Fairwood Park Golf Course, situated on the Gower Peninsula in south Wales, has submitted an outline planning application to demolish its clubhouse and construct a purpose-built tourism and leisure resort.
The golf club, which already has a ‘PGA championship’ standard course, is seeking to redevelop its current facilities to create a multi-million pound resort that would include a 42 bedroom four star hotel, holiday cottages, a spa and health club, banqueting and conference facilities, as well as a substantial investment in course drainage which would keep Fairwood Park open for play 365 days of the year.
The plans would make Fairwood Park one of the flagship courses for golf in south-west Wales as the principality gears up towards hosting the Ryder Cup tournament in 2010. The proposals would generate new jobs and boost local tourist spending.
The proposed redevelopment would safeguard Fairwood Park’s existing workforce as well as creating a further 50 jobs. It would also generate a further £6.0 – £6.3 million a year in extra spending within the local economy.
“Since tourism contributes a massive 60% of all income coming into Gower, we believe this resort would play a big role in helping to drive this key sector,” said Erol Golbas, Fairwood Park general manager.
“Under the leadership of our head greenkeeper, who was appointed 5 years ago, the course is undoubtedly now one of the finest parklands in south Wales, he continued. “You only have to look at the big increase in visitor numbers we’ve been experiencing year on year to see that word of mouth has spread rapidly.
“But the current clubhouse is an outdated and unsightly building that does nothing to enhance the character of the wonderful Gower ‘Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty’ (AONB) and it’s certainly limiting our potential. The buildings are in real need of investment and it is our opinion that the project architect has come up with a design that is very sensitive to the local environment and would work well within the landscape.”
The proposed 4-star 42 bedroom hotel would fill a large gap in the serviced-tourist market on Gower, which has lost 500 tourist bed spaces in the past decade. Mr Golbas commented that “The business model we wish to implement is the most sustainable type of tourism precisely because it attracts a small number of high-spending tourists rather than a high-volume of low-spending visitors.”
The proposed redevelopment of Fairwood Park fits in with the objectives of the new Tourism Strategy adopted by the City and County of Swansea at the end of 2006. It also compliments the Visit Wales (formerly Welsh Tourist Board) strategy of driving golf as a key tourism sector in the build-up to the 2010 Ryder Cup, which will be held at Newport’s Celtic Manor.
Visit Wales has identified that the level of accommodation-linked golf provision is weak throughout Wales, especially when benchmarked against England, Scotland and Ireland. “Within Wales, just three golf courses (Celtic Manor, Vale of Glamorgan, and Marriott St Pierre) account for 70% of the entire total of on-site golf course accommodation, and all of these are in south-east Wales,” said Mr Golbas.
The scheme itself seeks to redevelop an existing brownfield site upon which the present clubhouse buildings and car park now stand but the club have nonetheless undertaken ecology surveys as a precautionary measure to ensure that no protected species of animals or plants would be threatened in any way.
“We’re lucky that the site lies in a depression surrounded by woodland on all sides, which in turn means that there would be no adverse visual impact on the landscape,” said Mr Golbas. “The new buildings would use a palette of materials appropriate to the character of the Gower Peninsula, which recently celebrated its 50th anniversary of ‘Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty’ status, and would significantly enhance the visual impact of the site by removing the current unsightly buildings.
“The proposed redevelopment would also operate along ‘green and clean’ credentials by seeking a zero carbon footprint.
“The current buildings are very old and therefore energy inefficient due to their reliance upon kerosene and diesel boilers. But this new scheme would provide energy to the buildings through the use of biomass generators and solar power. We’re even looking into the possibility of using geothermal energy to heat the spa and health club area. We therefore believe this proposal would have an extremely positive impact upon the local environment.”
The scheme involves the creation of a charitable trust to ensure that future generations would also benefit from the beauty of the Gower Peninsula. ‘The Fairwood Trust’, which would be governed by an independent board of trustees, would allow the resort the opportunity to put something tangible back into local Gower communities.
The concept would be to invite the resort’s visitors to make voluntary donations to their bills to help fund local environmental projects totalling several thousand pounds each year. As a result of contributions made to various projects ‘The Fairwood Trust’ would play an important role in helping to enhance the AONB’s sustainability for future generations to enjoy.
The golf course, which has been owned by the same family for 22 years, is now seeking a new chapter in its history.
“Looking back to recent history the land that we wish to improve has always been cultivated or developed in some way,” said Mr Golbas. “At first it was farming, then it became a cart race track, then a golf-course, and now hopefully it will become a top quality resort. We are trying to continue this development of the land through responsible stewardship in a way that is appropriate to today’s needs. This wonderful landscape will still be here many, many years after I’ve departed this earth.”
Mr Golbas notes that over the past 15 years the golf and leisure markets have undergone radical change and although the golf course is in better condition than it’s ever been the clubhouse facilities have fallen behind the times. “If the business is to have a viable future it needs to keep pace with market trends by providing quality facilities that both tourist visitors and local people are demanding. At the moment our current clubhouse facilities are very limited so they give us real concern as to how the business can evolve in the long term.”
Fairwood Park Golf Course www.fairwoodpark.com