Historic Scottish golf club is closed down

Seamus Rotherick
By Seamus Rotherick October 3, 2013 10:38

An historic golf club is closed down and another fears for its future as golf clubs in Scotland are still suffering amid the tough financial climate.

Things have got so bad that the Scottish Golf Union (SGU) has reiterated its call that no more 18-hole venues should be built in the country, although several are in the pipeline.

This is despite some positive signs for the British industry in recent weeks and the support Scottish golf clubs receive from their government, largely thanks to the major contribution the game makes to the country’s economy.

Gleneagles, in Scotland, is also hosting the Ryder Cup next year, an event that should bring in millions of pounds to the local economy.

Lothianburn Golf Club has been closed down after its membership dropped from more than 820 to 270 in the last nine years.

The 120-year-old venue has found that the huge drop in membership has made the club financially unsustainable. A spokesman said he hopes to reach a deal with a neighbouring club to keep the course in use.

An accountant’s letter has been attached to the clubhouse’s front door, stating that the club has closed.

Alan Greenshields, the club’s captain, said: “Membership numbers is the one factor that certainly hit us hard. Up until 2004 we were probably in the region of 820 to 830 members in all categories.

“Last year we dropped down to about 350 and this year we’re round about 270, so we’re talking about a drop of two thirds.”

Another member said: “Other clubs must adapt or face dire consequences.”

The closure comes as one of the oldest golf clubs in the world, Perth Merchants Golf Club, also fears for its future.

The club’s owner, Perth and Kinross Council, has said it is considering options for the golf course, North Inch, as it is now running at a significant loss with user numbers dropping.

Some members are stating that the course is now deteriorating and a decision on the club’s future needs to be made soon.

One member said: “The course is stagnating. There has been little or no investment made by the council in the course for more than 10 years. It is in reasonable playing condition for amateur golfers but it is simply not up to the standard of other courses in the area.

“I think that something approaching half of all potential starting tee times are now empty during the season because visitors simply don’t come to play the North Inch.”

A council spokesman added: “A review of options is currently under way.

“We recognise the value of the course as a community asset and are keen to find a way that the course can be run in a way that generates revenue, thereby securing the long-term future of the facility.”

Golf has been played at the venue since the 16th century – with King James IV said to have played there.

There are around 219,000 active golf club members in Scotland at just under 600 golf clubs. However, the number of courses in the country has increased by 20 percent since 1990, at a far higher rate than those playing the game. In fact, between 2006 and 2010, male membership dropped by 15 percent and female membership by 27 percent.

The SGU has revealed that around 80 clubs have approached it for business planning advice, including financial, marketing and governance guidance, in the last 18 months.

In addition, Inchmarlo Golf Club in Aberdeenshire was placed into liquidation earlier this year, and prestigious clubs such as Whitemoss GC in Perthshire, Letham Grange GC in Angus and Craibstone GC in Aberdeen all closed between 2010 and 2011.

The financial downturn, the number of courses in Scotland and the time it takes to play a full round have been cited as the three most popular reasons for the problems the clubs are facing.

The pressure on Scottish golf clubs has got so strong that the SGU has reiterated its call that no more 18-hole venues should be built in the country.

Its research found that there are around one course per 9,800 people in Scotland, compared to one per 27,000 people in England and one per 112,000 of the population in France.

Hamish Grey, SGU chief executive, said: “We have more courses than we need for the current playing numbers. I guess part of our challenge is, how do we grow those numbers, and take that forward?

“In doing so, how do we make sure we keep such a good geographical cover that Scotland enjoys. It is one of the key elements of why, in Scotland, the game is so accessible.”

The call has fallen on deaf ears though. For example, a £60 million development has been earmarked for Ayrshire, plans for a £25 million course near St Andrews are at an advanced stage, a £10 million development has been proposed for East Fife and a tennis and golf complex is scheduled to be built in Stirling.

Former Open champion Paul Lawrie said times are tough for a lot of golf clubs in Scotland. He added: “Everyone is trying to get more juniors into the games as junior memberships become senior memberships.

“I think a lot of clubs are trying very hard and a lot of clubs are very good at that. We just need to keep working hard and keep making it enjoyable for people to play golf.”


Seamus Rotherick
By Seamus Rotherick October 3, 2013 10:38
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  1. John Lewis October 5, 10:39

    The golf clubs have got to be more imaginative in there membership offerings.The majority of players do not want or can afford to have so called 7 day membership to only play on a Saturday or a Sunday. I for example can only play on a Tuesday and Thursday so why join a golf club when I can play anywhere I want for a lot less money. This why the “floating golfer” is taking advantage of cheap green fees to play other golf courses.
    They also have to be more family friendly. Go to the continent and see the families at the golf clubs it is part of the social scene. We have to get rid of the old style “fuddy duddy” “must maintain Standards” attitude that prevails at a lot of golf clubs. Dress codes that are so out of synche with the rest of modern society. How many men in all walks of life never wear a tie with a suit these days it is seen everywhere.
    Until the clubs embrace this modern world they will continue to die. I think that the time a round takes is a red herring the clubs have just got to be more accommodating as to when players want to play their golf. I also believe that the ” 2 for1″ promotions while looking good for the clubs has killed revenue and encouraged golfers from being club members.
    Change in attitude will bring a change in fortune for the average golf club

    Reply to this comment
  2. @SunFranceGolf October 4, 16:57

    I think that this is a sign of what must be done for the future of golf. Mix golf with other great… http://t.co/ca8ey5I51f

    Reply to this comment
  3. john October 4, 14:47

    It’s a downward spiral I’m afraid, all clubs want to take more visitors to increase turn over so are pricing their green fees accordingly. I’ve lost count of the number of golfers that have said to me, what’s the point now in joining a club? When I can play somewhere different every week for in most cases less than £25


    There’s some very nice courses on the above lists, all can be booked for very little online. Your floating golfer is more often than not going to head for the best deals, which often means the lowest prices. Many more clubs are going to be going the same way.

    Reply to this comment
  4. Alexandra B Almeida (@xanagolfe) October 4, 09:34

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  10. SilvioTheGolfGuy (@SilvioTheGolfGu) October 3, 12:45

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  11. @LukeDonaldFan1 October 3, 12:44

    Golf News: Historic Scottish golf club is closed down http://t.co/5dPnXl2oF0

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  12. Paul Dellanzo October 3, 11:56

    Fact is that except a few select clubs where club’s have exceptional structures and keen minds on their Board / Comittees most golf clubs could use the help of being commercially managed and marketed to drive players to facilities. Those clubs that have been able to invest in capex, families and juniors during this difficult economic cycle and consistently produce first class agronomic conditions, fast running fairways and true greens remain in demand. Clubs need to be the best at everything they do and understand that we are in the entertainment business or people will go to the pub, bowling alley, cinema or eslewhere to be entertained. We absolutely MUST attract more use by ladies and youngsters. Those that do will enjoy membership retention and growth.Public facilities really need to INVEST IN and MARKET their facilities and have them professionally managed otherwise the asset will become degraded and they may as well close them down and build real estate on them which would be a shame.Same old same old gets the same result.

    Reply to this comment
  13. @SteveKills October 3, 11:49

    Historic Scottish golf club is closed down » Golf Club Management http://t.co/9rOzgUYrxW Timely story about golf in Scotland. England beware

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  14. @gmcpro October 3, 11:39

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  15. Karl Hayler October 3, 11:31

    Excuse the pun but the thin end of the wedge!
    Unless clubs re-invent themselves (especially private members clubs) its a certainty
    more will follow.

    Reply to this comment
    • Peter Hall October 3, 15:10

      I guess also, that many clubs are “sandwedged” between rising costs on the one hand, and a multitude of other activities that people can undertake for a lot less cash. Our club used to have large competition entries, now it’s down to little more than a dozen! It’s good for me, I tend to win a few times every season now!

      Reply to this comment
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