College's golf course runs into bunker: Collapse of pioneering scheme after three years leads to freeze on student recruitment

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The Independent Online
EUROPE'S first academic course in golf studies has run into a bunker just three years after its launch. Kingston University in Surrey has decided not to recruit students to the course this year after disagreements about how it should be run.

Work on playing facilities has not even begun and students have to travel 10 miles to share a course with other players.

Discussions about the course's future are taking place with the Professional Golfers' Association, which backed it. The association is believed to be unhappy about the content as well as the lack of playing facilities.

When the course opened in 1991 it was heralded as a future centre of excellence for one of the fastest- growing leisure industries. Up to 3 million Europeans were expected to take up the game in the next 10 years, creating a need for 1,600 new golf courses.

Students applying for the Higher National Diploma, run by Merrist Wood College near Guildford but validated by Kingston, were expected to have two A-levels and a handicap of four - the standard of a talented amateur.

Many hoped to become professional golfers, but others wanted to go into connected areas - running facilities or tournaments or making equipment. It was hoped that in five years there would be up to 100 students per year. So far it has taken in about 120, with 8 out of the first 25 completing this summer and 12 expected to graduate in the next few months.

The problems of the course have been compounded by financial difficulties at the college, which has been forced to consider redundancies among its academic staff.

Dr Robert Smith, vice-chancellor of Kingston University, said it had decided to suspend recruitment to the course until after a PGA working party on the future of golf education had reported this autumn.

There had been differences of opinion on the balance between academic and practical work, he added, and the lack of facilities had caused problems.

'We decided to counsel that we should perhaps take breath and have a hard look at what we were doing and we are having some very constructive conversations,' he said.

John Riddle, principal of the college, said it was still fully committed to the HND course and to the building of golf facilities for its students. Outline planning permission had been granted and developers were being sought.

The reason for the non-recruitment this year was that a two-year course was now running alongside the original three-year one, and new entrants would put a strain on resources, he said.