Another historic Scottish golf course closes down

Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir August 21, 2019 09:00

Mount Ellen Golf Club in Lanarkshire has become at least the fourth Scottish golf club to close in the last few months.

The venue was formed in 1904 and closed this weekend with a spokesperson saying the membership is “devastated” and in a “state of shock” as the club finally succumbed to financial pressures.

He said: “Unfortunately, Mount Ellen Golf Club is closing its doors. We’ve had the same problem as a number of golf clubs. Membership numbers have fallen over the years and it has come harder and harder.

“Basically, we are not bringing in enough money to cover our costs to be able to continue.

“In total, the membership was round about 300, but, out of that, we only had 196 paying full fees.

“We had seniors, juniors, associates and flexible memberships as well. If we had 300 full paying members, I think it would be a different story.

“Listen, I am in the golf club today and it’s like being at a funeral. The place is really busy and everybody is in a state of shock. It has just happened so quickly and we are devastated, absolutely devastated.”

“We’ve tried so many different things,” said another club spokesman. “We’ve worked our socks off here for the last three or four years. We had a forward planning group and that brought in some members and doubled the junior membership. We’ve put out something like 3,500 flyers into the new houses to encourage people to join the golf club. We’ve done everything we can, but we have no more options. It really is frustrating and heartbreaking.”

Former PGA CEO Sandy Jones, who was a junior member at Mount Ellen, told The Scotsman: “I felt really sad when I heard the news. Mount Ellen is always going to be special in my mind for what it was. It was very much a community golf course.

“It was the steel works that provided the golf course and, when I was growing up, everywhere was vibrant. The guys would come down to the club from the steel works and change out of their overalls into their golf gear. The bank manager would also arrive, get changed and they’d play golf together. You knew everybody.

“Nowadays, though, people seem to know everybody on Facebook and, therefore, the golf club isn’t the centre of the community any more, which is a real shame. And loyalty is not a word that is used any more. The whole culture of playing golf has changed. People don’t need membership now because you can look on your phone, see where a tee time is available and book it.”

Having opened a new clubhouse at Mount Ellen in 2009, Paul Lawrie shares Jones’ sadness about the closure but, at the same time, offered a realistic summing up of the current situation regarding clubs in Scotland.

“I’m sorry for all the clubs that are going, we all are, but does it pose the question ‘do we have too many?’” he said. “You don’t want to see clubs going, but we have a pile of courses that people don’t need any more as people are not playing enough golf.

“They are a member at one club as opposed to two like they used to be. All the public courses are under threat, too. You don’t want that as those are the ones people can afford to play.”

This year the 126-year-old Eastwood Golf Club on the outskirts of Glasgow also closed down, and so did Brunston Castle in Ayrshire, while Carrick Knowe in Edinburgh closed at the end of last year. Camperdown GC in Dundee will also be closed by the city council in a cost-cutting measure next year.

A number of Scottish golf clubs are seeking planning permission to build homes on their land at the moment – The Golf Business will be covering this in more detail shortly.


Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir August 21, 2019 09:00
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  1. Douglas August 24, 01:19

    Returned to Mount Ellen five days after closure – flags missing; opening of new clubhouse plaque gone; tee plaques gone and red signs warning that the course was no longer maintained. A solitary golfer was playing a few holes – fairway grass growth starting to become noticeable though greens still putting well. Drive 90 minutes east towards Elie and the huge new Dunbarnie Links project, where no less than fourteen greens staff are said to be working, is taking shape. No memberships here just a three figure sum for golf per round. Scotland is being colonised by big golfing projects at the expense of local golf and what are the golfing authorities doing to help/safeguard local community clubs? – very little it seems.

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  2. Pete August 22, 14:57

    You refused to economize, now you must agonize with the loss of another facility. When will you learn that the standard golf game takes to long in and is to big for today’s world… so reduce it to a size that is more accommodating.
    Who wants to be out on the golf course all day anymore, obviously fewer people.

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  3. Pedro August 21, 11:40

    Golfing authorities did very very little for 25 years to help the game, now they are trying every quick fix going.

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  4. Douglas August 21, 11:25

    Visited on Sunday afternoon during heavy rain showers. Made to feel very welcome by members and enjoyed a game with a past captain. A good mix of holes and the opportunity to open your shoulders at some. The par 11th is excellent. Hugely worrying that golf at local level is struggling so much while visitors seem prepared to pay silly money at so-called big name courses.

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  5. Adrian August 19, 15:08

    Grim news! Poor weather, group on deals, discount website tee times, cheap paying culture and attitudes of too expensive along with poor economy and hey presto ‘the end’. Follows the traditions of ‘race to the bottom’. A dying sport in Scotland.

    Reply to this comment
  6. Brian August 19, 12:03

    A nice modern looking golf clubhouse as well, pity

    Reply to this comment
  7. BrianM49 August 18, 19:57

    I’ve been a member of Mount Ellen for 35 years and we have always had cash flow problems but closing the doors was unthinkable until a couple of years ago.
    Unfortunately this is just a sign of the times and I’m afraid that the ultimate result will be that golf will become what it used to be. A sport that only the rich can afford.
    The working man’s golf club will be a thing of the past.

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