Keele Golf Centre at risk as Jack Barker's Golf Company goes into liquidation
THE long-term future of a golf course has been thrown into doubt after the operator plunged into liquidation.
Jack Barker's Golf Company, which operates Keele Golf Centre on behalf of Newcastle Borough Council, has gone into voluntary liquidation.
The 18-hole course is currently open as usual while the council considers its options.
But golfers and former staff have raised concerns about the state of the course.
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Head green-keeper David Blank was among eight staff to lose their jobs at the centre earlier this year.
The 53-year-old, of New Rose Acre, Newcastle, said: "Very little investment has been put back into Keele. We were very limited in what we could do with the course because we didn't have the funding.
"At the most there were four of us working on the greens.
"Keele is a lovely course and has the potential to be the best in Staffordshire, but we couldn't do it justice because we didn't have the resources.
"It has got a fantastic reputation as a golf course and there is so much you could do with it. It's a crying shame that it has been allowed to deteriorate over the last 10 years."
Wife Joy Blank, aged 52, who also a keen golfer, said: "It's so beautiful and such an interesting course.
"David is so passionate about green keeping and it has been so hard for him.
"There is such a big market for municipal golf courses at the moment."
Golfer Mick Harris, aged 59, of Bucknall, who has been using the course for 30 years, said: "The deterioration of the course over the last eight to 10 years has been shocking. "It is the best designed golf course in Staffordshire."
The centre has seen membership fall as golfers have played at other courses.
Keele Golf Centre secretary Lesley Harris said: "The decline in the playing conditions is the main reason why the golf club's membership has fallen rapidly.
"Keele is known throughout the golfing community as a good test of golf, but all the good players who were members have left stating that they could not play to their handicaps on a course that was not maintained to a proper standard.
"This has been due to the constant breaking down of equipment, and lack of materials to maintain the growth of the grass on the greens. Bunkers have been filled with builders' sand and grass has been growing freely. Due to this lack of investment and the heavy rain, it looks like four greens could be lost or out of action."
The council took Jack Barker's Golf Company to the county court last year in a row over more than £100,000 in unpaid rent. Councillors also rejected plans to bury 80,000 tonnes of rubbish at the course.
The disputes come as the firm was stopped from running Stoke-on-Trent's Goldenhill Golf Course in 2011 because of unpaid rent and accusations of fly-tipping.
A council spokesman said: "Keele Golf Course currently remains open for members and other players. The borough council is in the process of dealing with the liquidator with a view to finding a way forward where services can continue to be provided."
No-one from Jack Barker's Golf Company was available for comment.