well worth it. With that in mind, it would be great to do another charity event next year – 100-hole challenge perhaps! How about it, Ant, Dec and Vernon?! At the end of the day, we have a fantastic parkland course here which we are all very proud of and we are hoping with I’m A Celebrity being at Gwrych Castle it will attract new golfers to visit us and enjoy what the course has to offer.

Abergele Golf Club is a delightful 18-hole parkland course nestled on the beautiful North Wales coast. To play, contact the club on 01745 824034 or book in through BRS on their website You can follow them on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook at @Abergelegolf.