Sign up for our daily newsletter

Latest news, reviews, analysis and opinion, plus unmissable deals for bunkered subscriptions, events, and our commercial partners.

Martin Slumbers is nothing if not a man of his word.

Back in 2020, he identified a need to support the base of golf’s pyramid in a much bigger and more meaningful way in order for the game to flourish for future generations to come.

“We have to change,” he insisted. “The grass‑roots is going to struggle unless the game changes.”

Slumbers articulated his belief that traditional golf clubs were no longer “providing a product that people wanted to buy”.

“You go to clubs which deliver non‑traditional forms of the game, they’re busy,” he said. “And I think that’s a lesson for all of us who love this game.

“Those are clubs that are very family orientated, have fitness, have creches, have coffee shops, have wi‑fi, have no dress code, have short par‑3 golf course, have short 9‑hole golf course, pitch and putt, those are the ones that are going to succeed.”

Again, he reiterated the point. Golf had to evolve.

Fast-forward to today and, under Slumbers’ stewardship, the R&A is walking the walk. Rather than simply critique from afar, the game’s governing body has voluntarily placed itself at the heart of the solution with the opening of Golf It!, a new multi-purpose golf community hub close to Glasgow city centre.

GolfIt review 2 GolfIt review 1

Built on the site of the former Lethamhill municipal golf course – a popular track whose own existence was threatened by Glasgow City Council budget cuts early in 2020 – Golf It! opens to the public on Saturday.

Its M.O. is not like other that of other new golf facilities, many of which are unapologetically geared towards existing golfers with a lot of disposable income to spend on green fees. Golf It’s objective is to cater to golfers and non-golfers alike.

In addition to a nine-hole course with five sets of tees (and, it must be said, exceptional greens), it features three colourful adventure golf courses, putting greens, ‘park golf’ (which is essentially a little twist on classic ‘pitch and putt’) as well a 52-bay, two-tiered driving range equipped with the latest Toptracer technology. Forget shelling balls at obscure targets in a field; Golf It! and Toptracer have developed a range where the emphasis is firmly and exclusively on fun. It’s a bright, vibrant, airy space with music playing from ceiling-mounted speakers.

Arguably best of all, there is a huge golf equipment ‘library’ from which you can hire equipment, with some clubs even provided free to use on the range. That bit’s really important. Golf has a reputation for being expensive, which, in turn, can be a blocker to participation – and that’s before you even consider the cost-of-living crisis we’re all currently trying to negotiate. Clubs you can use for free? A huge win.

On the subject of pricing, a round on the nine-hole course starts from just £10 for an adult, with kids allowed on for a fiver. There’s also a fun concept called ‘Fast 5 Fridays’, which allows you to play five holes, with five clubs, for just £5.

On the range, meantime, you can hit as many balls as you like for just £6 per 30mins, or £10 per hour. The so-called ‘Team Bays’ are equally good value for money (£10 per 30mins; £15 per 60mins) and are aimed at groups of friends or families. They even incorporate ‘bay bouncers’ for you to leave extremely little ones in whilst you practice.

All of these golf amenities are complemented by nature trails that link to Scotland’s largest urban nature park, on-site custom fitting provided by Titleist and Scottsdale Golf, a community orchard and gardens maintained in partnership with St Paul’s Youth Forum and Ruchazie Pantry, free bike hire courtesy of St Paul’s Youth Forum, an Early Years Nursery operated by Lullaby Lane, and street food provided by The Big Feed.

In short order, three Padel tennis courts will also open up on-site, whilst the facility has already established relationships with 14 local primary schools as part of a long-term commitment that aims to provide in-curriculum golf experiences for 42,000 children across the city.

GolfIt review 3

Forget the ‘grow the game’ nonsense spouted by tours that exist only to line the pockets of themselves and the top 0.01% of those who ever pick up a golf club. This is what protecting the best interests of the sport actually looks like.

As Neil Young, Youth Team Leader at St Paul’s Youth Forum, remarked: “This isn’t just a centre for golf. It will become the beating heart of north Glasgow, providing investment into the community and creating opportunities for young people.”

It’s tempting to resist congratulating the R&A too handsomely for, let’s be honest, doing its job. Nonetheless, the sheer scale and ambition of this project should not be taken for granted. It has cost Martin Slumbers and Co. a great deal of money to build, and that’s not even the difficult bit. Anybody with the means and the desire can open a golf facility. Where the R&A has really succeeded has been in sweating the small stuff, slaving over the finest details to create something that has genuine, multi-generational, cross-societal appeal.

How do I know? Put it this way: I showed my five-year-old, ‘Bluey’-obsessed daughter a picture of one of the colourful adventure golf courses when I got home and the first thing she said was: ‘Can I come next time?’ Within the same hour, one of my friends messaged asking if I’d be up for checking it out and getting nine holes in. He’s a fully paid-up member of a traditional, dyed-in-the-wool, probably-wouldn’t-let-my-daughter-past-the-front-door golf club – but this humble nine-holer has grabbed his attention.

Undoubtedly, curiosity is a big part of the appeal right now. It’s shiny, it’s new and people want to see it. The trick is to sustain that footfall after the novelty has worn off. And yet I’m confident that Golf It! will do so. The people in charge have a very clear sense of what success looks like and a well mapped-out plan to achieve it.

The next question, of course, is how the R&A intends to develop this concept. The widespread suspicion is that Golf It! Glasgow is being used, to some extent, as a ‘proof of concept’ test case with a view to replicating it in other communities and countries. If so, the R&A should have no difficulty in finding suitable properties, such is the apparent and lamentable desire by local authorities to offload their municipal courses.

The question is whether or not such a roll-out is feasible. It’s unrealistic to expect the R&A to build a Golf It! in every major city in every major country. So, what does ‘scale’ look like? Does it become a franchisable opportunity or merely a blueprint for other private enterprises to copy?

Time will tell. For now, it’s appropriate to celebrate this first small step. Or is a giant leap? You decide.

Either way, give Martin Slumbers credit.

If this is the future of golf, we can all sleep easy knowing it’s in safe hands.

author headshot

Michael McEwan is the Deputy Editor of bunkered and has been part of the team since 2004. In that time, he has interviewed almost every major figure within the sport, from Jack Nicklaus, to Rory McIlroy, to Donald Trump. The host of the multi award-winning bunkered Podcast and a member of Balfron Golfing Society, Michael is the author of three books and is the 2023 PPA Scotland 'Writer of the Year' and 'Columnist of the Year'. Dislikes white belts, yellow balls and iron headcovers. Likes being drawn out of the media ballot to play Augusta National.

Deputy Editor

More Reads

Image Turnberry green

The bunkered Golf Course Guide - Scotland

Now, with bunkered, you can discover the golf courses Scotland has to offer. Trust us, you will not be disappointed.

Find Courses