Feb 26th, 2017
Is this the future of UK golf development?
This is what Melior golf thinks
Words: John Dean
A new golf & property venture, Melior Golf, says that the government’s long–awaited Housing White paper contains encouraging news for golf landowners.
The spectre of hundreds of UK golf courses being lost and buried under rows of new housing is creating increasing stress in the golf industry, despite greenbelt restrictions which seemingly offer landowners limited options.
But Melior Golf believe that compact new forms of golf will emerge from the process, and that overall golf participation could even rise significantly in the UK if golf landowners intelligently capitalise on the changing planning landscape, as hinted at in the White Paper.
Although the White Paper drew a lukewarm reaction from the UK planning industry, Melior Golf co–founder Andrew Lloyd–Skinner says that there are indications within it that under–performing golf facility owners may find their options to capitalise on the land that they own are actually beginning to open up.
“The White Paper gives encouraging signs that certain types of golf land conversion schemes are now more likely to receive local planning support, if they are presented correctly” said Lloyd–Skinner, who left his post as Chief Executive of the UK Golf Course Owners Association in December 2016 to join his sons Tim and Angus Lloyd–Skinner in creating Melior Golf.
“Many golf industry leaders now agree that the UK currently suffers from an over–supply of full size golf courses, but also from a significant under–supply of entertainment–focused facilities which encourage non–golfers to first pick up a golf club” he said.
“Where such centres exist, they require significantly less land. An example is the Three Hammers Golf Complex in Wolverhampton, which welcomed 220,000 visitors in 2015, all of whom tried golf in some form, in an area of just 21 acres – a fifth of the normal land occupied by a conventional golf course.
“If you consider this example alongside the implications in last week’s White Paper, the opportunity to act now is becoming clearer” he said. “If you own the land on which your golf course is built, but cannot seem to derive value from operating a conventional golfing facility on that land, now is a good time to consider converting your land into a mix of housing and sporting facilities, including investment in a sustainable, compact golf–themed or multi–sports entertainment solution.”
“Our objective is to ensure that a sustainable compact golf and / or multi–sports facility, where appropriate, is included in conversions of underused golf courses to housing developments” said Lloyd-Skinner.
“We have been researching and refining this idea, and discussing it with many golf industry and development contacts, for over two years – and we have received almost unanimous support."
The pressure for more housing is undeniable, and we are already feeling it in our neck of the woods. Our own local course is under threat , and another local 18–hole course is going to be turned into a nine–hole course with nine of the existing holes going to housing.
We're also going to lose a high quality nine–hole course, which is probably even a worse lose, as it has been a great gateway into the game at a local level.
We need more family–friendly nine–hole courses, so if they can be a stonger part of a future mix then maybe we will have to sacrifice some 18–hole courses.
What is certain is that we can't stand still, and changes is inevitable. But a better balance of nine–hole, pitch and putt and driving ranges around the Top Golf model, could make the game much more relevant to a whole new generation of golfers. It may well be the shot in the arm that the game needs.