THE long-awaited takeover of a council-run North-East golf course by a neighbouring privately-owned club has been completed.

Golfers at Blackwell Grange Golf Club, in Darlington, spent Sunday (June 30) saying a fond farewell to their course, which has now seen its final competitive action.

The Blackwell name will continue with the takeover of nearby Stressholme Golf Course, which comes into effect on Monday (July 1).

Blackwell had been at its old home for about 100 years, and club secretary Doug Christie says the move heralds the beginning of a new era.

Darlington Borough Council, which operated Stressholme, was keen to give up responsibility for the course due to budgetary pressures, while Blackwell has had financial worries of its own, partly as a result of dwindling membership numbers.

A £1m land swap deal between the two parties was agreed, with the 24 acres of Blackwell land reverting to council hands.

It has been ear-marked for a potential future executive housing development.

The deal was not without its critics, who questioned whether the best deal for council tax payers had been struck in respect of the sale of the Stressholme site.

While a number of Blackwell staff have seen their jobs transferred to the new course, others have not been so luck and several have taken redundancy.

Blackwell was a hive of activity on Sunday, with members taking part in a ‘last waltz’ competition, before club captains David Theakston and Judi Summerson hit the ceremonial final balls on the old course.

A similar ceremony, marking the club’s relocation to the former Stressholme site, will take place on Monday (July 1) morning.

Blackwell staff have been working hard behind the scenes to ensure any disruption as a result of the relocation is kept to a minimum.

Mr Christie said the move had gone as smoothly as could be expected.

He said: “I think this is a wonderful opportunity and I do not mean that exclusively for Blackwell members.

“The combined membership of the two courses will make for a much stronger membership base and the extra funding that is coming into the club will be reinvested in the golf course.”