Class acts

Seamus Rotherick
By Seamus Rotherick August 17, 2023 12:31

From Open Championship venues revamping their changing rooms to deliver high-end comfort to a club that’s famous for its island green installing carpets that capture the energy of moving water, golf clubs are going the extra mile to provide classy luxury to their members and visitors.

Golf’s major championships have stepped out of tradition in the last few years to create new levels of provision for players.

Open Championship venues for example had always relied on their own clubhouses to deliver changing facilities. The year 2019 however, proved a watershed, when bespoke player changing rooms at Royal Portrush shifted the landscape forever.

If you have the resources and space to construct a brand new course, as The Celtic Manor Resort did for the 2010 Ryder Cup, you can go to town on clubhouse facilities – high-end changing for the US and European teams, mirror images of each other, even housing easy chairs and an open fire in capacious rooms portraying the giants of the game in huge sepia imagery.

If you don’t, peripatetic player changing provision of the standard the Open now delivers can represent a highly acceptable option. As it did at Royal Portrush, when leading English golfer Ian Poulter was moved to comment that “these are the best changing facilities I’ve seen at the Championships”.

And the signs are that this will become the new tradition, with such facilities on hand at the AIG Women’s Open, held at Muirfield last August, and at this year’s Open at Royal Liverpool, Hoylake.

With each locker bearing players’ names, participants can feel that little more special in what is an environment engineered just for them. Some major events are also providing past champion corners to raise tailored facilities yet another notch.

The bespoke trend is one that David Fitchett of locker manufacturer and installer Fitlockers ( sees as a logical development. “Player prowess and stature demand finest quality bespoke changing rooms, especially at major events, when golfers need ultimate focus on producing their best game.

“Comfortable, relaxing and spacious changing environments such as those now available at the Open help give them every opportunity to do just that.”


Innovative design improves commercial opportunities for golf clubs beyond just the locker room.

Harkin Walker Interior Design, Barston Golf Club 2023. Picture by Shaun Fellows / Shine Pix Ltd

In 2019, Harkin Walker, an interior design firm, was appointed to refurbish the existing function room at West Midlands Golf Club. The scope of the project involved installing a new bar, servery, flooring, timber wall panelling, furniture, artwork and re-decoration. Since then, it has refurbished more areas of the club, such as the Spike Bar and toilets.

Having a long-standing relationship with Wilton Carpets, Harkin Walker asked the company to be involved in the carpet design and construction. The design it opted for is part of Wilton Carpets’ ‘Fractured Earth’ collection; a suite of free-flowing, animate designs which take inspiration from the natural world. The design selected is ‘Breaking Wave’, which captures the energy of moving water. The carpet choice really complimented the setting as the club is set on a lake and the club is famous for its island green. Part of the ‘Inspirational Collections’, these designs are a creative jumping off point – they can be re-scaled, re-coloured and adapted to perfectly fit the space and broader design scheme.

Interior designer Kathleen Walker, of Harkin Walker comments: “The function room is a curved shape and so we wanted a design that had an organic feel and wrapped around the room. So the design really reflects the site setting, bringing the outside in, and it works so well in this space. We had the carpet recoloured to suit the design scheme and everyone is delighted with the result.

Harkin Walker Interior Design, Barston Golf Club 2023. Picture by Shaun Fellows / Shine Pix Ltd

There’s not much wall space to really make a feature and bring any pattern into this room so we had to do it with the carpet. A bold statement that paid off.”

Harkin Walker Interior Design, Barston Golf Club 2023. Picture by Shaun Fellows / Shine Pix Ltd

The carpet choice was contemporary and courageous compared to the previous decor and has transformed the function room; making it a super commercial asset for a broad range of events, celebrations and corporate activities. This is a valuable space to support member retention and secondary spend, as well as a secondary income stream, demonstrating the multi-faceted benefits of great design.

St Ives (Hunts) Golf Club

Padel is reported to be the world’s fastest growing sport. It has been described in the media as ‘the fitness trend of the summer’, a ‘sensation in the UK’ and ‘the cool younger sister of tennis’. The game originally started in Mexico and quickly swept through South America and then into Europe. Spain is reckoned to have over 20,000 padel courts, and an estimated six million active players – it is now the country’s second biggest participation sport after football. Padel is played in 91 countries.

St Ives (Hunts) Golf Club has applied for planning permission for two covered canopy courts, allowing play all year round – one of the big attractions of the game. The courts would add to the existing golf facilities at St Ives and help attract a wide audience of leisure visitors to the 230-acre site which opened in 2010.

Speaking about the courts, Thomas Munt, St Ives’ general manager, said: “Padel is going to be a great addition to our facilities at St Ives. We have seen how popular the game is becoming all around the UK and we believe the courts will be really busy here where we have a lot of family memberships. The benefits of padel are that it’s really sociable, great fun and easy to pick up – you don’t need any previous racket experience – so we encourage as many people as possible to come and try it out.”

Game4Padel also has a partnership with The R&A at Lethamhill Glasgow.

Elsewhere, St Ives has been embarking on a programme of income diversification.

“We moved our golf shop which we run internally as a club from its original site, tucked away at the back of the clubhouse to the prime position besides the new entrance. This then left a redundant space that we needed to make work for the club. A number of options were considered including bag storage and even a fitness room. It was decided however that the club needed to focus on diversified income streams but in order to do that we had to be aware of the limits to our professional understanding. If we truly wanted a different business in this space, we would need someone else to run it,” explains Munt.

“We got the space looked at by a local commercial property agent to give us a better understanding of what type of businesses it might suit and the achievable rent. We then advertised to existing members that we were looking for a business to rent this space. After several conversations with Cheryl of Long Poppy, we agreed that the space would work for her subject to some development work. The club agreed to fund the work required, that she would then pay back over the first 12 months of her tenancy.

“She signed a five-year initial lease and her business seems to be thriving. For the club this space is now generating a consistent income to the bottom line with relatively little risk, and Cheryl and her clients are a wonderful addition to the club environment.”

The club has also installed solar panels, is building a par three course using imported inert soil and is set to build lodges and revamp its driving range.


Seamus Rotherick
By Seamus Rotherick August 17, 2023 12:31
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