JUDAS PRIEST STAR TO OPEN FIVE-STAR GOLF COURSE:
April 29, 2009
Peter Ricketts of www.birminghampost.net reports that a heavy metal star, born in the back streets of West Bromwich, is piling a big part of his fortune into a magnificent golf course around the mansion he bought near Bridgnorth.
This unlikely marriage between musical mayhem and the tranquillity of golf has been the long-held dream of KK Downing, a leading member of Judas Priest since the band was formed in Birmingham in 1970.
They were pioneers of the heavy metal brand of rock and today, nearly 40 years later, they are still presenting on stage a mesmeric scene as, dressed in black leather heavy with metal studs, long hair flailing, their fingers belt out powerful forceful guitar sounds in a mad frenzy.
KK, now 56, and his colleagues are still playing to audiences of thousands.
They have recently completed a six-month world tour which took in 22 countries in Europe, 19 concerts in the US, eight in Canada, six in Australia, and others in Korea and Japan before coming back to the UK for eight or nine gigs. They have sold more than 35 million albums and their latest, Nostradamus, is rocking the rock world.
All this has brought these West Bromwich lads untold fortunes. All still live in the Midlands and KK bought Astbury Hall, five miles outside Bridgnorth, in the most beautiful Shropshire countryside you could imagine.
That was in 1985 and the 300-acre estate supported a large herd of prime milking cows.
But whenever KK’s eyes roved the rolling land outside his lounge window he dreamed of creating a golf course of a quality to match his own meticulous standards.
“I’ve played golf all over the world on some of the best golf courses and I want a course to match those,” he said. “I’m not cutting corners. I’m aiming at golfers who are passionate about the game and appreciate five-star golf and a five-star clubhouse.
“I’m not after the £20-a-day-including-lunch market. It takes a lot of money, and I mean a lot of money, to provide a great golf course but as long as I can attract enough money to pay for it I’ll be happy.”
Five star? It all sounds a bit stuffy, I suggested.
“No, it will not be like that,” said KK. “After all, I’m a long-haired rock star and stuffy people may not go along with that. This will be a top-class golf centre with no snobbery.”
So far nine holes are ready for play. They have been for at least a year but KK is a perfectionist in everything he does.
Whether it’s his music, his house and furnishings, or the golf course, it all has to be just right. So passionate is he that you feel he would delay play if so much as a dandelion were found growing on one of the immaculate fairways.
But KK feels that at last he can open the gates to the public. Not very wide, mind you. The Astbury website invites groups of ten or more players to “experience golf at its highest quality”.
No more than two groups a day will be accepted and they are promised “exclusivity of the course”.
They are likely to be astonished at its condition. Perfection is everywhere. Tees, fairways and greens are virtually without blemish.
And the bunkers have an Augusta-like white sheen, thanks to a special membrane under the surface that stops the sand from being contaminated by soil.
The nine holes, set in some of Shropshire’s most magnificent and peaceful countryside, wind over gentle hills.
The signature hole is the ninth, a 200 -yard par-three with a 165-yard carry over a lake. Work has just started on the second nine holes and later will come another nine to complete the picture.
KK has planning permission for 14 holiday lodges and eight three-bed barn conversions – all five-star of course – and eventually, he says, Astbury will be a haven for the businessman and his family. It’s a heady world for a man whose boyhood was spent in the back streets of West Bromwich and he smiles as he recalls how he left school at 16 to become a trainee chef at the Lyttelton Arms, Hagley. The job did not last long.
“I went off on a ten-day holiday to see a Jimi Hendrix concert at Woburn,” he said. “I was so caught up with the music I went on to other concerts, got back to Hagley six weeks later – and they sacked me!”
What followed were long years of success as Judas Priest made their own indelible mark on the music scene.
It’s an astonishing tale, and the most amazing twist in the story is that out of all came a superb golf course in the calm and beauty of Shropshire.