Retired NHS nurse manager Jenny Kay has played golf at Braeside Golf Club in Beckenham Place Park for 15 years. She used to captain the local ladies’ team, and witnessed how the golf course brought residents together.
But now the community is under threat.
Earlier this year Lewisham Council announced proposals to transform 18-hole golf course into a park with £4.9m of lottery funding. The council wants to turn the park into a heritage park, adding new plants and refilling the lake. They also want to remove the golf course so the space can be used for open-air theatre shows, farmers’ markets and other community events.
Kay is part of the “Save the Beckenham” campaign group fighting to keep the golf course as it is. She stresses the importance of the golf club to the community. “When you see the people play there’s black and white and women and men and old and young,” she says.
The campaign group argues that with only 170 people consulted on the proposals, the council has grossly underestimated the popularity of the golf course.
Moreover, the campaigners say that if the golf course were managed better, it would bring in higher revenue. “When you talk to companies who know about golf, they’ll say absolutely it could be profitable,” says Kay. “The problem is the way the contract is set up with Lewisham,” she adds.
The council has suggested reducing to the course to nine holes but for the campaign group this isn’t an option. “If you’re a serious golfer, you want to play 18 holes,” Kay explains.
Next month the council will give a verdict on stage one of consultation process. The second stage, where residents will again be contacted about the proposals, will take place in 2016. If plans go ahead, Kay believes that many golfers will be forced to give up the pastime. Private course membership fees cost up to £1,500 a year and with the nearest public course over 10 miles away Kay feels many golfers won’t be able to travel the distance. Kay is particularly worried about the impact the course closure will have on the local residents. “Other courses lack that feeling of community,” she says. “The heritage the local people recognise is the golf course and the park, that’s our heritage.”