Planning permission has been submitted for a new £13 million golf centre at Centurion Park in Wallsend, England.
Acting on behalf of Harrison Golf and Leisure Newcastle, WYG Planning has reapplied to North Tyneside Council for planning permission for the new golf-based leisure facility. At the same time, a reconfiguration of Centurion Park golf course – by Paul Thomas of Dave Thomas Limited – is under consultation with the members of Wallsend Golf Club.
The plan is to convert the existing 18-hole course into a 12-hole course plus six-hole short course and driving range. The 12-hole course can be used for six, twelve or 18-hole rounds. For the latter, golfers would play all 12 then return and play the opening six holes of again, making for a 6,289-yard par 71. The six-hole par-three layout is bordered by the main course’s fourth, fifth and sixth holes. Both the main course and short layout would start and end at the clubhouse/proposed golf centre.
The course plan created by Thomas uses a lot of the existing fairways and established trees but creates new routes to the individual greens. There are also plans to invest in new drainage and two water features, plus new planting to enhance biodiversity.
“The new layout was influenced mainly by two factors,” said Chris Sanderson, director of STR Enterprises, who will manage the facility. “Firstly, the new layout addresses the grounds on which the first application was refused in March, despite officer recommendation and albeit by a very small number of councillors at the very start of the threat of lockdown.
“These were the loss of biodiversity created by the wildlife corridor that exists across Centurion Park, which is now retained, the loss of tree cover which is also now countered, and the potential for disruption to residents of the adjoining West Street – by relocating the golf centre, these objections are all addressed.
“Just as important was the growth of popularity of the 12-hole game,” continued Sanderson. “Research is showing the main obstacle to greater golf participation is the time required for 18 holes – by creating a layout that combines six, twelve and 18-hole games, we hopefully have something for everyone, whilst the par-three course is there for both established players for their short game and as an introduction to real golf for driving range players.
“The main challenges were our wish to retain as many of the existing trees as possible and the need to install better drainage – Centurion Park, like everything else around the course, is built on a large clay pan that drains very poorly. Parts of the existing course are unplayable for much of the year through waterlogging, so this was a priority. Safety of players was another challenge on what is quite a tight course but will be addressed by our booking system whilst proximity to the main arterial Coast Road will be dealt with by the construction of 35-metre high safety nets.”
The two-storey Centurion Golf Centre concept by Newcastle-based Nicholson Nairn Architects includes a full-length driving range with 54 hitting bays and “state-of-the-art virtual reality technology”, with tracking equipment from Foresight UK. Upon planning permission, Robertson Construction can begin work in autumn with an eye to opening in autumn 2021.
The existing range, clubhouse, and car park will remain under the control of operator Keeping Inn and are not part of the Centurion Golf Centre redevelopment.
Phil Harrison, director of HG&L Newcastle, said: “We were extremely disappointed when our original application was refused at the start of the coronavirus lockdown threat, but have taken all the objections on board and repositioned the range to face west along the Coast Road. We have also completely redesigned the golf course in line with the latest PGA thinking to reverse the decline of traditional golf clubs by attracting new members to new forms of the game.
“The centre is a fantastic concept which is attractive not only to experienced golfers who can use it as a traditional driving range to practice, a coaching aid or just the fun of playing different courses in a virtual reality mode, but also to complete novices who can learn to play golf here whilst still having fun playing different games.”
The Wallsend facility will be the first of its kind in the UK, with HG&L intending to launch further sites nationwide soon.
Sanderson said: “Centurion Park is the perfect site for us to launch the new concept and the end result will be an innovative and professionally designed course with a truly superb facility in the golf centre, which will provide some 100 jobs and create a £4 million per year local supply chain when fully operational, in addition to the 60 jobs created by the construction period.
“The development not only secures the long-term future of golf at Centurion Park, which is currently stagnating with falling membership, but will also become a visitor attraction in its own right, drawing both golfers wanting year round facilities and families and young people new to the game. Its use as a corporate hospitality and community venue adds further value. “