Olympic champion Justin Rose says he’s ‘gutted’ and ‘upset’ after the confirmed closure of a golf course where he got his first taste of the sport.
Rushmoor Borough Council agreed at a meeting on Tuesday night that the pay-and-play Southwood Golf Course, in the town of Farnborough, should be converted into natural open parkland so that new homes can continue to be built in the borough and the town centres regenerated.
The Cabinet voted unanimously to close the golf course and convert the land into what is known as Suitable Alternative Natural Greenspace (SANG) and Rose, who offered his support to save the golf course on many occasions in recent weeks on social media, told bunkered.co.uk how disappointed he was to hear of its closure.
“I'm gutted,” said Rose, who was speaking ahead of posting a ten-under-par 62 to lead after the opening round of the Indonesian Masters – his final event of 2017.
“It was a course where my friends and I started to play golf and, with it being a pay and play course, it made the game affordable and accessible to those in the local area.
“I'm upset that I couldn't do anymore - other than show my support on social media - due to my schedule, and I hope all the regulars at Southwood aren't lost to the game. It's a fun course - perfect for beginners - and it will always remain close to my heart.”
Members and staff were first notified of the course’s potential closure in August and, ahead of Tuesday’s meeting, a petition with more than 2,500 signatures was handed over.
And, as well as social media support from Rose, governing body England Golf also sent a letter to Rushmoor Borough Council urging them to think again about closing the course.
This was all taken into account but, sadly, was not enough to keep the facility open.
Councillor Martin Tennant, Cabinet member for the Environment, said after the meeting: “This was a very difficult decision to make, but our priorities must be the regeneration of our town centres and to provide homes and affordable housing to meet local need.”
Fellow councillor Maurice Sheehan, Cabinet member for Leisure and Youth, added: “Making a decision on the future of a leisure facility is never a decision to be taken lightly, but we have limited options available to us and we have to do what is right for the whole of the borough and its residents.
“We have asked the officers to engage fully with residents who use the golf course to make sure they are aware of the other golf facilities available locally and to support them to move to a new course once Southwood closes.”