Tweedbank businessman Tom Gilhooley is hoping to spark a revival in Galashiels’ fortunes when he opens the region’s first virtual golf centre in the town next month.
With three state-of-the-art simulators, customers at the extensive first-floor premises at 36-38 Channel Street – operated by Ladbrokes until 2009 – will be able to ‘play’ more than 100 of the world’s top courses, including Augusta, Peebles Beach and the famous Old Links at St Andrews. And because no golf course is complete without a 19th hole, Tom is delighted that his bid for a drinks licence has been granted by Scottish Borders Licensing Board.
On Friday, councillors unanimously approved his application to serve alcohol from 11am till 10pm seven days a week, although the Borders Indoor Golf Centre will be open from 9am daily.
There will be no bar as such, but players and spectators will be able to select from a menu of drinks stored in fridges behind the reception area. Snacks, including bacon and sausage rolls, will also be available.
The drinks permit will not impact on Tom’s ambition to encourage youngsters to pit their skills against golf’s greatest challenges because of a condition that all children aged 15 and under must be supervised by an adult during the licensing hours.
One of the simulators, which will also record swing speed and accuracy, will include a football option, allowing players to take penalty kicks against some of the world’s best goalkeepers.
With planning consent already in place, the drinks licence means the way is clear for Tom, a keen golfer and a member at Torwoodlee, to realise his dream of creating the first leisure facility of its kind in the Borders. “There are similar centres in Aberdeen and Glasgow, but that’s about it,” said Tom, who will run the new business with his wife and fellow company director, Elizabeth.
“The simulators will be here on January 20 and we will be up and running soon after that.
“We’ve already taken bookings from individuals and parties for the end of January, so we won’t be hanging about.”
The Southern caught up with Tom this week as he was personally overseeing the installation of comfortable seating in his well-appointed premises.
He told us: “With the railway coming to Galashiels next year, we’re hoping to offer visitors, as well as locals, something a bit different.
“I think more of that lateral thinking about uses for empty premises, especially in Galashiels where there are sadly so many, will be required in future.
“I thus commend Scottish Borders Council planners for allowing my change of use and, hopefully, more new businesses will be encouraged to open.”
Bookings for the Borders Virtual Golf Centre are currently being taken on 01896 752500 and by emailing: email@example.com