PROFESSIONAL golfer David Howell has stated his surprise at Swindon Council’s impending decision to transfer its golf courses to an external operator.
The two-time Ryder Cup winner began golfing at Broome Manor Golf Club in 1984, aged just nine, his summer days filled with 12-hour sessions of endless pitching and putting.
He has now moved to defend the future of his home course, as it lies in wait for new managers, who will be selected from a list of prospective bidders trying to take control of courses at Highworth and Moredon too.
“To hear the council think they can do better than running it themselves is a shame. It has been a long time since I have been an integral part of life at Broome Manor, so I don’t know the full situation,” the 38-year-old said.
“It has always seemed to turn a profit and pretty much helped the other facilities, including the other leisure centres, to stay afloat.
“I don’t know if that situation has changed drastically, but it’s certainly surprising to hear they want to get rid of it.”
The Broome Manor complex includes 27 holes across two courses, as well as a two-tier driving range, which has bred more professionals than just David.
The Dunhill Links winner said the manageable prices charged for use of the course should be protected by any new investor, or the future of young golfers in the town may be under threat.
“There are some other guys who have turned pro since me from that course, but it’s always been a great product for general golfers of Swindon too,” he said.
“It was cheap golf for juniors, really good value, and if that were to change, that would be a crying shame. It would be horrendous if it changed.”
The proposed transfer is a result of the council facing significant financial challenges, with an estimated £48m budget gap over the next three years.
The council is therefore looking at alternative ways of delivering services, and is inviting both commercial and not-for-profit companies to submit proposals to take over the running of many of its leisure centres and golf courses.
The facilities concerned are the golf courses at Broome Manor, Highworth and Moredon and six leisure centres; Croft Sports Centre, Delta Tennis Centre, Dorcan Recreation Complex, Haydon Centre, Healthy Hydro and the Link Centre. The proposal does not include Highworth Recreation Centre at this point.
The council would like to hear the views of the public and leisure and golf centre users about the proposals through an online questionnaire via the Leisure in Swindon website www.leisureinswindon.co.uk.
Meanwhile, GVA, the firm responsible for fielding interest in the facilities, has said there has been plenty of interest from established leisure companies looking to take hold of either the golf or leisure centre packages.
The consultation will run until 5pm on March 3. The results of the consultation will be presented to the council’s Cabinet in late spring to help inform councillors before a decision is made on a preferred bidder.