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Glasgow Course Closures Confirmed - And the List Keeps Growing

By: | Fri 21 Feb 2020 | Comments

SCOTLAND is meant to be the home of golf, but you would have a hard job convincing the residents of Glasgow and Ayrshire that this is the case. Following last week's story, after Glasgow City Council’s budget meeting on February 20, it seems certain that five of the city’s six golf courses are to be closed, including the James Braid-designed Littlehill, which was once used a qualifying venue for The Open Championship.

At a meeting of the city council, Bunkered has reported that a budget tabled by the SNP and Green Party was approved and the upshot is that of the six courses in and around the city, only the nine-hole Knightswood will survive. Linn Park, Lethamhill, Littlehill, Alexandra Park and Ruchill are to be closed unless private investors can be found. In the current climate, this looks highly unlikely. 

A Glasgow City Council insisted that the local authority wants to maintain and protect the provision of golf in the city, but the evidence certainly fails to back that up.

Unsurprisingly, public consultation into the future of the courses found that most people who responded were opposed to any of the courses being closed. The council says it needs to make savings and the course closures would enable an immediate saving of around £500,000 - in the grand scheme of things, this seems like a drop in the ocean.

The news will come as a bitter blow to the thousands of golfers who use the courses and who called upon the council to find other ways of saving money. Parts of Glasgow remain among the poorest in Europe and cheap golf offers an escape, a way that people could put their troubles behind them while also getting out into the fresh air and enjoying some exercise.

The depth of feeling was obvious at a public meeting in Dennistoun, which is a suburb of Glasgow. It was well attended, by both members of the public and councillors, and the overwhelming demand was for the courses to be saved. But those pleas have fallen on deaf ears.

And if that was not bad enough, South Ayrshire Council has earmarked five more courses for possible closure. And, once again, another James Braid course is included in the list. Ayr Belleisle is a fearsome test, and a Braid masterpiece. When you think of Ayrshire you think of Turnberry and Royal Troon, but Belleisle stands comparison with most championship courses.

However, as the council comes under pressure to make saving of £9m, Belleisle, Seafield, Maybole, Dalmilling and Girvan could all face the axe. 

A public consultation into a raft of cost-cutting measures has been launched on the South Ayrshire Council website but it is understood that a list of closure targets has already been drawn up.

A council spokesman said: “We’re currently looking at a number of proposals for the budget although no decisions have been taken.  We are faced with an £8.9m gap in the budget across the council so there will be some tough choices ahead.”

Belleisle isn’t the only Braid course on that list. He also created Seafield and Girvan. Belleisle and Seafield courses sit side by side and opened in 1927. Belleisle is widely regarded as one of the finest public courses in the country and staged the Scottish Open name in 1936. To make matters worse, Belleisle and Seafield saw a brand-new clubhouse being built in 2016 at a cost of £1.5m

The nine-hole Maybole Golf Course dates back to 1905 and is described as “perfect for beginners or those looking for a more relaxing game of golf”. 

Girvan is a part-links, part-parkland layout and enjoys glorious views of Ailsa Craig. It was also the course where my late father had his one and only hole in one and where my grandfather - a golfer of some repute - was still happily playing well into his seventies. Girvan is a short-ish 18-hole layout that proves a course doesn’t have to be a monster to provide golfers with a test. Three other courses run by South Ayrshire Council – Troon Loch Green, Darley and Fullarton – are expected to survive.

And so, it goes on. 

Temple Newsam Golf Club in Leeds has seen an 18-hole and nine-hole complex closed by the council to be replaced with a cycling centre and a cafe. Nine public courses closed in the UK last October alone. Brandhall Golf Club in the West Midlands has also been shut by Sandwell Council and will be replaced by a park, housing and a primary school.

It is increasingly difficult to keep up with all the closures, but one thing is for sure - when these courses close their doors, we will lose them forever. James Braid must be turning in his grave.

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