Council considers closing golf course despite the surge in demand

Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir March 1, 2021 07:25

Luton Borough Council has said it is considering closing a popular golf club as it needs to make savings to cover a shortfall in its budget caused by fewer people using Luton Airport.

The 27-hole Stockwood Park Golf Centre, which is said to offer the cheapest club membership in England at £45, has more than 250 members and is set to benefit from the reopening of English golf courses in late March. This comes at a time when about 80 percent of clubs have seen membership revenue rise.

However, the council has launched a public survey over its plans to close the club.

Paul Hulme, golf club captain at Stockwood Park, 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.”

Stockwood Park Golf Centre. Image from Facebook

According to the council, the savings are being considered due the financial implications of Covid-19.

Luton Borough Council stated: “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.”

The council’s survey can be found here.

An online petition to save the golf centre 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.”

 

Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir March 1, 2021 07:25
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2 Comments

  1. Tiger April 6, 23:25

    Stockwood Golf Club is vital to Luton .It is a busy popular club that brings in good revenue for the town. It is also popular with people from surrounding areas. After this year of lockdown people need to get out on the golf course not only for excercise but for their mental health to get through this difficult time. Please keep it open.

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