It has been a strong on-going feature of Martin Slumbers’ tenure at the R&A. Ever since the 60-year-old Englishman succeeded Peter Dawson as chief executive of the St. Andrews-based organization in 2015, he has been the driving force behind a number of initiatives covered by the umbrella term “grow the game.” To that noble end, the R&A is entering into previously uncharted waters: community golf club/facility ownership in Scotland. The game’s governing body outside the United States and Mexico has submitted a planning application to Glasgow City Council for the construction of a new community golf development that it is hoped will open in the summer of 2022.
The plans, thought to involve an outlay in the region of £10 million, are nothing if not ambitious. According to a press release, “the project aims to redevelop the existing public course at Lethamhill to create a family-focused venue that provides access to a nine-hole course, Par 3 course, putting greens, short-game area, adventure golf and a 25-bay floodlit driving range for visitors to enjoy a wide range of golf activities, including shorter forms of the sport.”
Additional features including a café, fitness studio, indoor simulator and movie theater. An education room and retail area are also being planned as part of a “central hub” that would offer views north over nearby Hogganfield Loch to the Campsie Fells and south to the City of Glasgow.
The announcement comes almost exactly 12 months after Lethamhill, along with four other municipal courses located within the boundaries of Scotland’s biggest city, faced the almost inevitable prospect of closure. Budget cuts approved by the Glasgow City Council last February proposed only the retention of one nine-hole course, with Lethamhill, Littelhill, Linn Park, Alexandra Park and Ruchill being slated for termination.
Now, at least some of that bleak prospect seems to have been alleviated. According to reports, the R&A also has an option to purchase Littlehill within the next 36 months.
“We want to make golf more welcoming and inclusive for people of all ages and backgrounds, and so we need to appeal to them by offering a variety of fun and affordable activities that entice more families and young people into the sport,” Slumbers said in a statement. “We are excited by the prospect of establishing a facility in the very heart of the local community in northeast Glasgow that provides an accessible pathway into golf and inspires people to get out, have fun and experience the many health benefits that playing golf with family and friends can provide.”
The R&A isn’t in this alone, however. In collaboration with Glasgow Life, a city-based charitable organization, the views of local stakeholders including current golfers, community groups and elected representatives are being considered to assist in shaping the development of the facility to create a destination that truly appeals to local people. Work is also being carried out with the Golf Foundation and Scottish Golf to devise future participation and education programs that use Glasgow Life’s existing Active Schools network to connect local schools with the new facility and inspire young people to experience playing golf in a fun and relaxed environment.
Councilor David McDonald, Chair of Glasgow Life and Deputy Leader of Glasgow City Council, said, “This project is a great example of innovative thinking which protects and enhances resources relied on by the local communities and the whole city. It delivers an incredible facility for golfers while at the same time offering families more opportunities to discover the joy and health benefits of taking part in sport.”
— to www.golfdigest.com