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Grange Park looks to the future

Oliver Simms is the new Director of Golf at Grange Park, near Rotherham, and he’d love you to come and revel in its 360-acre course. Just not yet. He needs a little time. Grange Park needs time too, and no small measure of investment.

The good news is that the club which began life as a Hawtree-designed municipal in 1971, and was taken over by a small group of investors in 2005, is finally looking ahead to a much brighter future.

Backed by a local entrepreneur with a long track record of turning around businesses, particularly in the hospitality and property sectors, there is most definitely a long-term vision.

With its 360-acres, the site is the biggest in the Rotherham area and one of the biggest in South Yorkshire.

The plan is not just to get the course back to being a challenging and picturesque par 71 18- holer, but to rebuild it as a hospitality and event destination in and of itself.

Simms (pictured) moves to the club after 24 years at College Pines in Worksop, where he learned his trade under the course designer and champion professional golfer himself, the late David Snell.

He’s been a qualified PGA pro for 16 years and was College Pine’s club manager for the past five years, a period during which it was named in Today’s Golfer Top 100 courses with a sub-£35 green fee.

Alongside him is new head greenkeeper Jez Ward who was in that role at Renishaw Park until it closed recently.

“I’m not even at the point of saying ‘let’s look at marketing’ – I don’t want anyone here!” said the new Director of Golf.

“There’s nothing to be gained from people coming here right now. What I’m about first is getting the site sorted, then the course sorted and all the equipment. Most of what we’ve got left is defunct, unfit for purpose.

“There’s a lot of maintenance to get on top of through the winter, but we have a plan. And maybe by the time we get to early summer, we can have a grand reopening, get people in from around Yorkshire to play it – a free week, let’s get people in even if it’s for nothing!

“But not right now because the conversation about the club and course is toxic. In some ways it would almost have been better if it had closed down completely. A fresh start.”

But the club is still up and running, albeit suffering like most golf courses through continuous weeks of heavy rain.

Grange Park hit local newspaper headlines last summer when golfers complained to the Rotherham Advertiser about its poor conditions, and owner Richard Townley – a Grange Parker for 50 years – hit back in public.

Townley’s last remaining co-director, Stephen Gillott, resigned at the end of June as things at the club went from bad to worse. Townley remains in the new regime as a minority shareholder.

Some 140 members have left Grange Park over the past 12 months to the point that only around 90 remain.

Last word from Oli Simms. “We just want people to know that we’re still here and that as bad as things might have been, we’re fully focussed on achieving a much brighter future.”


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