To celebrate the 150th anniversary of Stirling Golf Club, Swan Golf Designs (SGD) has been engaged to design and oversee the construction of a new six-figure community academy at the venue.
The Stirling150Academy is scheduled to be ready for use in spring 2020, with the contractors breaking ground last month. It will comprise a long-game academy, two short-game academies, a putting academy and a six-hole academy, with artificial target greens.
It is also being created to encourage those who might not normally have the chance to start playing golf – the disadvantaged or challenged in the community – thus demonstrating social sustainablility. This has been publicly recognised with the project awarded a grant of £50,000 towards the total cost, from Sport Scotland, which sees the initiative as a blueprint to which other clubs should aspire.
The golf club matched the money donated and the £150,000 funding target was achieved during the summer, allowing the development to begin on schedule.
SGD created a 10-year masterplan for improvements to the whole golf course as long ago as 2012, and architect Howard Swan explained: “We reviewed the practice area in the original audit and, considering the seventh year of the plan coincided with the 150th anniversary of the club, we suggested, rather than carry out work on the course and intrude on celebrations, we should, instead, look at improving the practice facilities and making them more inclusive.
“The Stirling150Academy makes maximum use of a small area. And, with the assistance of a progressive group in the membership, the drive of professional Kenny Monaghan, and assistance from Anthony Blackburn, from Golf in Society – a social enterprise which uses golf to improve the lives of the ageing population so affected by dementia – we produced a concept focussed on the community, which encourages participation of the local schools and population.
“Sport Scotland described the plan and the document as an ‘exemplary approach’ for golf clubs in the future. We’re always looking to see how we can make golf more sustainable – and that ethos was recognised by the merits of the public purse. Both SGD and Stirling GC are extending the arms of welcome to those who traditionally may have lacked the opportunity to play our wonderful sport.”
The golf club has supported the plan enthusiastically and appointed a senior member to chair the Stirling150Academy development group. Three contractors are to work on the project under the direction of SGD: Stirling-based Greentech Sportsturf, artificial turf specialist Scotgrass, and irrigation experts Linlithgow-based TIS, while the golf club will handle horticultural work in-house under the direction of James Lindsay, the course’s superintendent.
Located in the historic Kings Park, in the shadow of Stirling Castle, Stirling GC dates from 1869, when Young Tom Morris, the club’s first pro, laid out a seven-hole course. In 1892, his father, Old Tom Morris, then the professional and custodian of the links at St Andrews, produced and implemented a plan for nine holes, the first major alteration to the original course.
Troon professional Willie Fernie, together with James Braid, extended the course to 18 holes in the early years of the 20th century and Sir Henry Cotton – with Howard Swan’s father Alex providing the construction nous – redesigned the layout in 1967 to create one of the finest tracks in the central region of the Home of Golf.
Howard Swan smiled: “I am a little embarrassed to admit that I am the first golf course architect to work at Stirling who has not been an Open champion, but how lucky I am to follow in the footsteps of those great men who have touched the land in the park.”
Swan Golf Designs is one of the UK’s leading experts in golf course renovation and restoration. The firm has more than 60 years of experience of designing and renovating golf courses in the UK, throughout Europe and beyond, practised by three generations of the Swan family.