Four more golf clubs close down

Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir October 22, 2019 11:09

Four golf clubs have announced they have closed or are going to close down in the last few days – meaning that at least eight have gone under in the last month.

In late September / early October it was revealed that Letham Grange Golf Club in Scotland will be disbanded, Carswell Golf Club in Oxfordshire had closed, Hilltop Golf Course in Birmingham has been told it will close for at least two years and Moore Place Golf Club in Surrey closed unexpectedly as a developer wants to build housing on the site.

Of the latest four to close there is hope that two will be saved and one will return in 2021.

In north London, Stanmore and Edgware Golf Centre has permanently closed down.

A statement on its website reads: ‘It is with much sadness and regret that we announce that Stanmore and Edgware Golf Centre will close with immediate effect and will cease to trade.

‘There are new owners of the freehold and despite positive negotiations, belief in assurances given that the centre would be allowed continue to operate and terms agreed, we have now been informed that this will not now happen and with the lease being terminated, the centre has had to close.’

Bushey Hall Golf Club in Hertfordshire has closed, officially for two years, as its clubhouse will be converted into 32 flats. However, according to the Watford Observer, ‘it remains to be seen whether any [members] will return’.

Manager Agnes Taylor said: “When I joined, we had around 500 members. Now we have around 160.

“It has been very challenging sometimes. What makes this place so special is the friendships and bonding.

“I will miss the members. I hope to return.”

Member Helen Tout added: “It is very sad to all go our separate ways. Who knows, we could be back here one day. That would be lovely. This is a really special place.”

Heaton Park Golf Course has been forced to close – one year after it last closed down following the collapse of its previous owner, Mack Trading.

Interim operator Green Circle stepped in to run the course on a temporary 12-month basis last November.

However, according to Bury Times, the arrangement has come to an end, and the course has closed again.

The move follows an unsuccessful tendering process with no potential permanent operators found who would be able to run the site without needing a subsidy from Manchester City Council.

Councillor Luthfur Rahman, Manchester City Council executive member for skills, culture and leisure, said: “We have not so far been able to identify an operator who can take on the course without requiring a subsidy from the council and will now review our options for the future of the site.”

And Temple Newsam Golf Club in Leeds has been told by its local council that its nine-hole and 18-hole courses will be replaced with a family cycling centre, cycle trails and a cafe.

The club has made it clear it will fight these proposals.

The people who run the golf club, which rents the land from the council for around £12,000 a year, are furious about the plans and claim there is enough room for the golf club and the new cycling centre and trails.

Dean Hardy, the club’s treasurer, claims the council could shut the course down by December.

“We’re absolutely shocked,” he said, “Everyone is gutted. It’s not just a golf club, it’s also a social centre for a lot of people.

“A lot of our older members here are actually past their golfing days, but it’s still a place where they can meet up with their friends on a regular basis.

“We are going to fight this and we’ve got around three months.

“Once it goes to a public consultation we will do everything we can to show the council there’s no need to close the courses.

“We can’t see any reason why the two (the golf course and cycling centre) can’t run hand in hand. We don’t see why they need all that space for cycle lanes.

“We would be willing to discuss all options, I’m sure we can collaborate here and share facilities. There’s got to be some way round this, so everyone can be happy.”

Hardy added that the club gave up nine of its, then, 36 holes in 2017 and would be willing to give up another nine in order to save the venue.

In addition to the above, Polmont Golf Club in Scotland announced on social media that it is closing down because of financial difficulties – however, reports suggest the club has been saved at the last minute.

The original statement from the 118-year-old club said: ‘It is with deep regret that we have to inform of this news. Unfortunately the financial position that the club finds itself in brings the committee to the conclusion that the club cannot continue to operate.

‘The club for years has meant so much to so many people and it will be truly sad to see it gone.’

Five days later, the club revealed it had been saved.

Update: In addition to the above, reports suggest that Ruchill Golf Course in Glasgow, which ‘temporarily’ closed in September due to staff shortages, will not be reopening (October 22)

Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir October 22, 2019 11:09
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17 Comments

  1. Svend October 17, 14:10

    As an ‘outsider’ with loads of experience in community sports enterprise and indeed having worked with England Golf on the #MoreThanGolf innovation and enterprise project it is so sad to see that so many golf clubs go under.
    Too often golf clubs are unwelcoming and not part of their community. Golf needs to ‘think wrong’ if the sport is to stop this decline.
    I can help!

    Reply to this comment
    • Rayf October 18, 20:03

      Sadly won’t be the last ones. It’s a sport that hardly anyone takes up as youngsters now. Older members are dying off and nobody taking their places. Prices to play need to drop drastically and lessons to youngsters should be free if people want the game to survive long term.

      Reply to this comment
  2. David October 17, 16:18

    A sad state of affairs and it seems many more clubs will follow suit in the next decade or so

    Reply to this comment
  3. Peter October 17, 16:57

    There are still many “at risk ” clubs, some that never fully recovered from the last recession. Some refusing to change, some running out of ideas and cash and some stuck in changing demographic markets ! As global economics continue along a path of uncertainty, more and members are debating keeping their memberships ! We see it, hear it and too many are feeling it ! We’ve seen some where as many as 25% of members were considering leaving ! A very high number ! Prospective members are still very comfortable playing high-end semi-private clubs ! Some still need to reassess their services, offerings, programs and policies while they might still have time. Next year might bring more bad news in terms of economic downturns !

    Reply to this comment
  4. Terry October 17, 16:59

    It’s a sad state to see this, especially with the health benefits to it, also the money involved in golf now at a good level, surprised not more kids want to take up golf, get to travel the world and make a ton of money. Is an expensive sport though and very time consuming

    Reply to this comment
  5. Jamie October 17, 17:58

    2 municipal ones in Brighton on the way out due to lack of participation

    Reply to this comment
  6. Pete USA October 17, 20:34

    Well, what can you say when you keep offering the same old time consuming expensive golf that few enjoy? No golfers mean empty fairways and empty fairways pay no bills, so it’s just a matter of time for more course closings. Times have changed, want to attract new golfers, then make the course smaller, the game efficient & quick and the ball Hybrid in distance to match!

    Reply to this comment
    • Repete October 24, 13:20

      Pity…
      Where have all the golfer’s gone?
      Younger not interested, game a real turnoff!
      Other’s gone to other time efficient & affordable activities and older..attrition. Face it..nobody’s coming!

      Why?
      Golf takes too long, costs too much, too frustrating.

      How to attract new golfer’s?
      Offer a “Lite” quick-golf experience on smaller courses.

      How?
      Modify the golf ball (Hybridize) to smaller time efficient courses, which creates affordable & enjoyable golf, in 1/2 the time, making the game enjoyable.

      Keep on offering the same old golf and watch the game fade a.w..a…y!

      Reply to this comment
  7. Neil October 18, 06:22

    It’s tough but we took over a municipal course previously run by the local council and a club running the bar.

    We now run both but have had to open the clubhouse to non golfers and launched a new Bistro , some club members are not happy as they have lost some exclusive use but its turning a healthy profit on food and drink and means we can re-invest into the golf course and facilities. We have increased membership by and created partnerships with other local courses to add value as well as linking membership with a lesson pathway and our driving range. We also refurbished the shop and despite online competition we are making a profit with members spending prize money from competitions in the shop.

    It’s tough but can be done if changes are made and the commercial opportunities maximised

    We also have Peter Finch and Rick Sheils based at our driving range which is a bonus !

    Reply to this comment
  8. Jamie October 18, 08:50

    This is interesting having had a meeting with a golf club this week who are in the process of ‘change’ and recognise they have to implement a new strategic direction.

    As a social golfer, sport billy since a young boy and doing what I do for a living, I’ve said for a quite a long time, the game of golf in terms of sustained participation is heading directly south.

    The club game at mainly private clubs which is the platform by which I’d guess most everyday people will access the game, from my experience lives in a world that no longer exists. Add a membership base that shows little enthusiasm to see beyond this Wednesday mornings stapleford and rising costs of often grand old facilities, gives a really challenging outlook for the game.

    I ask the question what will golf look for my 13 year old when he is 42?

    I look forward to supporting clubs implementing a new approach. A game that is fantastic on so many platforms for so many generations but must change on so many fronts.

    Reply to this comment
  9. Lodge October 18, 10:32

    That is simply untrue.. golf brings communities together as any other sport will do if it is popular, the only reason a good club would close is because of our housing crisis/shortage, the land is simply to rich to not be approachable by big companies that want to build affordable houses on, in areas where there is access to all needs available… there have been 2 closures in my area alone where the land sold for millions and now there are over 3000 homes built on said land…. It’s such a double edged sword… I guess it goes down to how much work the club’s owners wants to put into it and whether the whole reason in the first place is to make millions in a dream you first thought about when you started the club, which you finally make when the land is sold….

    Reply to this comment
  10. Ken October 18, 11:39

    There are many reasons for clubs shutting down. Would welcome the opportunity to discuss further but one common denominator is that when clubs had it going well, they forgot about the youth development programs. The future was, and still is in some cases, forgotten. It’s getting close to being almost too late.

    Reply to this comment
    • ALLY October 18, 18:08

      I know golf seems to be on the downward slide
      Clubs struggling for members some have large joining fees and high annual subscriptions. Anyone new to the game incurs high costs even before they join a club. Equipment clubs etc. are too expensive. Drivers costing over £400 alone club manufacturers are changing models every year too much cost for players to keep up.

      Reply to this comment
  11. Bill October 19, 16:10

    So much is about real communication with members. Realities need to be actively disseminated and outlined. Too often the lack of communication results in these disastrous results. And yes many clubs, within reason, need to see and understand the current and future members/users.

    Reply to this comment
  12. Svend October 20, 13:13

    I think the time has come to launch an initiative/conference called The Future for Golf? Bring together great examples of bodies, entrepreneurs, club s and others who have bucked the trend and grown the game.
    Learn from other sports and hospitality sector and develop a movement of ‘golf changers’. We’ll get the ball rolling
    What do you think?
    Svend svend@smnuk.com +44 1423326660

    Reply to this comment
  13. Nic October 20, 13:15

    In 1994 I wrote my Dissertation on the need for the game and the clubs to change their out look, to shorten the game to attract the young and female golfer, to open up the club houses to the local community and other uses, 25years later despite some great efforts by a few and millions of pounds investment by those running golf little has changed. Sadly many more course will close, participation will continue to decline unless we realise the majority need to change. The professional game and the iconic clubs can continue but the rest needs new ideas and approach.

    Reply to this comment
  14. Ken October 20, 13:22

    If someone, anyone, is thinking that the only alternative is to shut down, assess the situation first and if you would like to, let’s weigh the options first. There are things that can be done from financing to market approach. Every course can be a little different and a quick overnight fix is unlikely but there are potential options.

    Reply to this comment
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