High hopes for the Common.

Things are looking up for the Approach Course, at the city’s High Common, with the real hope now of golf returning to the site.

It follows a statement by the Leader of B&NES, Cllr Kevin Guy which has launched a fresh search for a new golf and cafe operator.

Cllrs Lucy Hodge and Mark Elliott

Local Councillor Lucy Hodge told Bath Newseum: ‘Many residents have written to me about this cherished green site, the overwhelming majority of whom wish to see golf restored, sharing the space with other users, as has been the case for over 60 years.

Following the closure of the Entry Hill course, golf will be available again at the Approach, for people of all ages and abilities, both residents and visitors, at an affordable price. We’re looking for an operator with sound eco-credentials, who will also offer a vibrant café and add opportunities to include disadvantaged sections of our community.’

Lucy also provided me with some background to this battle to keep golf on this particular green space. She told me:

The Approach is a pitch and putt golf course with an 18- hole and a 12-hole course.  The site is crossed by public footpaths and is part of the Cotswold Way and there are range of mature trees on the site. There is use by residents for dog walking, and outdoor informal activities.

The facilities include a payment kiosk (small shop) and toilets.

Golfers continued to play – despite deteriorating greens. All pictures courtesy of Cllr Lucy Hodge.

The site required a subsidy from the Council to operate as a golf course but has returned a profit in the recent past. Pre-pandemic the course had around 15,000 visits per year.

The golf course was closed in March 2020 at the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

Following the Council cabinet decision on July 22nd 2020 to run an open procurement exercise to seek a new operator for the Approach Golf Course site, the Council undertook a procurement exercise.

The result was a single proposal for disc-golf which was ultimately rejected by Cabinet in February 2021 as it was felt that the activity was unsuitable, and the business case was marginal.

The procurement ignited local interest with a petition to keep golf on the Approach organised by a volunteer group, supported by Ward Councillors Lucy Hodge and Mark Elliott, which gained around 5000 signatures.

Making the best of it.

On 4 May 2021, Kevin Guy (Council Leader) made a commitment to keeping a golf course at the Approach site, subject to a viable operator being identified.

The local ward Cllrs supported by the Leisure Team have been engaging with the community and user groups to explore options for bringing golf back to the Approach.

Ben Reed

In August 2020, Ben Reed, (Friends of Bath Approach Golf Course) launched a crowdfunding campaign to raise money for future maintenance of the course. It attracted many generous pledges of support totalling around £3000 but was not taken forward due to uncertainty about the future direction for the site. 

The site is currently being managed as a park and green open space.

At Council Cabinet on 31st March 22 Kevin Guy (Council Leader) announced that the time was right to look again for a new provider and the commencement of the procurement process.’

Here’s Cllr Guy’s statement in full:

‘As we pass two years since the temporary closure of the Approach Course, I am conscious of the importance of securing the future of this much loved and important green space. A petition to keep golf at the site received almost 5000 signatures and a gofundme campaign attracted many generous pledges of support. This site has always been amicably shared by a variety of users. With golf on offer for over 60 years, residents and visitors of all ages and abilities have been able to play regularly or simply to have a go. Priced to be affordable and socially inclusive, the spectacle of golf played on the Common has been an iconic feature of Bath’s recreational scene.

Cllr Kevin Guy, the Leader of B&NES.

 In May last year, I made a commitment to keeping a golf course at the Approach site, subject to a viable operator being identified. Restoring this important leisure facility is consistent with our plan to enable more people, to be more active more often, improving both health and well-being. 

As we emerge from the pandemic, the time is right to look again for a provider. Together with golf for all, this is an exciting opportunity for a vibrant café, reopening of the public toilets and enhancement of the existing green environment. Subject to council business processes, there will now be a procurement process, starting with a market engagement exercise, with a view to awarding a contract in August.’

That GoFundMe campaign was organised by Ben Reed who l went to for comment on the latest development. He said:

This is such exciting news! The petition calling for pitch and putt to return to High Common exceeded my expectations by attracting 5,000 signatures, and showed just how much affection there is for the site from people across B&NES.

I hope the upcoming procurement will find a partner for the Council who can unlock the enormous potential for the site as an inclusive, multi-use leisure facility, park and community hub, with income from golf and a cafe enabling the site to be maintained and improved for residents and visitors alike for many years to come.’

Cllr Hodge’s obvious delight is also shared by her fellow councillor Mark Elliott who said:

“I’m delighted that the council is moving to reopen the golf course. The best way of protecting this iconic, open, green space for the future is to return to the mixed-use that existed pre-pandemic, when golfers, walkers, and other recreational users happily shared the space. I very much hope a suitable golf provider can be found.”