Two more clubs to become housing estates
Two more struggling golf clubs are set to be closed down and converted into housing estates.
North Worcestershire Golf Club, an 80-acre site, is to be sold to housing developer Bloor Homes, and turned into at least 800 properties, while Keele Golf Centre in Stoke has been earmarked for development after membership dropped to just 30.
About 80 percent of North Worcestershire’s shareholders agreed the move after the club suffered financial problems caused by a declining membership.
The club, which has lost nearly half of its members in the last decade, is said to have made a loss of £130,000 last year and has seen a 34 percent decline in adult male membership in the last 12 months alone.
Andrew Lamb, a spokesman for Harris Lamb, which has been working with Bloor Homes to develop the site, said: “In light of declining membership, ongoing financial difficulties and the increasing trend of abating private golf club membership, the shareholders of the North Worcestershire have voted to look at potential redevelopment options for the future of their club.
“The club has tried discounted membership, course improvements and special offers to attract new members and visitors but, I’m afraid, with over £350,000 per year needed to simply break even and 80 percent of their income coming from membership fees, they’ve been fighting a losing battle.
“When you also factor in the ageing profile of members with over 70 percent over 65 and very few between 26 and 35, a further decrease in membership is absolutely certain. To put it starkly, the club is simply unsustainable.”
Some local residents are opposed to the move. One, Becky Linehan, said: “It is very sad that a small number of people at the club can sell off a facility and greenbelt land of community interest. If they no longer wish to run the club why not sell it to the council under the community right to bid.”
Meanwhile, all or part of Keele Golf Centre in Stoke has been earmarked to be turned into housing.
The club closed on Christmas Eve, 2013, due to poor weather, but has not reopened because a deal to hand control of it from its local council to a company fronted by Ian Woosnam collapsed in January.
The council has now revealed that the 18-hole golf club will either be entirely converted into housing, will be turned into a nine-hole course with the remaining land converted into housing, will remain as an 18-hole venue but will give up 10 hectares of land for housing, or will remain as an 18-hole venue but will add spa and leisure facilities.
A spokesman said the last option would cost Newcastle Borough Council £500,000, while the other three would bring in millions – up to £40 million if the whole golf club was dug up.
Council leader Gareth Snell said that golf participation is in a state of decline, so the venue must offer something other than golf.
“If we accept the necessity for a developer-led process, then I would not want to see us hamstrung – that we use that just for golf,” he said.
A report to the borough council’s cabinet said: “Golf participation has continued to decline. This has created a position locally where there are too many courses.
“The effect on Keele is that membership has remained low, reducing to 30 by the beginning of December, 2013.”