For details on how to contact our editorial and commercial departments, click here
Teamwork makes Blackwell switch work
THERE is an old saying in golf that “a location does not make a club – it’s the members that do”.
And, nearly four months into a new era in the history of Blackwell Grange Golf Club in Darlington, that philosophy certainly rings true.
When the privately-owned club completed its takeover of the nearby council-run Stressholme Golf Club in the midst of financial challenges, there was an acceptance that such a radical move might not be welcomed by everyone. But officials charged with managing the transition believe the switch has gone as well as possible.
Very few members of either club appear to have turned their backs on the venture and there are now ambitious plans to make the popular course an even better place to tee off.
Membership numbers have swelled to 725, more than double the figure Blackwell had during their days playing out of the Briar Close clubhouse, highlighting how loyal golfers at the neighbouring clubs have stayed around to see the impact of change.
“It has been a great success,” said Blackwell Grange’s club secretary Doug Christie. “It really has.
I can honestly say we could not have wished for the two sites to have integrated any better than they have.
“There have been no issues whatsoever. We have wonderful feedback from the Blackwell members who have come over to Snipe Lane and we always thought that would be the case because this is a fine course; a test of golf. The Stressholme members are also seeing the benefits of what we are trying to do.”
Had the merger not taken place the likelihood is that Darlington Borough Council would have closed Stressholme because of losses incurred and costcutting measures.
Blackwell’s decision to sell their old 90 acre course for the larger 150 acre site across the road, for an initial £1m, has also enabled them to plan major improvements to their new home.
Exciting plans have been drawn up which will see major structural alterations to the clubhouse and there will be improved changing facilities and locker rooms.
There are plans to fine-tune the quality of the course too.
“All the monies we have raised from the sale of the golf course land, clubhouse and car park will all be reinvested in Snipe Lane,”
said Christie, a 12- handicapper enjoying the new fairways and greens to test his swing on. “No individual at Blackwell is looking for financial reward, we are all just pushing to make an already great place to come to play golf even better.”
The financial boost the merger has given to the old Stressholme site should also be enough to convince any doubters that the move – first spoken about in January 2012 – has suited both parties.
Course maintenance will be a huge feature and course manager Doug Avey, who has four greenstaff, is excited about the future. He said: “We have already invested in the turf around the greens, we have used a different grading on the greens and we are looking at new enviro-bunkers to prevent sinking and will last longer.
“We are also seeking further funding for work to have six new short holes ranging from 50 yards to 150 yards for juniors to be able to practice on.”
Attracting more juniors to the new Blackwell Grange – where there is a policy to welcome visitors – is high on the agenda. With longserving and popular club pro Ralph Givens and his assistants Peter Raine and Ross Jackson, there are plans to create a junior academy building up to play on a course just under 6,500 yards.
“We want golfers from all ages coming here,” said Aberdeen-born Christie, who has lived in Darlington since 1983. “We don’t want Blackwell to be a club for members only, we want all golfers to come down. I have been a member of Blackwell since I first settled in the town – and it’s a great place to be involved in.
“Since we moved sites it has been fantastic. We could not have asked for things to go any better, honestly we couldn’t. I have always said throughout all of the discussions and plans that a location does not make a golf club, its members do.
“We want to have good facilities, we have a good golf course but it’s also the support of the club’s members and the camaraderie among everyone which can make a golf club a special place.”
Comments are closed on this article.