Stockwood Park Faces Potential Closure Despite Popularity
JUST when you thought everything was shipshape comes news that the 27-hole Stockwood Park Golf Centre in Luton could be closed as the local borough council looks to make savings to cover a shortfall in its budget caused by a dramatic fall in the number of people using Luton Airport. It could be just the latest victim of the pandemic.
Highly Recommended on Golfshake, the club has more than 250 members and charges them just £45 a year but Luton Borough Council has launched a survey over the possible closure of the club in what would be a bitter blow for the local golf scene.
Paul Hulme, golf club captain, told The Golf Business: “It would be terrible if we as a community were to dispose of such a valuable asset. Closing Stockwood Park Golf Centre would affect not only the hundreds of members at the club, but the thousands that pay and play.
“The golf centre has provided an opportunity for local people of all ages and backgrounds to exercise and bond through the sport of golf. There are a large number of pensioners who play competitive and social golf at Stockwood Park, and for some this is the only exercise they get. Over the years hundreds of thousands of pounds have been raised at the golf centre for various local charities, including Keech Hospice and Mind Luton.
“It also provides facilities to joggers, cyclists and dog walkers to use the toilets and get refreshments. More intangibly, having a well maintained green space with golfers around creates a much safer environment, particularly for women, than other parks.
“Stockwood’s golf bookings were stable at around 30,000 rounds in 2018 and 2019. This is higher than the average UK golf course. Bookings increased to around 40,000 rounds in 2020, even with two months of closure due to Covid. These figures demonstrate that use the Golf Centre is actually growing.
“The golf centre generated substantial income in 2020, there is no good reason it cannot be operated at zero cost to the local taxpayer. In the future, remote working will be more common so people will have more time to exercise when they were previously restricted to weekends only.
“Three quarters of the members live in Luton and lots of locals walk and exercise around the golf course. A quarter of our new club members since 2010 are BAME, and our £45 club membership is the cheapest affiliated club membership available in England.
“Stockwood Park Golf Centre has over 250 members, and attracts business from many golfing groups and casual players from a wide area.”
Like many others local authorities around the country, Luton is faced with some tough choices as it attempts to balance the books after a traumatic year. A council statement said: “The council is drawing up potential savings due to a significant shortfall in its budget due to a collapse in passenger numbers at London Luton Airport, which is a major source of income for the council and revenue support for Active Luton. As a direct result of the impact of the coronavirus shutdown, the council is focused particularly on the future operation of the golf centre at Stockwood Park. This includes the 18 hole course, the nine hole course and the clubhouse building.”
Unsurprisingly, there is a great deal of local opposition to the move, and online petition has attracted thousands of signatures.
Petition organiser Sarah Jolley wrote: “Golf is one of the only sports that has been open and can be played socially distanced during Covid-19 except during lockdowns. Stockwood Park Golf Centre is a gem in our town, it caters for all ages and is an affordable golf centre.”
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