Hollandbush and Dalmuir cases beg big question: are some Scottish golf clubs selling themselves short?

Why Dutchman might have made valid point about low rates at some venues in home of golf

I’ve got a Dutch friend who, for pretty obvious reasons, had his attention grabbed by Hollandbush Golf Club being in the news recently as it was handed a reprieve by South Lanarkshire Council. “Hope the club will be able to make it profitable and have a long, financially-healthy future,” he wrote in a post on social media in response to a welcome decision to spare the club from closure as a new model is worked on to try and secure its long-term future.

He then added something that I have to admit has been on my mind ever since by suggesting the following: “Let them start with the rates”. Having obviously gone on to the Hollandbush website to check it out, he’d come across something under the visitors and outings tab that jumped out at him and perhaps he’s got a point.

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It seems, after all, that the club has an incredible offer for outings, with a game from Monday to Friday along with a breakfast roll and a two-course dinner available at just £25 and that only going up to £35 at the weekend. Really? I know I am probably treading on dangerous ground here because, in the main, the value for money enjoyed by Scottish golfers on home soil is second to none and, of course, we should be extremely grateful for that, but are some clubs selling themselves short?

Hollandbush has an offer of a breakfast roll, a round of golf and a two-course dinner for £25 during the week and £35 at the weekend. Picture: Hollandbush Golf Club.Hollandbush has an offer of a breakfast roll, a round of golf and a two-course dinner for £25 during the week and £35 at the weekend. Picture: Hollandbush Golf Club.
Hollandbush has an offer of a breakfast roll, a round of golf and a two-course dinner for £25 during the week and £35 at the weekend. Picture: Hollandbush Golf Club.

Having not played it myself, I can’t offer a personal opinion about Hollandbush in either a playing sense or in terms of what sort of welcome you get there, but I do know someone who paid a visit to the Lesmahagow venue recently and he gave it a big thumbs up. “This is one of the best municipal courses I have ever played,” said Colin Ramsay, author of A Golfer’s Bucket List of Scottish Golf Courses. “It is right up there with Ayr Belleisle and that is no mean feat. All in all, I enjoyed my round and the warm welcome I received from Margaret [Currie] in the starter’s box and Mags [Cathcart], the club secretary.”

Based on that glowing verdict, Hollandbush could well be selling itself short in terms of its pricing, but, at the same time, I understand that it’s a balancing act for lots of clubs around the country when it comes to trying to attract visitors and lots aren’t on bucket lists of those travelling here from all corners of the globe.

It would be a travesty, though, if somewhere like Hollandbush did end up closing one day because, as Ramsay’s comments indicate, it’s definitely not what some people might think of when municipal courses come to mind and here’s hoping that its future is now bright. “There is still lot of work ahead,” the aforementioned Cathcart, who lives and breathes Hollandbush, told me a fortnight ago after South Lanarkshire Council’s correct call, “but we are all saying that this could possibly be the best thing that has happened to the club”.

Here’s hoping that will also be the case at Dalmuir on the back of the incredible support it has received – Scotland star John McGinn threw his support behind it and has subsequently been joined in doing so by Ryder Cup legends Lee Westwood and Sergio Garcia – since it emerged that West Dunbartonshire Council had targeted it for either being reduced to 18 holes or closure. A decision about it is due to be made on Wednesday and, if noises being made by both the majority Labour group and Scottish National Party are to be believed, the Clydebank course is set to stay open as well.

As, incidentally, are the two courses – one an 18-holer and the other a nine-holer – at Caird Park in Dundee after its city council indicated it would dip into reserves to keep those layouts open, for the time being at least, meaning it’s been a positive reaction all around the country to important breeding grounds for the game being under threat.

The important thing going forward is that all these venues are not taken for granted by golfers themselves, with the number of day visitors at Dalmuir, for example, having dropped, according to figures reported by West Dunbartonshire Council, from just under 6000 in 2021/22 to just over 4000 in 2022/23 while the total of annual members had gone from 264 to 218 over the same period.

In my time covering the game, I’ve witnessed the closure of a few Scottish courses, including Whitekirk in East Lothian, Lothianburn and Torphin Hill on the outskirts of Edinburgh and Brunston Castle in Ayrshire. Eastwood in Renfrewshire, too, though it emerged recently that a plan has been launched to reopen it as a 12-hole course next year. A few others might have fallen by the wayside as well if it hadn’t been for the unexpected boom in golf at a time when it was one of the few sports permitted during the Covid pandemic and some might be back in a precarious situation once those membership numbers start to level off again.

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Using Hollandbush as example, though, it’s up to clubs to do everything they can to try and ensure that the actual product isn’t being offered too cheap and, as my Dutch friend discovered after his attention had been attracted to a current hot topic in the sport’s cradle, that certainly seems to be the case in some instances.



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