The Niggle: Is municipal golf dying off?January 20, 2016 Golf Equipment
The NCG team discuss their municipal course memories..
We received quite a sad email a couple of days back from a Mr Gary Ward, who is a member of Bradley Park Golf Club in Huddersfield.
Over the past 30 years this course has developed into one of the finest municipal golf courses in the country. It boasts a high quality 18 hole course, a 9 hole par 3 course, a footgolf facility as well as a 15 bay driving range, pro shop and teaching academy.
In April last year, Kirklees council passed control of the site to a charitable trust which led to increased investment and a real sense of moving forward.
Fast-forward nine months though and the council have now included the site in their housing development plans to build 2500 houses on the course and surrounding site.
Of course the issue here is money and profit, but at what cost? if the plans go ahead you will see a real high quality golf course disappear as well as somewhere that many will regard as their second home.
This won’t be the last time a municipal course falls short due to its local council. The NCG team have their say on whether or not municipal courses are dying off.
Mark Townsend: I grew up, like anyone else, on a variety of municipal courses as there was no way to either fund or get on at a private club. There was also no interest in being told how to behave.
The group began with three of us from school and, within a year, we had a ’society’ of 10 of us where we soon got together a rota of municipals, an Order of Merit and an end-of-year hand-made souvenir programme.
I can still recall who triumphed at what course and the winning score. I had my day in our only 36-hole meeting at Richmond Park where a collection of 12-year-olds with a handful of clubs each topped and fatted their way round the Dukes and Princes.
It wasn’t far off the best day of my golfing life.
The following year five of us got the milk train to the Open at Sandwich in 1985 and the love (hate) affair with the game had safely begun.
James Savage: It’s clear that municipal golf is dying out as many councils are struggling to make them profitable.
My experiences of municipal golf have often been negative. At a number of courses the pro shop has shut down leaving no PGA pro onsite. This means managing the tee-times is left to an admin person employed by the council who is unlikely to know much about golf.
So when four lads rock up to play at 10am on a Saturday with one set of clubs between them, there’s no one to do anything about it and all those waiting behind either sack it off completely or at the very least, never come back.
I’ve also had instances of kids playing javelin with the flag sticks, barbecues being had on the middle of the green and motorbikes racing across the fairway.
This is not going to get people into golf.
Beginners need welcoming, short and easy courses to get started on but they still need to be managed properly or there just doesn’t seem much point.
James Broadhurst: It would be a shame if municipal courses did die off because they are a great way to introduce youngsters to the sport and for people to play golf without having to pay huge fees.
I agree with JS that the courses need to be managed properly in order for them to be enjoyable and function effectively.
Tom Irwin: As long as there is plenty of affordable golf, which there is, I am not sure it is a huge issue whether golf courses are council owned or not. The issue is that we are losing facilities in urban areas to housing development depriving people of easy access to golf.
I started golf at a 9 holer attached to a caravan park. I won’t name it. I remember it with romantic notions of a beautifully manicured Augusta-esque par 3 where only the hard of heart would fail to fall in love.
What I found on my return, 25 years later, was some men in vests with 4 packs of lager, thrashing wildly on some mud. Each to their own. I have always had odd taste and a positive attitude.
Dan Murphy: I don’t suppose it does matter who owns these courses but the lowest barrier to playing golf when I was growing up came at the Leeds munis and I can still vividly remember my first ever par at what was then the 16th and later rebadged as the 1st at Gotts Park.
In those days (mid-80s) on a Saturday morning the crowds used to queue up from 5am to put their ball in the chute and then enjoy breakfast before it was their turn.
From memory, I think 18 holes cost something like 80p for me and £2 for my dad.
The great thing initially was that there was simply no etiquette – people could and did carry their clubs in a Morrison’s bag and you could wear what you wanted.
I think that’s important, and it made people relaxed.
If you improved and got more serious then many of us graduated on to a private club. Others were happy with what the munis offered.
Considering that so much of golf at clubs up and down the UK (and especially England) boils down to a bizarre and inconsistent set of traditions and customs that really have little place in the 21st century I welcome any facility that puts Joe Public at ease on arrival and makes it easy for them to give this great game a try.
Craig Middleton: As a former resident of Huddersfield I have had the privilege to play at Bradley Park Golf Club, and it would be a real shame to see the end of such a great course. Not just because you’d lose a place to play golf, but because you’d lose something that has a great sense of community and something with history dating back over 30 years.
I would advise everyone to go to the Facebook page and help keep this great club alive.