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EXCLUSIVE: Dundee’s Camperdown Golf Course and clubhouse to reopen

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Golf is to return to Dundee’s Camperdown Park, we can exclusively reveal.

Dundee City Council has agreed in principle to back a plan for the reopening of Camperdown Golf Course, the 18-hole facility that officially closed in April 2020.

It is set to be replaced by a nine-hole golf course, 18-hole putting range and state-of-the-art 20-bay driving range.

The old clubhouse at Camperdown House would also be reopened to include a bar and cafe. Overall, the scheme would create 24 full-time equivalent jobs.

It is hoped that golfers will be back playing on the course by spring 2022.

Nature has taken over at the golf course.

Councillors agreed in a private session of the City Development Committee on May 10 to lease the land to Amity Hospitality. The decision is subject to agreement over liabilities such as insurance and maintenance.

The firm, which specialises in leisure management, development and consultancy, has already worked in Dundee on the opening of Hotel Indigo and affiliated Staybridge Suites.

Amity plans to run Camperdown in a similar fashion to the Fairways Golf Centre near Inverness, which the company opened in July 2019.

Dundee City Council leader John Alexander.

Dundee City Council leader John Alexander said: “We’ve said since the closure of the golf course that we’d continue to pursue options for its use and I’m delighted that these proposals have now come forward, showing a positive vision for the future.

“Camperdown Golf Course is a beautiful course and, while it was unfortunate that we could no longer afford to invest, the proposals by Amity represent a significant investment which provide modern golf facilities for the public, increase visitor numbers and enhance the park generally.

“The council will work with Amity to further develop their plans over the coming months.”

Operation course restoration

The 3,275-yard nine-hole golf course would be located adjacent to the golfers’ car park north of the reopened clubhouse in Camperdown House.

The first hole would be the ninth of the previous 6,588-yard 18-hole course. The second would be the tenth and the third would be the second.

The remaining six holes would be the third to the eighth of the previous setup.

Proposed layout of Camperdown Golf Course.

This is how the proposed nine-hole scorecard compares to the previous 18-hole scorecard.

Currently the land is overgrown and a lengthy period of work is required to get it back up to a playable standard.

Amity estimates this would be four to six months for the greens and six to eight weeks for the fairways and rough. Bunkers would also have to be re-sanded.

The company hopes to begin work by autumn 2021.

Real-time data on each shot

The floodlit 20-bay driving range would be open all-year-round between 10am and 7pm.

Each bay would also include the professional ball tracking system Top Tracer.

This provides real-time information on every shot hit to enable a statistical analysis of ball striking.

The facility would be similar to the driving range in Fairways, near Inverness.

View of Camperdown House from the golf course.

The clubhouse in Camperdown House would be reopened and operate from 10am to 7pm.

It would offer snacks such as sandwiches and there would also be a bar. Warm meals would not be served.

There are currently no public plans to reopen the remaining three-quarters of the listed mansion.

A total of 31 jobs would be created, equivalent to 24 full-time positions.

Nine-hole format ‘sustainable’

Dundee City Council members voted 14-13 to close the council-run Camperdown Golf Course in August 2019.

A report had said dwindling membership meant keeping the facility open was no longer sustainable.

It also stated that the council paid more than £400,000 in subsidises for publicly-owned golf courses at Camperdown and Caird Park.

It is hoped that moving away from the 18-hole format will make the project sustainable.

Mike Sheffield, director of Amity Hospitality.

Mike Sheffield, a director of Amity Hospitality, said: “At the moment there are hardly any 18-hole golf courses being built – they’re usually nine or 12 holes because of the time constraints people have these days.

“We see that having a nine-hole course and pricing it appropriately will have a good market with people time-limited.”

He added that golfers would be able to get a 365-day membership based on when they join, rather than for the remainder of the season. Walk-ups will also be permitted.

‘Clearly they had another agenda’

Dundee Council’s Labour leader Kevin Keenan believes the new venture is proof that the council should not have allowed the course to close.

“This interest shows there is a demand for this facility so perhaps the council should have kept it open and ran it themselves,” he said. “A financial case should have been made. Clearly they had another agenda.”

A nine-hole course and driving range at Caird Park golf course was created to compensate for the loss of Camperdown,  which first opened on Saturday June 6 1959.

Kevin Keenan.

But Cllr Keenan added: “Caird Park is 90 to 100 per cent booked and doesn’t have the capacity for people turning up and playing, so there is demand for a golf course.

“The council should have been looking for an alternative before putting it in a state of disrepair, with reports of flytipping on the course.

“There is also the issue of people’s wellbeing, with exercise something the council should be promoting.

“Because of the closure people may have gone to golf clubs outside Dundee so we have lost customers.”

A closure sign still stands close to the course.
The bunkers at the golf course would need to be re-sanded.

Conservative leader Derek Scott was more optimistic. He said: “‘I welcome this investment in the city and am pleased that golf related activities will continue at Camperdown Park.

“Hopefully this new development will be a stepping stone towards Camperdown House  being fully utilised at some stage as well.”

‘Too little too late’

Ian McAlindon, former captain of Camperdown Golf Club, previously labelled the closure of the course a “travesty”.

He had been “99% sure” a last-ditch plan to keep it alive would go ahead, only for it to fall through in spring 2020.

Ian remains unimpressed despite Amity Hospitality’s nine-hole proposal.

Ian McAlindon at Camperdown Golf Course before it closed.

“It is too little too late for the Camperdown Golf Club members,” he said.

“I am glad they are opening up the course for the golfers in Dundee but a nine-hole course is a total waste of a great 18-hole championship course layout.

“The Camperdown members who have moved on to other clubs will not return to a nine-holer.”

‘Dundee is missing this concept’

Amity Hospitality was founded in April 2018 by Mike Sheffield and Chris Charalambous, who are both based in Fife.

During the 2000s Mike managed and co-owned Beverage Park Hotel in Kirkcaldy. After the hotel was sold and he worked with Swallow hotels as a regional manager, overseeing up to nine hotels.

Chris has worked in the hotel industry for more than 30 years and in the previous decade was the chief executive of St Johnstone FC.

As well as Fairways, their company manages two golf courses affiliated with The Green Hotel in Kinross.

Chris Charalambous, director of Amity Hospitality.

Chris said: “Our objective is to get Camperdown Golf Course back to top condition, make it playable and attract customers.

“We want to attract 300 members, whether individuals, groups of friends or families.

“Dundee is missing this concept. There is nowhere else with a nine-hole course, putting area and driving range.

“We can’t wait to start work in October or November so we can begin in spring next year.”