Updated plans for a new community golf facility in Glasgow include a permanent presence for one of the world’s fastest-growing participation sports – padel – the tennis/squash hybrid that is backed by Andy Murray.
An ambitious project led by The R&A aims to redevelop the existing public golf course at Lethamhill as part of a wider investment in the site designed to attract a broader player base by making golf more welcoming for people of all ages and backgrounds.
The R&A’s plans for a family-focused venue at Lethamhill now feature three covered padel courts, to be installed and operated by the UK’s leading padel brand, Game4Padel, in addition to shorter form golf courses, adventure golf and a 52-bay double-decker floodlit driving range. The two companies have also committed to a long-term partnership in order to work together to identify new potential sites where a similar, mutually beneficial model might be feasible.
In February this year The R&A submitted a planning application to Glasgow City Council, detailing its vision to transform the site at Lethamhill, which it hopes will open in the spring of 2023. Those plans include a café, retail space and nursery as part of a central hub that would offer views north over nearby Hogganfield Loch to the Campsie Fells and south to the city of Glasgow.
That submission has been updated to incorporate additional attractions and enhancements to the site, including nature trails, a new visitor centre for the Seven Lochs Wetlands Park, community orchard and public space for pop-up events, and a dedicated space for padel, a form of tennis that is fun, easy to play, and sociable.
Padel is played with four players in a glass-enclosed court about one-third of the size of a tennis court and the rules are broadly similar to tennis, although players serve underarm – meaning it is much easier for beginners – and the walls are used as part of the game, making for longer rallies. It can be played in groups of mixed ages and abilities, as tactics and subtlety are as important as power.
Martin Slumbers, Chief Executive of The R&A, said: “We have a very clear objective to make golf more accessible and inclusive for people of all ages and backgrounds. To achieve that, we need to broaden our appeal by offering a wider variety of fun and affordable activities that appeal to our target audience and get more families and young people taking part. Padel fits the bill perfectly in those respects and we are delighted to be working with Game4Padel to incorporate three all-weather courts in the revised plans for Lethamhill.”
Padel boasts six million players in Spain and is rapidly gaining popularity across the UK, continental Europe and the rest of the world. Celebrity fans and players of padel include former tennis world no.1 Andy Murray – who is also an investor in Game4Padel – Zinedine Zidane, Rafael Nadal, Lionel Messi, and Maria Sharapova.
Game4Padel, the company behind a UK-wide network of playing facilities for the sport, already operates more padel venues than any other UK provider and plans to be the dominant player in the fastest growing sport in the country. Its agreement with The R&A includes an option to include padel courts in future community golf centres around the UK, to be rolled-out if the Lethamhill model proves successful.
Michael Gradon, Co-founder and Chief Executive of Game4Padel, said: “This is a landmark deal for our business and for the game of padel in the UK. It is a great pleasure to be working in partnership with a brand and an organisation as prestigious as The R&A and to help them realise what is a fantastic vision for Lethamhill that will increase participation not only in golf, but in other activities like padel.
“Padel is highly complementary to what The R&A is trying to achieve here – being accessible, fun, and easy for beginners to pick up – and a great way for players of all ages and abilities to experience the health and wellbeing benefits of sports participation. We are in advanced stages of negotiation with several other golf clubs and The R&A’s endorsement of padel will encourage clubs all over the country to consider whether the game could be a great addition to their facilities given its potential to boost membership, income, family involvement, and attract a younger, more inclusive audience to golf.”
Game4Padel is in advanced discussions with more than 30 other UK sites, which it anticipates will add more than 50 additional courts to its 18 existing or secured venues. The company boasts a diverse group of experienced UK investors, including company ambassadors Annabel Croft and Andrew Castle, the former British no.1 tennis players and sports broadcasters, and Jonathan Davies, the Welsh rugby legend. The company’s chief executive is Michael Gradon – a former FTSE 100 director with P&O Group and a longstanding commercial and finance chair of the Wimbledon Championships – and its chairman is Jim McMahon, a founding partner of the investment business West Coast Capital and chairman of Motherwell FC.
Game4Padel offers to partner with a wide range of venues, including sports clubs, leisure centres, parks, schools, universities and, increasingly, commercial venues. Its capital and technical expertise enables it to finance, install, maintain and operate padel courts in any setting. The company also creates bespoke coaching and playing programmes, events, tournaments, and engagement activities for children and schools.