Using your surplus land to drive up income

James Podesta from GCMA partner STRI Group discusses how golf clubs can make the most of their land to grow their revenue. Golf courses, by their very nature, cover large areas of land. A typical 18-hole golf course can span 40-50 hectares and wherever they are located, they tend to encompass interesting features from land use, landscape, and biodiversity perspectives. Often misconstrued as lacking in terms of economic and environmental opportunities, they offer some unique options for an ongoing positive impact. Having land and understanding its nuances is key to identifying opportunity, and whilst golf clubs can own or lease land, they are almost always long-term custodians. With a clear vision they can realise economic, environmental, social and health objectives for themselves, as well as making a positive and meaningful contribution to managing and looking after the land for the wider community. From coastal links courses, to parkland, heathland, and championship/stadium courses, each one has unique landforms, views, surrounding environments and characteristics that make them the attractive leisure destinations they are. From the outset, it should be made clear that we’re not advocating the break-up or disaggregation of golf courses or encouraging clubs to look to re-purpose existing parts of the golf course, unless there is a wider requirement to do so. Instead, it’s important to focus on two types of land; that which is excess to the operation of the golf course itself (perhaps bought with future expansion in mind, a legacy of previous ownership or works, or due to redesign), and land that sits within the margins of the golf course (boundaries with roads, other land, the spaces between greens, tees and fairways, and land around any operational buildings on site).    Whilst there are many variables which may direct a particular course of action for a club, we are going to concentrate on a few common and fundamental opportunities. Where surplus land has been identified at a club, there are several options to consider, and adjoining land uses could indicate an obvious preference. For example, if the course adjoins a commercial development, retail or residential development, there may be an opportunity to expand those existing uses. If the land is owned by the golf club, then it could be developed under a joint venture, sold, or optioned with a pre-agreed uplift in value or planning permission sought by the club before seeking a buyer. The latter would usually having a bigger economic return for the club but requires some financial input. Key considerations include any professional fees to be paid up front and of course how the club views the potential of the land - is its value likely to increase in future weighed against the current need to realise its value? It is also important to consider the club’s structure – whether it is proprietary ownership, committee, community-run, charity or subject to a landowner’s discretion. It is also necessary to understand any wayleaves, rights of way, accesses and disputed or unclear land ownership issues. Although probably...
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