OFFICIALS behind the ambitious vision for a multi-million pound luxury golf resort on Wirral insist it will complement – not rival – the region’s existing flagship venue.
A site for the championship standard golf course and five-star hotel, conference and spa facilities has been identified just a few miles inland of Royal Liverpool Golf Club, which played host to last week’s Ricoh Women’s British Open and will host the men again in 2014.
Kevin Adderley, head of regeneration and planning for Wirral Council which is promoting the project, admits they are aiming high in terms of bringing new global events to the area, but not at the expense of one of the oldest clubs in England.
The role model for their plans would be newcomers like the K Club in Ireland and Celtic Manor in south Wales, both of which have gone on to host the Ryder Cup.
“We are not trying to bring the Open to this new venue,” he said. “Traditionally the Open is held on a links course in any case and this is not going to be that sort of venue.
“We recognise that we have some of the best links courses in the world on Wirral so we are not going to compete with them. It will be a completely different type of course so the challenges and playing experience won’t be the same.
“We wouldn’t dream of trying to compete with Royal Liverpool; we have a wonderful relationship with the club and will continue to support them. Wirral has the best links courses in the world and that has helped put us at the forefront of the game.”
As things stand, there are still a lot of hurdles to be cleared before the dream becomes a reality, but Adderley insists the idea is no pipedream.
“We should have ambitions and want to bring the best events here as we move forward,” he says. “We do not see it as an Open venue, but why not a European Tour event. It is a challenge ahead of us but by working with our new and existing partners we can build on what we have already got in the area.”
Wirral Council has set a deadline of the end of October for expressions of interest before embarking on a period of more intense scrutiny. No opening date has yet been pencilled in for the new venue.
The architect to design the course and how it would be financed are both still to be finalised, but the council is hoping it will carry a name that is known around the world while the extent of the investment required will depend largely on the scale of the development.
Adderley quoted a figure of £40-70 million at Friday’s presentation at Hoylake, when they hoped to catch the attention of the world’s golfing press. But he acknowledged that someone could come in with a scheme that would see costs hit the £100m mark.
“We believe not just the Wirral, but the whole city region and indeed the north west would benefit from such a scheme” he added.
Officials say there has been “significant” interest – including a new one that came to light during the Ricoh Women’s British Open – although the worldwide recession has not helped a scheme that has been mooted for six years from getting off the drawing board.
However Wirral are confident that the strength of existing interest will be sufficient to take the proposals to the next stage from November.
They also believe there are signs of increasing confidence in the worldwide business community and there is time for an economic bounce back.
“This is not a scheme that is going to be built tomorrow,” added Adderley. Wirral have taken their vision to countries like China and India in the hope of creating a long-term legacy from Royal Liverpool’s return to the Open rota. The council points to the growth of tourism after Tiger Woods’ triumph of 2006 reaching 15 per cent for an industry that is worth £270m to the local economy and employs 4,000 people.
While golf is clearly central to the new plans, it is hoped visitors will be encouraged to try the other activities – both sporting and cultural – on offer on Wirral and that golf clubs throughout the area would benefit from the spin-off from any increase in visitor numbers.