Golf club that was 48 hours from closure now flourishing as sport booms

Braes Golf Centre is flourishing after emerging from the threatened Polmont club.Braes Golf Centre is flourishing after emerging from the threatened Polmont club.
Braes Golf Centre is flourishing after emerging from the threatened Polmont club.
Braes Golf Centre in Maddiston has ‘come back from the dead’

Eight months after being on the brink of closure, a Scottish golf club has taken on nearly 300 members as it goes from strength to strength under new owners on the back of the sport’s current boom.

Braes Golf Centre, which was created out of Polmont Golf Club being saved at the 11th hour last October, was already on the up in the hands of Steve Matthews and son Drew before the Covid-19 lockdown.

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However, golf’s popularity since restrictions started to be eased by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon just under three weeks ago has seen the nine-hole venue enjoy a significant jump in membership.

“That was down to 88 when the new owners took over and we are currently approaching 400,” Richard McLuckie, the general manager at the course situated between Falkirk and Linlithgow, told The Scotsman. “In the last month alone, we’ve taken on 270 new members, including 30 juniors, having not had any juniors at all.

“It’s been kind of crazy. As Polmont Golf Club, it was gone. It was finished until Steve took the gamble on taking it over and, all of a sudden, it has come back from the dead, absolutely.

“We got a wee bit lucky in terms of coming out of lockdown and finding that people were looking for activities right away and golf seemed to get the big hit. But it’s been reborn, no doubt whatsoever.

“It’s always been a community club and a lot of people are returning to the club, which is down to what we’ve done over the last three months. We’ve totally redeveloped the course and they are saying, ‘crikey, we’ve got a golf course again’.”

Polmont Golf Club, formed in 1901, was 48 hours away from closing in early October before a group led by Matthews, who owns Fife-based Caledonian Group, came up with a rescue deal.

“Steve and Drew are both keen golfers,” said David Russell, the company’s marketing manager. “A lot of their businesses are local to the Linlithgow area, which is where they are from, and they are helping a local club.

“I’ve been a member at Linlithgow for 15 years and I’d heard a lot of Polmont members complaining about it being run down due to no investment. Steve and Drew have now come in and are putting their own stamp on it. They want to give something back to the community.”

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McLuckie, who was lured from Dunblane New, where he was the club manager, having been secretary at Kingsknowe prior to that, added: “It is a great story. Not just for the Braes but every golf club in the surrounding area. If we get kids and women playing, they might not stay at the Braes, but they will go somewhere else. Other golf clubs in the area may benefit from us having lots of ladies and juniors playing golf as that’s where the future of the game lies.

“When Steve spoke to me and his vision for the place was brilliant, I thought this could be something completely different.

“The chance to be part of the rebirth was too good to turn down. I had to have a go.”

As part of widespread improvements being carried out, both on and off the course, a new nine-hole par-3 course is being built along with some new holes.

“We’ve not actually told the membership yet about that, but they know as they’ve seen the bulldozer in working,” said McLuckie, who has been rolling up his own sleeves over the past few months in a wide-ranging role.

“My background is golf course management, having been the course manager at Linlithgow years ago. When our greenkeeper had to shield, I had to say, ‘right, let’s get back out on the tools’.”

“We are totally redeveloping the course, reshaping greens, putting new tees and bunkers in and also some ditches. It’s been good that my experience on that side of things has come in handy.”

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