GOLF'S governing body has teamed up with a business backed by tennis star Andy Murray to help take one of the world's fastest-growing participation sports around the UK - starting with a centre in Glasgow.

The St Andrews-based R&A is to provide a centre for the tennis-squash-badminton hybrid sport padel, with the backing of Edinburgh-based Game4Padel as part of its plans to transform an east end of Glasgow golf course into new family orientated community facility.

The plans for Lethamhill aim primarily to make golf more accessible for all ages and backgrounds include a newly designed 52-bay floodlit double-decker driving range that makes use of the latest technology, as well as a nine-hole course, short game area and adventure golf.

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Artist's impression of the olanned Lethamhill complex

It has emerged that the R&A has teamed up with Game4Padel, the Andy Murray-backed company behind a network of playing facilities for the sport, to incorporate a dedicated padel centre with three covered courts.

Originating from Mexico in 1969, padel is a form of tennis mainly played in a doubles format on an enclosed court about a third of the size of a tennis court and can be played in groups of mixed ages and abilities.

The rules are broadly the same as tennis, although you serve underhand and the walls are used as part of the game with the ball allowed to bounce off them.

It has gained increasing popularity over recent years, with over six million people currently playing in Spain. Popularity is growing on home soil too, with a total of 82 padel courts currently in Great Britain.

At the weekend, Argentina and Spain contested the men's and women's finals at the International Padel Federation World Padel Championships held at the Khalifa International Tennis and Squash Complex in Qatar's capital.

The R&A have put forward their vision for Lethamhill to Glasgow City Council, to transform what is one of six municipal courses in the city boundaries into a "fun and affordable” venue which it hopes will open in the spring of 2023.

Apart from the new padel centre plans the facility will include a café, retail space and nursery as part of a central hub that would offer views north over nearby Hogganfield Loch to the Campsie Fells and south to the city of Glasgow.

The R&A’s and Game4Padel have also committed to a long-term partnership to identify new potential sites where a "similar, mutually beneficial model" might be feasible.

Their agreement includes an option to include padel courts in future community golf centres around the UK, to be rolled-out if the Lethamhill model proves successful.

Martin Slumbers, chief executive of The R&A, said: “We have a very clear objective to make golf more accessible and inclusive for people of all ages and backgrounds. To achieve that, we need to broaden our appeal by offering a wider variety of fun and affordable activities that appeal to our target audience and get more families and young people taking part.

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"Padel fits the bill perfectly in those respects and we are delighted to be working with Game4Padel to incorporate three all-weather courts in the revised plans for Lethamhill.”

Game4Padel, which was born in October 2018 in a cafe in Edinburgh is in advanced discussions with more than 30 other UK sites, which it anticipates will add more than 50 additional courts to its 18 existing or secured venues.

The company boasts a diverse group of experienced UK investors, including company ambassadors Annabel Croft and Andrew Castle, the former British number one tennis players and sports broadcasters, and Jonathan Davies, the Welsh rugby legend.

Its chairman is Jim McMahon, a founding partner of the investment business West Coast Capital and chairman of Motherwell FC.

Michael Gradon, co-founder and chief executive of Game4Padel, said: “This is a landmark deal for our business and for the game of padel in the UK. It is a great pleasure to be working in partnership with a brand and an organisation as prestigious as The R&A and to help them realise what is a fantastic vision for Lethamhill that will increase participation not only in golf, but in other activities like padel.

“Padel is highly complementary to what The R&A is trying to achieve here – being accessible, fun, and easy for beginners to pick up – and a great way for players of all ages and abilities to experience the health and wellbeing benefits of sports participation. We are in advanced stages of negotiation with several other golf clubs and The R&A’s endorsement of padel will encourage clubs all over the country to consider whether the game could be a great addition to their facilities given its potential to boost membership, income, family involvement, and attract a younger, more inclusive audience to golf.”