What is the future of Middleton Park Golf Course?


golf fairway water tower Middleton
Photo: Stephen Williamson

When we raised the question of what’s happening to Middleton Park Golf Course, which is currently threatened with closure, at Area Committee we were told very little. A small group of Councillors, officers, the Golf Club and Friends of Middleton Park are looking at the finances. There will be a report to the Council’s Executive Board in October, followed by public consultation on the “options”.

Today we received the following letter from reader Neil McCallum. We would like to hear what you think. Should the course be kept? Do you have ideas about saving costs or increasing revenue? Are the Council the best people to run it? Please tell us what you think in the comments section below.

I played the course yesterday and the mood amongst members was very subdued. Expectation seems to be that the course is heading toward inevitable closure but that genuine information from the council does not appear to be easily available. Rumour abounds!

I’m a member and have been playing the course regularly for +5 years. I have a view that entrenched attitudes from both the council and the course users have not assisted the situation. A genuine, open partnership approach could lead to solutions.

While people may not always agree with government at a local or national level there is a general understanding of issues around public finances and an acknowledgment that not everything can be provided by the council. That said, I’m not sure closing a golf course saves much especially when the value of the land cannot be realised via a sale – does anyone actually know the proposed cost saving for closing the course (I think I’ve seem figures ranging from £100k to £50m)?

Furthermore, times are tight now but that won’t always be the case and if the course is closed the council will never be able to bring this facility back. We are talking about a course in it’s 80th year which will have seen good and bad economic times. It will be very sad if it is not given the opportunity to survive into the future.

Personally, I would like to see free golf at Middleton for anyone under 16, in full time education or unemployed. Generally, costs to play the course should be reduced and some investment should be put into improving facilities. (Frankly, some decent training for the maintenance staff would go a long way and wouldn’t cost the earth.) Playing golf should be encouraged much more widely. The course is a place where people can learn the game, but I think it is too expensive for people to come and try. An outreach programme between the course and the community is required and this needs to recognise that a significant number of people in the area who might wish to play golf cannot afford c.£15 to play on a regular basis.

I’d be interested in being involved in any dialogue on your site about the future of the course.

6 Replies to “What is the future of Middleton Park Golf Course?”

  1. I go in the park regularly so am aware of how much the Golf Course is under used, even on a good day. Although I am not a golfer, I am quite happy to see it stay as a Golf Course. So other ways of making the space pay it’s way need to be sought. But what?
    I agree with Jeremy that many of the local community would find paying the present cost for a game on a regular basis impossible. I don’t think that offering a game free to under 16’s is the answer though. Studies and experience show that anything free is not considered worthwhile and I forsee that the course would still remain underused or would be abused. Also bear in mind that it is not just the cost of a game that stops people playing, it is the cost of the equipment and the endless lost balls (which my grandson sells to his dad for 50p).
    One question I would ask is, Is Golf an outdated sport? The Course is 80 years old, sporting pastimes were quite different then. So although the fact that it has been in situ for so long is a good reason for keeping it, perhaps it could also be a reason for letting it go?

    1. I think if you turn on Sky Sports from time to time you’ll see whether or not golf is outdated. In fact, golfers are often amongst the highest paid professional sportsmen and women in the world!
      The problem is the poor condition of the course due to a lack of decent groundskeepers, which sometimes deters serious golfers.
      As for under-use, if you ever drive past on a Saturday or Sunday or try to pull into the car park, it is absolutely packed. It may get more use during the week if we had a resident professional who supplied lessons again but unfortunately, there hasn’t been one there for a long time.

  2. I think that it would be a travesty if our golf course was to close down. We have gradually seen our areas’ historic buildings, landmarks and facilities being eroded into oblivion!
    We lost our swimming pool because the council said that it was too costly at £500,000 pa to maintain, yet we gained a football pitch that cost a reported £24.5m to build. That’s the equivalent of 49 years of swimming lessons in a pool where my children and I all learned to swim.
    To lose our golf course as well would be a step too far. There are many golf courses that serve a smaller area than Middleton golf course, and the whole of South Leeds would lose an important municipal facility at a time when our country has ranked among the highest child obesity levels in the world.
    I intend to make myself heard and try to keep our golf course open!

  3. Craig – Good to hear your comments.

    South Leeds Life was the first media outlet to tell people that the Council intended to close the course and raised the matter with the relevant member of the Executive Board who has responsibility for this area of activity (Cllr Mark Dobson). We have twice raised the matter at meetings of the Inner South Area Committee.

    It is a pity that information about what’s happening hasn’t been more openly available – no public meetings have been held about the original intention to close the course nor since as a small group has met to consider the way forward.

    I have no doubt that finding a viable future for the course is not easy which is another reason that it’s a shame that the Council and the other parties involved haven’t taken the opportunity to discuss ideas and possibilities more broadly.

    Flowerpower – Good to hear what you have to say.

    I’m sure the cost does prevent some people from playing. At present juniors can play for £5.50, £4.50 on weekdays and adults £15.50, £12.35 on weekdays. People who have LeedsCard Extra/60 can play during the week for £8.65.

    I think much bigger problems are a lack of investment on the course and a lack of marketing. The condition of the course is very variable. I played this week and some of the fairways were in a poor condition as were some of the greens some of this is caused by vandalism which is difficult to stop but some is caused by inadequate maintenance.

    1. There has always been one hole in particular that suffers from vandalism, and the fairway on the fourth in particular can be terrible but, that is from poor maintenance. I fail to see how such a beautiful course which I have sometimes been unable to book onto even a week in advance, can be such a financial drain.
      I seem to hear about things far too late and I have started trying to involve myself in community groups lately and what I hear is sometimes shocking!
      It’s because I’m sick of seeing our facilities and landmarks being targeted that I’m considering running for council next year.
      Middleton and Belle Isle seem to me to be undervalued and never get the regeneration and blanket improvements that I see in other areas, and we’re shedding facilities too!
      I’m Middleton born and raised and I don’t much like the way things are changing.

  4. I have never had difficulties getting on the course but maybe that’s because I’m retired and don’t play at weekends.

    While I don’t think Middleton Park Golf course has been Leeds City Council’s finest hour I think it is important to realise in terms of facilities generally the Council has, in recent years, suffered badly from reductions in funding from central government.

    Whatever anyone’s views are on the need for public expenditure savings it is instructive to note that reductions in local authority funding have been greater than with central government run services and reductions in the funding of northern urban authorities particularly acute.

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