At least four UK golf clubs close down

Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir October 27, 2016 12:12

At least four golf clubs have announced they are closing or have closed in the space of a few days as many venues are continuing to struggle in the current economic climate.

Channels Golf Club in Essex, Kyngs Golf and Country Club in Leicestershire, Glinisla Golf Club in Scotland and Padbrook Park Golf Club in Exeter have all decided to end the golf side of their businesses after many years each.

Golf Club Management has also found other clubs with serious concerns for their futures.

Channels, which was established in 1974, is to close its 18-hole course next year to make way for weddings and functions. The traditional members’ club will continue to operate its driving range and nine-hole course.

Spokesman Richard Stubbings said the closure was due to a fall in members.

“The closure of the course is sadly due to the decline in membership and high costs involved in maintaining it.

“Unfortunately, the golf industry has seen a significant decline in memberships of more than 20 per cent in recent years and it has badly affected clubs like ours.

“Studies show that changing habits and attitudes have impacted on traditional golf clubs and many golfers now prefer the pay and play model to a membership club.

channels

“The aim is to make our wedding venues more prestigious. Events, like farmers markets and beer and music festivals, will also be a point of focus.”

Two weeks ago Kyngs Golf and Country Club closed down without warning.

No notice of the shutdown was given to members and a sign, put up on the padlocked gates, directs anyone with queries to two estate agents.

The complex, which includes a brick and tile barn, purpose-built greenkeeping shed and a temporary clubhouse, was put on the market for almost half a million pounds in April.

Member Glenn Beardsworth said: “A few weeks ago we heard it had sold and an announcement was going to be made.

“We all thought we’d get a letter, email or text but no one heard anything. Then I was told it was all shut, locked and bolted.

“I’ve since heard whoever has bought it has no intention of keeping it going as a golf course.”

kyngs

Glenisla GC will close at the end of October. It is understood to have been sold to housing developers in late September.

The course had been on sale by owner Nick Somerville for some time.

A member of staff said: “It came as a real shock to everyone to be called into a meeting when we told that the sale of the land to a property developer had been completed the day before.

“As you can imagine, everybody is very upset.

“We have been told that there’s a chance a new nine-hole course may be developed on the site at some point in the future but, if that happens, it would be years from now.”

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Glenisla

Padbrook Park is closing down its golf side after a fall in members.

Owner Susan Scargill said: “We recognise the important role that Padbrook’s golf course has played and over the years, how it’s inspired our valued members. It’s because of this history, our loyal members and all of the good times had, closing the course was not a decision Padbrook Park took lightly.

“Although this is sad news in some respects, we have to look ahead and be reflective of the current market.”

The club will continue to offer footgolf, she said.

A statement from Padbrook read: ‘In the past 10 years the golf industry has seen a steady decline. As well as a national decrease in players, regional memberships have hit an all-time low. The recent recession, as well as an upsurge in fitness-based sports such as cycling, are both thought to be determining factors in the sports recent demise.

‘Golf still boasts one of the most loyal fan-bases but much like the rise and fall of squash, playing golf has fallen out of favour by amateurs who are keen to start a new sport or by families, friends and businesses who are looking for an activity-based day out.’

‘Sometimes in business you have to make calculated risks and listen to what’s going on around you. And although the owners of Padbrook Park recognise the influence their golf course has had on its members, they are now ready to action a fresh initiative to kick-start a brand new chapter.’

padbrook-park

Those running neighbouring clubs said they were sad to hear about the closure but problems in the industry can be minimised.

Paul Lewis, chairman of nearby Sidmouth Golf Club, said: “It is sad see another golf club folding.

“All golf clubs have been challenged by declining memberships as nomadic golfers – those who do not belong to a club – account for approximately 70 per cent of all players.

“At Sidmouth we have responded to these challenges by offering a more flexible membership, competitive green fees and different marketing initiatives.

“We are also using social media to attract nomadic golfers. Local press is also important.

“In terms of existing members we are always trying to enhance both the playing experience and off-course facilities. At Sidmouth we have a very loyal membership, mainly thanks to our vibrant seniors section.

“The main reason Padbrook has failed is due to the size of the course and the maintenance costs. When it was built there was plenty of demand but this has dwindled due to nomads, cycling and other quicker sports, demands on personal time and revenue falling with static maintenance costs.

“I am sorry to see the growth of the late ‘80s and early ‘90s reversing itself but it was almost inevitable. They may not be the last.”

Chris Jones, general manager of Exeter Golf and Country Club, added: “We are dismayed to hear that Padbrook Park’s golf course is closing, however we believe it’s important to maintain a positive outlook with regards to golf as a sport.

“Exeter Golf and Country Club has a thriving golf membership that continues to grow. We have welcomed many new golfers to the club this summer but we are working hard to offer a top quality golf course, which thanks to ongoing investment, a great team and excellent drainage is playable for much of the year.

“Golfers want value from their membership and it is more important than ever to be innovative. Our new golf course and new head golf professional have certainly helped to drive our club forward, attracting new golfers and using programmes such as England Golf’s Get into Golf scheme to get people into the sport and out on the course.

“Golf is a fantastic sport as it can be played by all the family, by all ages and all abilities, and we believe it has a bright future ahead.”

As well as these closures Golf Club Management also understands that Bridport Golf Club’s directors have told members that the club will not be financially viable unless it cuts costs.

The club has made the secretary redundant, with Roy Wilson leaving the club after nine years, and terminated club professional David Parsons’ contract. This has collectively saved £75,000 per year.

Letters to members from directors said: “Due to on-going economic pressures, the club has realised that it has to reduce its costs significantly in order to remain a viable operation.

“As you can imagine, there will be a number of difficult decisions to be taken.”

The letters speaks of ‘streamlining’ the administration due to a ‘large deficit”.

The secretary’s duties are now being covered by the directors while a planned longer term administration structure is put in place.

It is intended to create a streamlined, lower cost structure that will provide savings and is intended to put the club on a far firmer business footing.

Director Ken Stead said: “If you look at golf in general, there’s a declining membership and there’s lots of reasons for that.

“It’s not cheap to play at a lot of golf clubs, some people like to go and play at other golf courses.

“We need to change our situation to go forward.”

The club has also proposed to combine the secretary’s office and pro shop in to one reception area where all aspects of the club will be co-ordinated, under the management of a golf reception manager.

 

Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir October 27, 2016 12:12
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