Here’s something of a scoop for you lucky readers of Gorilla Golf Blog and that is news of a brand new golf development that could be set to become one of Europe’s top golfing hotspots and possibly even a future Ryder Cup venue.
While the details of this somewhat grandiose and ambitious project are still very much at the sketchy stage, Wirral Council, who are currently planning the 2014 British Open, which will be held at the Royal Liverpool links in Hoylake, have quickly realised that the pulling power of golf could be one of the ways to help them bring further investment into the borough.
Located near Liverpool on the ‘other side’ of the Mersey, the Wirral is already blessed with several outstanding courses. Royal Liverpool is on the Open roster, while Wallasey is one of the best ‘second tier’ courses in the UK and has played host to several Open qualifiers.
The region also boasts many excellent private courses, four municipal courses (3 18-holes, plus one 9-hole) and is only a short drive away from several top courses in the Liverpool area, such as Royal Birkdale, Hillside, Ainsdale and Formby.
With an abundance of high-quality courses, one would question whether the region needs yet another course. But the aims of Wirral Council are to create something very special indeed.
Speaking on a local radio station, leader of Wirral Council Phil Davies revealed that the £50m development would be located close to Royal Liverpool Golf Course and the Hoylake Municipal course and that it would strive to be one of the country’s foremost golfing destinations, hoping to attract events such as the Ryder Cup and professional tour events.
The project is at the procurement stage at present with interested development partners encouraged to place a proposal outlining how they would turn the 200 acre site into a prime golfing development to rival the very best courses in the world.
The council hopes to have the details for the course along with the preferred bidder ready to name before the start of the 2014 British Open.
Of course, not all new golf developments in the UK have been met with unanimous approval. Local residents were furious when American tycoon Donald Trump developed a golfing resort on the Aberdeenshire coast. There is a real risk that this new development could hit similar snags.
While Wirral Council have been quick to point out the benefits to the Wirral in terms of increased revenue from the resort, employment for local people and perhaps also enhanced image for the region across the globe if it were to host top class golfing events, but there is a downside.
The proposed area is very close, almost adjacent, to two courses (Hoylake Municipal and Royal Liverpool), but it will not be a links course as it is set some way back from the sea front. It is also situated in a very affluent suburb of the Wirral, where local residents may not be too keen on another large golf complex right on their doorstep.
On a more practical level, the council would also need to address how this new venture would benefit Wirral golfers.
Golf on the Wirral, other than on Municipal Courses, is heavily subscribed and as such, private courses already charge comparatively high sums of money to play their courses. For example, a top new course in Chester offers membership for less than £500 a year, the cheapest course for Membership on the Wirral (other than a Municipal contract) is at least £300 a year more than that.
It is unlikely that this new golfing venture, if it is to remain exclusive and prestigious, would offer the thousands of Wirral golfers a cheap course to play. In truth, it is likely to cost the same, if not more, than the £150 per round being asked at nearby Royal Liverpool.
Can those prices be said to be supporting the aims and increasing the opportunities of the typical Wirral golfer?
It is an important point, especially when the council has been rumoured to be considering selling off at least one of its municipal course to a housing developer in an attempt to raise cash to help offset the budget deficit.
It promises to be an interesting six months to see how this development progresses. While another top golfing resort may seem exciting on paper, like any golfing development anywhere across the globe, it has to work in a complimentary fashion within the locality and with local people. Without that, any developer faces a battle. Ask Donald Trump.
So while an exceptional golfing resort on the Wirral is an exciting prospect, for it to succeed, several delicate matters need to be considered to ensure that this project is inclusive to all golfers from in and around the Wirral, not just an attempt to milk the lucrative wealthy golfer market.
Images Courtesy of Placenorthwest, Wikipedia