Thursday, August 15, 2013

Golf - a good walk ruined?

The new clubhouse at Pype Hayes
Tuesday saw Cllr Majid Mahmood and myself visiting Pype Hayes Golf Club to see how the My Time contract is performing one year into operation.

I have to confess that golf is not a sport that has ever inspired me, but I was impressed by the potential that this operational model offers the city.

The club house has just been rebuilt from the ground up after a fire prior to the contract starting and represents what the providers want to offer more widely. The ground floor is open-plan, but can have areas closed off to create rooms for meetings or private hire. It includes the golf shop and a bar and restaurant, which looks out onto a large decked area and the 9th and 18th greens. Membership is priced competitively within the market and they consciously want to attract a wider, younger group - dress codes have been scrapped and membership is made easy so as to attract those put off by other, rather more old-fashioned clubs.

On the upper floor is an air-conditioned, light and airy gym, which is largely unstaffed, allowing the costs to be kept exceptionally competitive - a day pass costs £5 and monthly membership can be had from about £25 a month. For that, you get access to 60 of the latest machines - many of which have Freeview, will connect with smartphone apps to provide individual training routines and will shortly have internet access as well. The machines are so smart that if they break down, they notify the supplier electronically and an engineer is tasked to visit within 24 hours.

The view out from the club house
My Time are a social enterprise - they do make a profit, but it is all reinvested in the business, so that they have no debt to carry. They started out running a number of golf courses in the south east and this was their biggest expansion, running seven council courses in Birmingham. From being a loss-making and under-invested council service, which was massively subsidised, this will generate income for the city council, increase community involvement and also deliver the service that golfers want. They've got a fearsomely long contract period - 25 years with an option for a further 25 years - but the initial signs look extremely promising.

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