‘End of an era’ as Leeds golf courses face chop amid cuts

Luke Whitaker, 12, from Armley, teeing off on the first hole at Gotts Park Golf Course.
Luke Whitaker, 12, from Armley, teeing off on the first hole at Gotts Park Golf Course.
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Golf enthusiasts are up in arms after it emerged two historic Leeds golf courses look set to shut down for good in matter of weeks.

Leeds City Council officers have recommended that Middleton Park and Gotts Park golf courses close on October 31, paving the way for both sites to be turned into parkland.

Both courses, which were founded in the 1930s, were given a year-long reprieve in late 2012 so the authority could explore other ways to manage them but up until now that search has proven “fruitless”.

If approved by the council’s executive board on Wednesday, the Middleton Park course will be transformed into 42 hectares of semi-natural parkland with help from a £74,000 investment while members at Gotts Park Golf Club have the chance to manage their course. If the Armley-based club can’t deliver a suitable business plan it will be turned into Benjamin Gott Country Park.

Players claim the council has not done enough to promote the courses to new players, adding that both facilities have been left to deteriorate during the last 12 months.

Ian Bertie, chairman of Middleton Park Golf Club, claims the club has lost a third of its membership since the course was first earmarked for closure.

He said: “It will be the end of an era. Once it’s closed it will never reopen.

“We all know it’s going to be a loss leader but at the end of the day it’s providing service for the people of Leeds and particularly south Leeds.”

Mr Bertie went on to suggest the council’s two remaining courses in Roundhay and Temple Newsam could be next in line to close.

David Gregory, president of Gotts Park Golf Club which has 160 members, said: “I’m totally and utterly gutted, I just don’t understand it.

“I’m sure if they give us a chance we could make this course work. There is a downturn and there is for everybody – every golf course in Leeds is struggling.”

He added: “The council are telling people to go out and exercise yet they’ve shut our golf courses.”

But club chairman Alan Walls insisted the situation is “not all doom and gloom”, as the club now has the chance to continue talks with the council about managing the course itself with minimal funding.

The council claims the two facilities, which made a collective £217,000 loss in 2013/14, have seen a 60 per cent reduction in pay-to-play rounds from 2006/7 to 2012/13.

Coun Mark Dobson, the council’s executive member for communities, said: “It is simply unsustainable to carry on as before. It is because of this reason that we have asked the executive board to recommend that both golf courses close.”

He reiterated the council’s willingness to support the spaces in future, adding: “As part of our commitment, we will use the projected £170,000 savings this year, to help establish the parkland and support the work at Middleton.”

The council’s savings are expected to be used to both fund transforming the land into park space and also to provide match funding for grants until 2015/16.

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