PGA Fellow Professional Brian Mudge, co-owner of New Malton Golf Club in Hertfordshire, has spent the last two years living in a caravan, spending six and sometimes seven days a week away from his wife and two teenage children, while mortgaging the family home to invest in the golf club with his business partner Paul Stevenson.
Aside from the personal and financial sacrifices, he has also been forced to reduce his coaching commitments as he juggles a multitude of roles including receptionist, barman, cleaner and club secretary.
But the former Midland PGA captain, who turns 54 this month, and Stevenson are seeing the fruits of their efforts reap rewards by winning a Green Apple award in recognition of their ‘organic’ golf course. Stevenson attended a special event at the Houses of Parliament on Monday, 14 November to pick up the accolade, which is awarded by environmental group The Green Organisation.
While millions of litres of chemicals are annually used across the world to manage courses, nothing graces the greens and fairways at New Malton other than what Mother Nature has provided.
Their approach, while saving them thousands of pounds each year, has created a great deal of interest in the golf course world, while locally their initiative has seen an increase in membership.
Mudge said: “We have created a model and shown it can work. It’s attracted a lot of interest locally, nationally and now it’s spreading overseas. Our first task was about getting a membership that buy into what we’re doing and without question the members here are pleased with what we are doing.
“We’re running a golf course that preserves the environment – the flora and fauna – and that is great for the wildlife. We’re preserving the ecosystem. Consequently, we have attracted a number of golfers that are ‘green’. As no one has done this before, our course is a working laboratory. Our work here has seen us approached by the Dutch Greenkeepers Association, who really want to know a lot more, which is great for us.”
Mudge expanded on how difficult the past two years have been since he decided to plough his money into the venture and how he is looking for it to progress.
“I always wanted to own a club and I was keen to run a new academy having run three in Northamptonshire. I also wanted to be part of an organic golf course,” he said. “When Malton came on the market, having seen the opportunity to build one from scratch not materialise, we went for it.
“Since buying it, it has been 24/7. I have been living in a caravan six days a week away, sometimes seven, away from my home and family. At the minute, I’m doing four other jobs at the club as well as being the club pro. I’m the receptionist, the club secretary, part-time barman and cleaner. Paul is out on the course or is in the kitchen. We even have an ecologist who works behind the bar.
“I am certainly not doing this for the money but to create a whole new model of managing a golf course. I borrowed money on the house and then in trying to achieve where we are now has taken two years as opposed to one because of the worst winter we have had in years.
“We made a loss in the first year, which wasn’t helped losing so much time to the weather. We’ve got nearer to breaking even this year and the third year we might finally see the club move into profit.
“But now the course is at a stage where it would benefit hugely from new investment to take this forward. I would give up some of my equity to see it move forward faster than it is because it is still a business being run day in day out.”
Mudge is also focussing on eventually expanding his coaching duties by continuing to build on the steadily growing membership, particularly at junior level.
“I used to run academies and had around 163 kids at Collingtree Park, all getting regular coaching and it was difficult to give that up,” he said. “But we’re improving on our numbers here and always looking to boost membership. There were zero juniors when we arrived at Malton, now it’s up to 40 with a view to taking it to 100 next year – providing we are able to keep going.
“What we have done is completely unique. We’ve done a lot to create a good club and a very pleasant playing environment.”
New Malton Golf Club www.newmaltongolf.co.uk