The 21st century golf market: some responses for developers – The Property Chronicle
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The 21st century golf market: some responses for developers How to rejuvenate golf courses with a coherent 21st century model

The Guest Essay

Golfer, flag and golf ball in silhouette against sunset

In our previous two articles (1) (2) we set down the history of golf course development in the British Isles as being in two distinct phases: with a big difference between early 20th century locations of golf and the second wave, a hundred years later, of typically weaker courses in terms of integration with communities, suitability of land and quality of design. In short, many courses and clubs are poorly positioned, both commercially and physically, to meet a market need that is changing and weakening. Because  time and social pressures make the single product (18 hole course) less appealing year by year – unless that 18 hole product is truly excellent in quality and location.

We identified various business segments which could be appropriate for residential development on at least part of the property and especially for socially relevant, age- and lifestyle-related residences and activities. All this whilst potentially still providing market-driven golf products and then using the released areas, so creating capital for investment to change the product offer to match the modern market and avoiding the need for additional land purchase.

Where are the opportunities for developers?

Possible solutions need careful analysis of supply and local demand, coupled with drive-time analysis and assessment of highways/traffic. Different types of golfing and other sports leisure activities have very differing acceptable journey times associated with them. Additionally, local stakeholder groups generally exist to preserve status quo not to support change. New solutions must be presented with attractive and compelling cases for backing change – it is not beyond hope that local stakeholders could support inspired, mixed development, rather than resist new thinking, if the product on offer adds substantially to the community.

Clearly, careful consideration of local planning implications is a ‘must have’. Whatever the continuing debate on the efficacy of building on the Green Belt – and it’s a perpetual hot topic – this need not be like a form of Animal Farm: ‘green belt good, golf course bad’. Indeed, many golf courses already occupy the green belt and provide valuable biodiverse enrichment: there is plenty of scope for golf both to preserve and add to the national stock of protected nature reserves and/or public open space. Opening up hitherto privately-held golf course land to wider access is compatible with good business by clubs and homebuilding on a variety of scales. Indeed, homebuilding is at the core of the business opportunity for the existing golf clubs. So, intelligently provided public amenity access is to be welcomed as a benefit to all parties.

The Guest Essay

About Jonathan Dickins and Guy Hockley

Jonathan Dickins and Guy Hockley

Jonathan Dickins began his career at The Gillette Corporation and has been in the sports and leisure industry for over 30 years. He was a shareholder in a sports marketing firm before moving into golf development involving clubs, resorts and events including a spell representing Gary Player Group in Europe. He then joined a start-up credit card business (Sportscard) which floated on AIM. More recently his firm, JD Consulting, has not only continued to advise on golf developments but also on sports, leisure and play facilities required in and around residential development both outdoor and indoor. Guy Hockley leads Golden Age Golf Architecture Ltd (GAGA) – worldwide specialists in structural planning of golf estates, sports leisure and golf course design for a variety of developers including corporates, governments, resorts and private clubs. GAGA’s focus is increasingly on integrating real estate with green spaces combined with a number of different sports and leisure activities – including restructuring of existing facilities as imaginatively flexible golf courses of 6, 9, 12 or 18 holes to provide greater efficiency and vision of land use and development opportunities for real estate. Essentially - planning and design solutions for active, open-air C21st communities. In a 30 year career Guy has been lead architect for three of golf’s most significant names: Sir Nick Faldo, Gary Player and Hawtree Ltd, the world’s oldest golf design practice (est. 1912). A member of British and European Institutes of Golf Course Architecture since 1994, Guy is the only living European architect to have his original designs listed in both the UK’s and Continental Europe’s 'Top 100 courses' listings (four listed) and the only living UK architect with two golf course designs in the 'Top 100 Courses in UK and Ireland'.

Articles by Jonathan Dickins and Guy Hockley

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