Battle for future of the ‘unique’ Hermitage course begins

Friends and supporters of the Hermitage Golf Club are hoping the course can be saved in some shape or form
Friends and supporters of the Hermitage Golf Club are hoping the course can be saved in some shape or form
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The future of the nine-hole Hermitage course in the Capital is under threat after it closed last week due to the facility losing its funding from an autism initiative.

The development has been described as a “dreadful situation” and a “very sad day” after 
the facility had become a popular starting course for youngsters.

It was used frequently by the Stephen Gallacher Foundation, as well as the Active Schools programme.

“It has been a pleasure to be able to use the Hermitage as a hub in Edinburgh to introduce kids in the Lothians to golf,” said a spokesman for the Stephen Gallacher Foundation.

A fight to try and overturn the closure decision by Autism Scotland was led by course manager Tom Murray, a respected figure in greenkeeping circles in Scotland.

“We provided a unique centre at the Hermitage as our work was for Autism Scotland,” he said. “We had a workshop and horticultural area, where kids with autism came to the day centre. We had also built a small crazy golf course .

“I had spoken with Ernie Els (the former Open champion’s son, Ben, suffers from autism) last year at St Andrews and he was very interested in the work we did for autism.

“Last Friday, when the place closed down, was a very sad day as plans were drawn up for a permanent building that would meet the needs of all the service users, support workers and possibly the development of a cycle track etc.”

Ian Murray, the MP for Edinburgh South, said he was “saddened” by the news of the facility’s closure, having visited it last summer after it had been vandalised.

According to Autism Scotland, the decision to shut the doors was not taken lightly but had been ultimately made due to the facility losing money.

“Due to continued financial pressure over a number of years, it is with deep regret that the Trustees of Autism Ventures Scotland have reluctantly made the decision to discontinue one of its social enterprise activities,” said director Catherine Steedman.

“This will mean that the café we run at the Hermitage Golf club will close, and we will cease to manage the nine-hole golf course there. We are currently working with employees and the autistic people that 
access this facility about redeployment and alternative activities.

“Unfortunately, we just are not able to fund the enterprise any more or fund raise for the monies to develop the site and clubhouse.

“It is a dreadful situation and we are trying to minimise the impact to all the service users who have used the site by careful and sensitive transitions. All staff have been met with and some are being redeployed to other services.”

Built with the aid of a £200,000 lottery award, the Hermitage opened as a family course in 2006. “The course is fantastic and it has a tremendous layout,” said former Ryder Cup player and then patron Andrew Coltart at the time.