Meet the golf company director: Matt Bell

Seamus Rotherick
By Seamus Rotherick February 18, 2023 12:10

The director of Oneday, which took over the running of Bowring Park & Golf Course in Merseyside, the first municipal club in England, last year, talks about investing over £1 million in the venue since and how, from a playground to street food, the facility is more than just a golf course.

Can you tell us about your career to date, how you’ve become a director of Oneday, and what Oneday is?

My career started in retail at Woolworths working from the floor up into head office roles and then into shopping centres as a director on the team responsible for opening and operating Grosvenor’s £1 billion Liverpool ONE scheme. It was a great project at the heart of the city’s regeneration and it’s been great to see Liverpool’s resurgence over the past decade.

That’s how the Oneday team came together; working in different organisations from the council to Liverpool and Everton football clubs to rebuild the city centre. It’s this destination and visitor management experience we have brought to Bowring Park and our ability to make all of the park’s uses work together from golf to Nordic walking!
Oneday make places work for people, economically, socially and sustainably. We do this through consultancy services, trading business and developments across the UK. Working with the public, private and third sectors, to release the value of public and private assets.

I started the business because I kept seeing plans that never got delivered and places like Bowring not meeting their potential. The gap I spotted was the ability to create a strategy and then actually deliver it from a viable commercial operation through to full developments. We now have a team with a breadth of experience and range of backgrounds that all add something different – from architects to commercial and engagement specialists, all to deliver the best possible service to places and clients. Our reputation has grown by being able to come up with common sense solutions and our ability to get things done so we can secure the future for important community assets like Bowring Park.

Matt Bell

Can you tell us about Bowring Park & Golf Course, and how and why you got involved with it?

Bowring Park & Golf Course is the oldest municipal golf course in England, but there is much more to Bowring Park than just a golf course. It is a great public park with wonderful woodland and the perfect place for dog walkers and families alike to enjoy.

Gifted to the city of Liverpool and now operating in the borough of Knowsley, the golf course was losing money and our solution as managing agent was to come in and put in place a collaborative approach, which has effectively saved the golf course and park!

Of the original property, the old Stables and Coach House buildings are still in use, as our Stables building houses meeting rooms and office spaces, as well as our golf course reception and retail centre. The Coach House has recently been refurbished and has now opened as our café / bar, with a great modern ‘street food’ offer, as well as a wide range of drinks and snacks.

We have also recently installed a playground in the park area, so we are confident with the golf, play area, woodland and park facilities, as well as the food and drink offer, that we have created an offer for the whole of the Knowsley community to enjoy.

You’ve already invested over one million pounds in the facility. Where did the money come from and what has it so far been invested in?

Bowring Park has become a model for how the public, private and third sector can revitalise and help places thrive. Thanks to the Heritage Lottery Fund, Knowsley Borough Council and various other partners, including the men’s and ladies’ golf clubs and the friends of Bowring Park group, we are now all pushing in the right direction.

Having already invested an initial £1.2 million into the park and golf course, investments to date include the playground, improving the drainage of the golf course, six new golf buggies, an improved retail offer, new signage, a new online booking system for the golf course, new website and social media channels, the refurbishment of the Stables building in order to create a more appealing office, events and meeting space and a new food and beverage offer.

There is already plenty planned for 2023 and beyond, including work on the clubhouse, as well as creating corporate packages and an improved golf membership offer for 2023.

How important is footgolf to the facility?

Footgolf has proven to be popular in the past, but that was at a time when we were using parts of our golf course to deliver it and due to the popularity of the golf course for its primary use, attention has now shifted to focus on our core offer.

It’s important that we try new things and experiment to keep the park and the golf course relevant to new and varied audiences. There are many different revenue streams we can look into and we are currently looking into disc golf and whether there is a market for that in the Liverpool City Region and the north west.

Municipal golf courses have been under extreme pressure in recent years, and many have closed down. Do you think there is a solution in which they can fulfil local community needs without being a drain on the local taxpayer?

The key aims for our operations are to make Bowring Park and Golf Course financially sustainable and inclusive for everyone. We have already reduced the day-to-day losses at the park despite increasing staffing numbers and investments and we will continue to work hard to do just that.

By increasing revenue through diversifying income streams, we are creating a foundation for a successfully operated and financially viable park and golf course that can generate income all year round and not solely rely on tee income.

Is the cost-of-living crisis having an impact on the running of the club?

Finances are tight for everyone at the moment. The cost-of-living crisis is always going to be tough, but we are really focusing on the overall visitor experience at Bowring Park & Golf Course and how we can provide value for money across the board.

We are a low-cost option for golfers, in comparison to private clubs and we will always focus on ensuring everyone is welcome. Our experienced green staff provide a course quality that delivers over and above for a ‘typical municipal’ and by diversifying our income streams, we can now ensure that we are delivering value to customers, at the same time as continuing to drive revenue through other commercial income such as our great food and beverage offer, the kids play area and corporate rentals.

Only time will tell, but golf has survived many economic challenges over the years and we are confident that our quality, price and therefore value will continue to see Bowring Park & Golf course thrive.

We must remember that the benefits of exercise, fresh air and sport have a huge health and well-being advantage as well. Throughout the cost-of-living crisis, the benefits of being outdoors in green spaces can reduce anxiety and stress by 30 percent, again meaning it is imperative that people continue to keep using their local parks and sports facilities.

How do you market the venue?

Word of mouth has travelled fast in the Liverpool City Region and with Bowring Park & Golf Course’s proud history in the borough, we have been lucky in a sense that we have been able to attract a lot of local interest in a relatively short space of time.

We haven’t invested much in terms of paid marketing just yet, but there are some campaigns in the planning phase for 2023 and we are looking forward to seeing how this works out over the next 12 months.

However, we have worked on new branding, built a new social media presence and website, and built relationships with key stakeholders and figures in the local community, again laying the foundations for what looks to be a big year ahead.

What are your predictions for the next few years for the UK golf industry?

Golf will continue to thrive but we have to protect the municipal courses. Golf can be an expensive hobby, so our mission as an organisation and as a sector needs to be to reduce barriers for entry for all ages and backgrounds.

Regular male and female participation saw a slight dip in 2021, with 763,000 adults playing as regularly as twice per month. However, driving range usage is up and on course participation is up, especially for women – the important thing now is turning these occasional players into regular ones.

We are looking at a number of initiatives for juniors and returning golfers, whether it is taster sessions, spare sets of clubs for low-income families and junior golfers to use, with 16 percent of players starting or playing golf for the first time because of the pandemic.

As with any sport and leisure activity, we are all going to have to work hard to provide value for money to the customer. There are so many other leisure options available to consumers and golf will have to work hard to stay relevant and popular.

We want to work with more local authorities that, given the economic pressures they are facing, will hopefully realise there are sustainable ways to keep golf alive at a municipal level.

A combination of public, private and third sector collaboration can do just that – as we are providing here at Bowring Park. Golf courses and leisure venues can be financially sustainable and no longer need to be a burden on the public purse, at the same time making a positive social and environmental impact.


Seamus Rotherick
By Seamus Rotherick February 18, 2023 12:10
Write a comment


  1. MeMe February 8, 20:05

    Disgusting … who rubber stamped the sale of the Golf Course in the first place??? It’s all about the £ …

    Reply to this comment
  2. Karen January 31, 22:39

    I would love to have a conversation with Mr Bell and ask him how he sleeps at night .What he has done to the coach house staff is disgusting . Making it impossible for them to stay .All of the staff worked extremely hard to make it a lovely place to go . Mr bell and all the other members of this so called company only seen the pound signs and treated the staff like trash . I don’t understand why people can’t make it to the top on their own merits instead of standing on the little people to get to the top . The staff made the coach house a thriving business, you have made a place I will never step in again . I hope you are all proud of yourself

    Reply to this comment
  3. Sarah gibbons January 30, 20:18

    Company that has no integrity morals or values. To do what this company has done to the coach house a community spirited venue with great staff and loyal customers is sad, disappointing and demonstrates nothing but greed!

    Reply to this comment
  4. Booth Golf & Leisure February 23, 12:06

    Amazing job Matt and team

    Reply to this comment
  5. Baz February 19, 20:18

    We were private golf club members paying £1200 a year . These courses in the Liverpool area are always closed in the winter.
    We played Bowring Park after a friend told us how good the greens were.
    We played it loved it and the greens were better tgan the private courses .
    We have bought 2 7 day contracts and see Bowring Park Golf club as our club from now on.
    We must mention the staff from Norman the Artisan, Green Staff Sandra and all the staff who work in the coach house on how friendly and professionall they all are.

    Reply to this comment
  6. Andrew February 18, 20:43

    Excellent to see a municipal facility thriving through competent management practices. Great read

    Reply to this comment
    • Baz February 19, 20:17

      We were private golf club members paying £1200 a year . These courses in the Liverpool area are always closed in the winter.
      We played Bowring Park after a friend told us how good the greens were.
      We played it loved it and the greens were better tgan the private courses .
      We have bought 2 7 day contracts and see Bowring Park Golf club as our club from now on.
      We must mention the staff from Norman the Artisan, Green Staff Sandra and all the staff who work in the coach house on how friendly and professionall they all are.

      Reply to this comment
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