More than 60 organisations, including hotel, pub and leisure companies have registered their official interest in running Birmingham’s cash-strapped municipal golf courses.
The applications have flooded in after the city council announced it was looking for partners to rejuvenate its seven financially-below-par courses and help them turn a profit after making massive £600,000 losses last year.
Already the city’s leisure chief Martin Mullaney has decided to close the most costly course, Hilltop in Handsworth, from April after it reported losses of £239,000.
But the remaining six – Boldmere, Pype Hayes, Cocksmoors Woods, Lickey Hills, Harborne and Hatchford Brook – could come under new management with improved club houses and hospitality facilities if the city can strike the right deal.
Mullaney’s vision includes club houses, run by private partners, providing pub, restaurant, hotel, conference and even civil wedding services.
The city is also looking at reinstating pitch and putt courses and introducing adventure golf in parks to lure more youngsters and families into the sport.
Coun Mullaney said: “The market testing exercise has been extremely encouraging and we’ve already had over 65 registrations of interest.
“Officers have met with a number of groups and individuals to discuss a number of possible initiatives – including pitch and putt at Stechford Hall Park.
“Pitch and putt would certainly plug a gap in the golf service. At the moment we have a very good schools programme, and then we have the municipal courses. Pitch and putt would provide a step up for newcomers to the sport.
“The market testing is looking at what is best for the golf service as a whole, rather than a series of isolated cases, and so far it has been a worthwhile exercise.”
A report into Stechford Hall concluded that the course, which was among five pitch and putt facilities closed in the mid-1990s, has been kept in good condition and could be relatively easily reinstated should funds become available.
Council leisure scrutiny chairman Coun John Alden (Cons, Harborne) believes that the closures of pitch and putt has stopped youngsters, particularly those from inner-city areas, taking up golf.
“We are paying the price for that decision now, with fewer youngsters taking up golf we have fewer players graduating to the 18-hole courses,” he said.
Companies and groups have until January 4 to express an interest.