Just over seven months ago, Polmont Golf Club was on the brink of closure.
Today, it’s not just thriving - it's one the fastest-growing clubs in the Central Belt.
Having been earmarked for closure last October after falling into dire financial straits, the 118-year-old club, situated between Falkirk and Linlithgow, was bought at the 11th hour by Steve Matthews, the managing director of the Caledonian Group.
Shortly after completing his takeover, Matthews pledged to “put the club back on the map”.
In the space of just seven months, and despite having to deal with the devastating impact of the coronavirus pandemic, he is well on track to do precisely that.
In the last two weeks alone, the club has signed up more than 50 new members, with 23 of the first 25 enquiries resulting in sign-ups. Another 50-plus people are said to be interested in joining.
From having had fewer than 90 members at the time of Matthews’ takeover, the club – which has since been renamed Braes Golf Centre – now boasts more than 180.
“It’s just amazing,” general manager Richard Mcluckie tells bunkered.co.uk. “When you consider where the club was just a few months ago to see where it is now and what the plans are for the future, it’s quite incredible.”
Mcluckie swapped Dunblane Golf Club for the Braes at the start of this year and attributes the reversal in fortunes to two things: word of mouth and social media.
“We’ve got a great wee facility,” he adds. “A course that is improving all the time, our own catering, a public licence. We’ve gone from nothing to something very, very quickly – and it’s only the beginning.”
When COVID-19 restrictions were imposed in March, Mcluckie could have been forgiven for wondering if he’d made a mistake by moving to the club, not least given the serious peril it had found itself in only months prior. However, he says he never doubted it.
“When it all kicked off, Steve Matthew assured me that he was in this for the long haul,” he says. “That was all I needed to hear. The preparations for coming out of lockdown started as soon as we went into it and, although it seems a remarkable thing to say, I actually feel like we’re going to emerge from all this in a far stronger position than we went in.
“We’d love to be in a position by the summer where we can say that we’ve trebled our membership since the takeover and it looks like a perfectly realistic target. We’ve also got some exciting plans for the future, with the development of a short par-3 course something that has been discussed.
“Imagine if I could tell you this time next year that we had a waiting list. It has been an incredible turnaround.”
In the more immediate future, Mcluckie is looking forward to getting the green light to reopen the course this coming Friday, adding that the Scottish Golf venue management system, which the club was one of the first to adopt, has been a hotbed of activity since plans to lift restrictions were announced.
“The place is looking better than ever,” he says. “Our tee sheet is around three-quarters full for Friday, with approximately half of our members already booked in to play.
“It’s an exciting time and we can’t wait to welcome back all of our golfers.”
• For more information on memberships at Braes Golf Centre (formerly Polmont Golf Club), click here.