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Q&A with Dragon's Den supremo Peter Jones

When he’s not interrogating would-be entrepreneurs in the Den, Peter Jones loves nothing more than a round of golf. And he’s pretty useful, too

Gi: Where and when were you first introduced to the game?
PJ: I have always been interested in all sports since a very young age, mainly rugby and especially tennis – but also golf while I was still a teenager. Coupled with the interest in sport, I have always been extremely competitive, so the first time I picked up a club I wanted to win. But golf is so frustrating. I can be good one day and just plain terrible the next! Admittedly, when I was younger, I was more of a ‘hacker’ to begin with rather than a measured and considered golfer but later in life, through my work, I developed my game playing as part of developing my business contacts. I now play regularly when I am on holiday in Portugal and Barbados, but not so much at other times. I can’t wait for the day I play two rounds well, back-to-back!

What's your current handicap and what are the main strengths of your game?
I play off 12 these days but I was playing off 9 not so long ago when I was playing more regularly. I have a decent drive, but my short game lets me down, especially my putting. I think confidence is still a golfer’s greatest strength when you address the ball – you have to think like a winner, otherwise you can defeat yourself in golf more so than any other sport.

And weaknesses?
Over confidence! Seriously, there is a thin line between feeling like a winner and having a nightmare. I always have a lot running through my mind, so if I lose concentration then my game is affected just like anybody elses.

What is your favourite golf course?
I’m lucky to have played lots of amazing courses as a result of invitations to corporate and charity golf events, and the West Course at Wentworth springs to mind as a contender. But, for me, it’s not just the course alone that makes a memorable round – the course, the location and the weather are all vital. For that reason, I choose The Green Monkey in Barbados – it’s amazing!

What would be your perfect golfing vacation?
It’s such a precious opportunity to get some quality time with my friends that I particularly love playing golf on holiday – and the double bonus is that when the round’s over, I get to spend time with my family as well! I know some people might say a round or two at Augusta with Tiger as your caddy – and that would be very appealing. But I’ll stick to golfing while on a family holiday with my best friends.

Where in the world would you most like to play that you haven’t yet?
I’m going to say Augusta. We recently had a charity golf day for my Foundation, raising money for Forgotten Children and the National Enterprise Academy. It was a perfect day at Hampton Park Golf Course – somewhere I’ve never played before, where the deer know no fear – and we gave away an all expenses paid trip to Augusta in an auction. I was very tempted to bid myself, but it was a hot lot and there were many more eager bidders than me!

What piece of golfing technology has most helped your game in recent years?
The golf buggy!

Who is your favourite player?
It’s difficult to single out one player. If pressed I would say Jack Nicklaus for his sheer and consistent winning brilliance. There’s a quote of his I made a note of that he is reported to have said: “I never went into a tournament or round of golf thinking I had to beat a certain player. I had to beat the golf course. If I prepared myself for a major, went in focused, and then beat the golf course, the rest took care of itself.” What a great mindset!

A dream fourball – name the three people you would invite?
US President Obama, Tiger Woods and my father, David. What a great day out!

What's your favourite gadget?
I love my Apple iPhone, and I can play golf on it!

If you could change one Rule of Golf, what would it be?
I’m not sure what I would change but I do like the rule…“All players shall conduct themselves in a disciplined manner, demonstrating courtesy and sportsmanship at all times, irrespective of how competitive they may be. This is the spirit of the game of golf.” I have some golfing buddies who should remind themselves of this!

What is the single best round of golf you have ever played?
It was at Quinta do Lago in Portugal and I was 3 over Gross. I got a 75. I told everyone!

Who do you admire most in your own field?
For the purposes of answering this, I’ll limit my “field” to “UK entrepreneurs”. I had an encounter with Sir Alan Sugar recently at a meeting about enterprise and encouraging entrepreneurship among young people – a real passion of mine. I have met Sir Alan several times but this was the first time we had had a formal business meeting. I have to say, for me, he is definitely not fired! He was very impressive, and I was delighted and surprised that we had a lot of views in common about enterprise education and the need to develop the skills of tomorrow’s business leaders to rebuild the UK’s and the global economies.

Who do you admire most outside your field?
I admire anyone who has a dream and has the dedication and commitment to make it a reality. I meet a lot of young people through my work with the National Enterprise Academy, and I am always blown away by their energy, ambition and ideas. I admire many of the young people I meet because the vast majority do not conform to the stereotypes we read about in the media, and they really want to succeed and make a positive difference to their own lives and the lives of others.

How many golfing inventions failed to make the cut on Dragon's Den?
Funnily enough, golf has not been a significant topic in the Den for inventions or business ideas. We did have a chap who had adapted a golfer’s glove as way of reminding driver’s which side of the road to drive on when abroad…so you simply put the glove on the hand that corresponds with the left or right side of the road as a reminder. But of course if you can remember to do that, then you don’t really need the glove! Needless to say, he didn’t get the investment.

Do any of the other Dragons play golf?
Theo does, and I believe Duncan does as well. I’m not sure about Deborah or James, though.

What has been your single best investment to date as a result of the program?
Levi Roots’ Reggae Reggae Sauce has been a phenomenal success, and I know for sure it hasn’t peaked yet. From the original sauce, which I helped Levi to launch in Sainsbury’s after he appeared on the show, my team has worked with him to develop a whole Caribbean food range. There are some amazing new products to come – so watch this space. But, the products aside, the success is really down to Levi and that fact that he is such a charismatic walking, talking (and singing) brand.

With so much going on, do you find that it's tough to concentrate for 18 holes or do you find golf offers a good way of switching off?
I can get distracted if something big is happening in my companies but I find that by the time you reach the back nine, everything just goes on pause until the final winning putt is made!

How big a part can golf play in helping you make a brighter future for kids through the Peter Jones Foundation?
A big part, and we started in earnest this year with the first ever Enterprise Golf Challenge, which was an amazing charity event to raise funds for my Foundation. We had a great day, backed by many business people and companies. It is the start of a year of ‘Enterprise Challenge’ events which will raise money that will be used to make a difference to the lives of many children. If anyone is interested in finding out more about this event in particular, or they would like to contact my team to get involved in future events, they should log on to:

Reproduced with kind permission of Golf International Magazine


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