AN adventure golf course could be created at a Henley beauty spot.
The town council wants to transform the putting green at Mill Meadows into a miniature nine-hole or
18-hole course at a cost of up to £250,000.
It is hoped the work can take place next winter with the facility opening in the following spring.
The putting green fell out of use in 2018 after the satellite information centre in Mill Meadows, where the putters and balls were kept, was closed.
The adventure golf course was suggested by a council working group which concluded this would be the best use of the site as it would provide another amenity for the community, enhance Mill Meadows and help attract visitors.
A meeting of the council’s recreation and amenities committee last week heard there would be ongoing maintenance and staffing costs to balance against the revenue generated.
The council would also need to consider establishing a “sinking fund” for the long-term replacement of the course.
Mayor Ken Arlett said he was concerned about the costs and wanted some detailed figures on the likely expenditure.
“The last thing we want to see is a lot of expenditure on staffing and very little income,” he said. “How many hours are we going to open this each day? What staff are we going to use?”
Town clerk Sheridan Jacklin-Edward said: “We would look at one member of staff to man it. It would depend on its opening hours for costs on that.
“We could use the kiosk as a satellite information centre and you could have two facilities for the price of one, if you like.”
He said that a lot of people would have to use the course if it was to earn between £100,000 and £200,000 a year, with an admission price of £5 to £8 per person.
“We anticipate it would be a major attraction and we know the car park is very full in the summer,” he said.
“The idea of an 18-hole course is that you can almost have two nine-hole courses, so you can have more people playing at the same time.” Mr Jacklin-Edward said the council could take advice on the best business model from contractors with experience of operating adventure golf courses.
Councillor Glen Lambert said he felt the income projections were “way over the top” and the council would lose “a lot of money”.
A report to the committee said: “The figures show a likely return on investment of upwards of 35 per cent per year and potentially much higher.
“However, these figures are based on an 18-hole course and no figures for nine-hole courses are yet available.
“If the adventure golf was to act as an attraction in its own right, it is likely that there would also be an uplift in car parking revenue, although this is difficult to quantify.
“It is reasonable to assume that a total spend of between £100,000 and £250,000 for an 18-hole course (or pro rata for a smaller course) should deliver a durable and high-quality course that would complement the council’s current facilities while delivering a healthy return on investment.
“This cost would include associated landscaping, a kiosk and CCTV.” The report said the risks of the new course included lack of demand, which it said were “low”, and a shortage of parking if it proved too popular, particularly in good weather, which could lead to parking problems elsewhere in town.
However, the council could liaise with the River & Rowing Museum about using its car park as an overflow.
Another risk was vandalism, particularly when the course was closed. This could be minimised by using robust materials, planting more vegetation around the perimeter and installing CCTV.
Final specifications and recommendations on a preferred contractor will be put forward by the putting green working group.
It ruled out a number of other options, including retaining the putting green and using the area as a forest school or a community space.
• A new sign is to be installed at the entrance to the Mill Meadows car park. It will indicate the car park is pay and display and list the charges and conditions of use. Henley Town Council has agreed to pay £480 to install the sign, which will replace the existing one.
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