SPECIAL guests got into the swing of things at the opening of Inverclyde’s first ever indoor golf centre.

More than 50 people were at Gourock Golf Club for the official unveiling of the £189,000 state-of-the-art studio. 

Town councillor Ronnie Ahlfeld cut the ribbon along with captain Bill Hawthorne and professional Derek Watters.

Greenock golfer Chris Doak, who has played at the US Open, was among those in attendance along with sponsors, elected representatives, club officials and members.

Players of all ages from across Inverclyde and beyond have been flocking to the studio since the doors opened in November and the reaction has been anything but below par.

Allan Warwick, Gourock Golf Club’s general manager, said: “It’s exceeded our expectations and we’re incredibly lucky to have it.

“We hope people will use it and show more of an interest in golf — and that it will help revitalise junior golf in the area.”

The facility is the first of its kind in Inverclyde and the west of Scotland.

It was paid for by grants of £80,000 from the European Union ‘Leader’ fund and £10,000 from the National Lottery’s Awards for All Scotland scheme, with the rest contributed by generous benefactors and sponsors.

The purpose-built, two-bay studio features a range of facilities, including a high-tech simulator, teaching area, club-fitting section, a lounge and a kitchen with hot and cold drinks.

Club professional Derek Watters said: “The reaction from members has been excellent and the facility is fully open to the public.”

The studio allows members and guests to continue playing during the winter months when clubs are traditionally put away until the weather improves.

It is also aimed at encouraging those who are new to the sport, and to engage with juniors and other local groups.

Sean Laird, Scottish Golf’s regional club development manager in the west, said: “This fantastic facility will further strengthen the links with the local community through supporting their events and also welcoming local people and local businesses to the club.

“Perhaps most importantly though, it will help membership retention and growth across all categories, as well as help attract visitors.

“It will help to revitalise junior golf in the area, further grow and expand the club’s junior academy, the club’s links with Active Schools and their links with the Gourock Community Sports Hub.”

The official opening saw professionals Derek and Chris compete in a challenge match over the last four holes of the famous Wentworth course.

The Gourock pro edged the contest thanks to his accurate chipping and approach play and the club donated his £100 prize to Ardgowan Hospice.

The studio is open to members, non-members and juniors, who can access the facility for free.

For more information and to book visit www.gourockgolfclub.com, email secretary@gourockgolfclub.com or phone 631001.