Critical time for municipal golf clubs – report

MUNICIPAL  golf clubs, including several in Cheshire, may be facing a critical period in their history as a whole host face closure according to new research by Golf Club Management publication.

Council-owned clubs used to be the second most common type of golf club in the UK, behind members’ owned clubs, and were extremely popular up until the 1990s.

However, the rise of proprietary clubs, recent falls in the numbers of people participating in golf and large budgetary cutbacks for local authorities has meant that many venues have either been sold off or closed down in the last seven years.

Wirral Council and neighbouring West Cheshire have agreed to sell-off seven municipal golf courses: Arrowe Park, Brackenwood, Bebington, The Warrens, Hooton, Knights Grange and Westminster Park. Tenders have been invited although it is not known what will happen if the council does not receive any attractive bids.

Councillor Chris Meaden, Wirral’s cabinet member for leisure, sport and culture, said: “Along with our colleagues in Cheshire West and Cheshire, we are keen to continue pay to play provision, and are confident this combined package across the two boroughs will attract customers and operators who will be able to put those courses on a sound and sustainable financial footing.”

The three West Cheshire courses are operated by Brio Leisure and are subsidised to the tune of £246,000 annually.

Councillor Stuart Parker, Cheshire West and Chester council’s executive member for culture and economy, said: “Many private sector courses are providing pay and play rates that compete with municipal courses.

“Consequently, the council and Brio have jointly agreed to look at the market to provide golf course operation, secure capital investment to improve the courses and reduce current subsidy.

“A combined package across the two boroughs would be an attractive offer to customers and operators.”

It’s not all doom and gloom for municipal golf clubs however.

Allerton Golf Course in Liverpool was set to close, but it has had its future secured after Allerton Golf Trading, a company owned by the Maghull Group, took over the venue from Liverpool City Council.

The local authority said the 25-year contract with Allerton Golf Trading would net the authority £234,000 per year.

Wendy Simon, assistant mayor and cabinet member for culture and tourism, said: “This is really positive news, not only for golfers, but for the city as a whole.

“We have got to save £156 million over the next three years, and the tough budget choices we are facing means we have to prioritise services.

“Sadly, we can’t continue to subsidise some activities so all partnership options need to be considered, including those from the private sector, to find different ways of securing their future.”



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