More municipal clubs set to close
Two more municipal golf clubs face closure as the era of decline for council-owned golf venues shows no sign of ending.
Middleton Park Golf Club and Gotts Park Golf Club are both owned by Leeds City Council, which is developing a four-year financial plan to cut costs. The local authority, which wants to save £51 million in 2013, having already saved nearly three times that amount in the last two years, believes that closing the clubs down is necessary to achieve efficiency savings of £100,000.
Both golf clubs run at a loss and have seen a drop in members and visitors in recent years.
A report prepared for senior councillors says: “There is no evidence that those who use the courses would be unable to access other facilities in the city. Returning the golf courses to parkland will achieve savings and also open up large areas of land to general public use.”
The council runs four golf venues. It added that shutting these two would result in the loss of two full-time jobs.
Prior to the 1990s, municipal golf courses were very popular with members of the public who could or would not join private members’ golf clubs, of which many then had waiting lists. However, a huge increase in golf venues over the last 20 years has resulted in more choice for golfers, which has significantly reduced the number who now play at golf facilities owned by local authorities. Furthermore, the economic downturn of the last five years has led to many councils cutting costs.
Several municipal clubs have closed down since 2009, such as Goldenhill Golf Club in Stoke-on-Trent and Oadby Golf Club in Leicestershire. Earlier this month Tynedale Golf Club in Northumberland’s future was thrown into doubt when its local council’s regional green spaces officer told councillors: “We are no longer in a position to continue with our current arrangement of absorbing the club’s deficit, as our budget is too constrained.”
Some struggling municipal venues that were in danger of closing have survived however. Clubs such as Bowring and Parc Garnant have had their leases handed over to organisations that are running and investing in them, while Birmingham City Council awarded a 50-year contract to a social enterprise firm to operate all seven of its golf venues. Whitwood Golf Course in Yorkshire, meanwhile, has been taken over by an environmental trust and Roseberry Grange in Durham has been bought out by its members. Tamworth Golf Centre in Staffordshire also entered into a Corporate Voluntary Arrangement (CVA) with its creditors, in order to pay off debts.
Last year, Eddie Mitchell, secretary of the National Association of Public Golf Courses (NAPGC), warned that the situation facing municipal golf courses is very grave.
“Overall membership of the municipal courses is falling. Generally they are losing money, like other council leisure facilities, although golf used to make money,” he said.
“Fifteen years ago golf was a golden goose for the councils. Now not only is there the decline but in some cases it is substantial. One council with seven municipals has seen the number of customers fall by one-third in ten years from 300,000 to 200,000.”