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October 2004

Iford Golf Centre

GRN revisits this fabulous golf centre, which is now under the management of Barrelfield Golf.

The centre, located in Christchurch, Bournemouth

comprises of a full-length 18-hole course (6,200 yards), a 9-hole par 3 course, a 60 bay two-tier golf range, a restaurant, conference facility, golf shop, and golf school. This information on its own looks impressive, but even this does not get anywhere near to the reality. The design by Charles Mador of both the clubhouse and the range building is daringly different. Crisp lines flow with an elegance not often seen at a golf range. The bays themselves are arranged on two tiers with three distinct fairway areas. This gives the golfer huge variety, with the option to hit balls from one bay and then move to another zone to hit some more.

The triple aspect range has 18 greens sculptured into the outfield, which covers a massive 15 acres. The greens are properly constructed, giving a realistic bounce and feel to the practice session. Even the fairways are diagonally mown, just like a top course, and at least six greens can be played to from each of the three aspects. All of the bays are heated, with the interior being well lit and finished. The impression is more of a Terence Conran restaurant than a range! Golf, in all its various formats, is priced attractively for the golfer.

Iford Golf Centre was originally known as Open Golf Centres – Bournemouth and part of the Open Golf Centre Ltd. Open Golf Centres Ltd were also developing another major site in Leicester, but in early 2002 the company went into administration.

The company failed for a variety of reasons. During construction, and in the first few months of opening, the Christchurch site was plagued by wet weather causing the entire site to flood several times. This led to serious delays in the completion of the project, with costs spiralling - the whole site was built to a very high specification, possibly beyond the needs of its location. It is always a shame when such a fabulously bold piece of creativity comes to grief, but fortunately the centre is now flourishing and looks like it has a great future.

Barrelfield Golf has been operating the site for the last 12 months for Kirkenal Ltd, a company wholly owned by the bank, which supplied the original funding for the site. Peter Townson, Operations Director for Barrelfield explains:

“Barrelfield operates six golf courses in the UK, but Iford is the only ‘pay and play’ golf centre with a major golf range. When we took over, there was a lot of work to do in persuading local golfers to return to the centre. Annual memberships had fallen, due to the uncertainty surrounding the project, and the range was not performing well.

“We have since implemented a major course drainage and improvements schedule: we have piped several ditches which crossed fairways, giving more generous landing areas and greatly improving the playability of the course. Sand slitting and gravel banding have also helped the course to be in better condition throughout the year. On the range, we contracted Hi Nets to re-fence the right hand boundary, which was leaning precariously towards the adjoining fairway. This type of work is obviously long term and greatly increases the confidence that our customers have in the centre. Not surprisingly, use of the facility is rising, membership is up and the range takings are improving.”

Iford have just had 58 automated tees installed by Seoul Nassau. This makes Iford the largest automated range in the country and, from the reaction of golfers so far, it seems certain to boost ball sales. Peter explains:

“We have a strong relationship with Seoul Nassau, who also supply all of our golf course requirements. We wanted to upgrade the range and full automation seemed like an ideal way to achieve that.”

Ryder Cup star Colin Montgomerie was a shareholder in the original company and tuition was offered under the Monty Golf School brand. Tuition is now supplied by the three professionals on site: Director of Golf Rod Davis, w

 

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