In the UK, 18-hole golf courses are declining in popularity. By and large this is due to the drastic change in how people are living their lives. Less and less people now have the time to spend a whole day completing a round at an 18-hole golf course. Instead, increasing numbers of people have just a few hours to spare during the week or at weekend, which lends itself to a 9-hole round of golf.
With a decline in the popularity of the 18-hole game comes the closure of 18-hole golf courses. Although no statistics are available about how many 18-hole courses have officially closed over the last 5 years, we do know how many 18-hole golf clubs affiliated to England Golf, the national governing body, have closed. These statistics reveal that at the start of 2011 there were 1,951 affiliated 18-hole golf clubs. At the start of 2016 there were 1,926: an average of five 18-hole clubs per year disaffiliating from England Golf. One of those clubs was Wavendon Golf Club here in Milton Keynes, which closed in 2018.
There are currently 19 public 18-hole courses within the Milton Keynes postcode area. Conversely, there are only three 9-hole par-3 golf courses within the same area. If the growing need for 9 hole par 3 courses is to be accommodated, then we should be looking innovatively at how we can adapt 18-hole courses to ensure they still remain viable for long term golf use.
More widely, grassroots sport in the UK - whether we’re talking football, cricket, tennis or badminton - is struggling to make ends meet. Year on year funding from Local Councils, Sports Governing Bodies and Central Government continues to decrease.
As a country, we need to find a new and better way to fund grassroots sport to protect it for future generations. If we don’t, leisure and sports facilities will become rarer and rarer and our National Sporting Teams won’t see the next generation of talent coming through the ranks.
The SportsHub concept is a multi-sport facility where a number of sporting and leisure facilities are co-located on a site and are part-funded by the commercial facilities and businesses operating elsewhere on the same site.
A sporting charity, established as part of the SportsHub, receives 5% of the annual revenue/rent of every business year on year to enable the charity to be on hand to help with funding the operational costs of those sports organisations on site (such as new equipment, or upgrading of grounds, for example).
The overarching purpose of the SportsHub model is to help keep existing sports sites in public use for sports, leisure and recreation and to enable these uses to be financially viable over the long term.
The SportsHub proposed at Windmill Hill will be one of the first developments in the UK where the leisure and sports facilities on site are part-funded by the commercial facilities and businesses operating on the rest of the site - for example, the hotel and driving range - through a SportsHub Charity.
There will be around six appointments to the Sports Hub Charity, who as trustees will be in charge of distributing the 5% annual charitable donation. We plan to establish a Local Stakeholder Panel made up of locally elected representatives and local residents to act as a forum to ask questions of the trustees, and to provide feedback and make suggestions about what is needed to support the ongoing success of the sports facilities at the SportsHub.