This article is part of GCMA Insights – topical content for golf industry professionals, discussing the issues that matter most to those who work in and run golf clubs.
Ryan Noades, who part-owns The Addington, in Croydon, explains why modern equipment, now being tackled by a universal golf ball rollback, forced some clubs to be risk-averse.
“We’re not going to be rebuilding bunkers and rebuilding tees,” says Ryan Noades, contemplating plans to bring in a universal golf ball rollback. “I don’t think there is a problem with the amateur game.”
But then as the debate over who is going to lose what, and more specifically how much, rumbles on following the R&A and USGA’s announcement at the end of last year, Noades has an interesting take on what it might mean for some golf clubs.
We’ve all heard of clubs that have altered holes, found their practice facilities weren’t long enough, or had clashes with neighbours after balls appeared in gardens.
Noades, whose Altonwood Group owns and runs four other golf clubs in the south of England, revealed the challenges big-hitting recreational players can bring.
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“The trouble is every club has a handful of golfers – they might be really bad at golf – that can swing the club very, very, fast,” he said.
“Mike Clayton (the former tour player and now a renowned architect) talks about this. The ball has never gone so far offline as it does today. You get young men who can swing the club at 120mph. The club is coming from the inside with an open face and the ball is going off the planet.
“That is a problem for golf courses. It’s no so much to do with the architecture of the course, it’s safety – and not even necessarily safety in terms of other fairways because that’s a decision for you to manage within your golf course.
“I’m talking about neighbouring properties. At Westerham Golf Club, for example, we had to move the driving range about six or seven years ago because there was a house at the end and there were golf balls going into the front living room. That was even with reduced flight golf balls.
“That’s an example of money we’ve had to spend to change something because of a boundary. We’ve had to buy adjacent properties at The Addington to prevent a neighbour from forcing us to change a golf hole.”
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Noades added: “I know plenty of courses over the last 20 years moving a green or changing a hole or moving a tee. At The Addington we had a tee that was right of the 5th green and balls were going into a neighbour’s garden. We can’t use it and we haven’t used that tee for 10 years. That never happened in the 80s and 90s.
“While it’s [roll back] not really an amateur issue in terms of the average golfer, every club has a handful of golfers that can hit the ball this far and the problem is they’re hitting it offline.
“Modern equipment now hits the ball offline with a much greater carry distance than it’s ever gone before. That is a problem for neighbouring properties and, unfortunately, they can force you to close a golf hole or change a golf hole.
“In an extreme case, you could be forced to close a golf course or potentially end up with some legal issue if someone got hurt or worst case killed. You could end up with litigation on your hands and being sued for seven figure sums.”
This article is part of GCMA Insights – topical content for golf industry professionals, discussing the things that matter to those who work in golf clubs.
Get involved in the debate. To join the GCMA, click here, or to organise a call with a member of the GCMA team, just complete this form and we’ll be in touch!
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