Club member threatens legal action against their own facility – because they can’t play golf

Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir May 2, 2020 06:32 Updated

A member of a golf club has threatened to take legal action against their venue because they have paid for an annual subscription but are not allowed to play the game at the moment due to the coronavirus lockdown.

This has come out in the comments in a survey of 70 UK golf club managers in The Golf Club Secretary newsletter, which also details how many golf club managers have been furloughed.

Both the golf club and the member at the centre of this legal argument are not named.

The anonymous golf club manager said the club ‘has been threatened with legal action by a member for the reason of paying for a service that they are not receiving.’

The survey highlights the issues and the responses golf clubs are having to deal with during the lockdown.

Nearly four in five clubs said they have received requests for rebates from members, with one manager stating: “We have asked people to pay even though there is no golf available. We are likely to look at some kind of extension to next year’s subscriptions, but if this carries on for a few more months this will cause us problems next year.”

The poll also finds that one in ten golf club managers have been furloughed and another one in ten have seen their role come ‘under review’ due to Covid-19.

It also finds that 43 per cent of clubs have not yet offered members any incentives, which is a similar result to a GolfPunk survey a few weeks ago.

Potential member benefits or incentives are under review at 29 per cent of clubs while 22 per cent of clubs have already come up with ways to please or reimburse the membership.

This includes, for example, Fulford Golf Club in York gifting its members with six free visitor green fees if they renewed before the end of March.

Ten of the 75 clubs also reported that golf by non-members was being played whilst two reported members playing on their course despite the UK lockdown measures in place.

In a separate survey of more than 130 clubs in Scotland, reported in The Scotsman, spokesman Kevin Fish said: “In one of the questions, I gave clubs four options, asking in the short term – 2020 only – where they are on the following scale: very concerned, somewhat concerned, somewhat confident, very confident.

“Very concerned is running at 20 per cent, somewhat concerned is 44 per cent. So, we are looking at nearly two thirds of clubs that are very concerned or somewhat concerned.

“Take that beyond a year and ask the same question about the three-year outlook, those figures only drop marginally to 18 per cent and 32 per cent. We are still saying half the clubs in the country are worried about their overall future in a three-year outlook. Even if we take that beyond three years, 16 per cent are still very concerned about their future.

“The smaller clubs, the ones that charge visitors less than £2 per hole ie £36 per round, are the ones reporting a potential mass exodus of members.”

How golf clubs are responding to the financial problems caused by coronavirus will prove crucial in determining their futures.

For example, a golf club that went £220,000 over budget on a drainage scheme last year is applying a one-off levy of £150 on its members, in addition to their annual subscription, to provide financial security during the coronavirus pandemic.

Newmachar Golf Club in Aberdeen’s overspend, which threatened its future in late 2019, could not have come at a worse time, as it was followed by a poor winter and then the lockdown as soon as spring started.

Newmachar Golf Club. Image from Facebook

According to the Evening Express, the club will request a £75 payment from all ordinary, life, honorary and senior members this month, and another £75 in October.

Chairman Gordon Angus told the paper he believes the club will emerge stronger than ever after Covid-19 is over. He and his new committee, which inherited the financial problems, had worked with the club’s bank and introduced innovative plans for the future.

The club has 1,250 members and hopes to raise £150,000 from the levy.

Other levels of membership – including intermediate and five-day – will be asked to pay a slightly smaller fee, and for every optional £25 paid over the £150, the member will receive a guest voucher entitling them to £12.50 off their guest fee.

Gordon said: “The human cost of the Covid-19 pandemic is devastating and something we are all struggling to comprehend.

“It is having a big effect on the way people live their lives, and businesses are no different.

“Like many organisations, particularly those in the leisure industry, we are dealing with something that none of us could have planned for.

“However, it is something we have to deal with, which is why we have been proactive in addressing the potential financial consequences.

“The levy is not something we wanted to introduce, but it’s what we had to do to ensure there is a club when we come out the other end of this.

“While it was not an easy decision to make, we are certain our loyal members who have already rallied round the club in its time of need will do so once again.

“We had a good plan in place before the pandemic hit, and I believe this levy will provide financial stability and the platform to proceed with that plan when the lockdown ends.

“As a management committee, we have been overwhelmed by the levels of support and goodwill over the last few months.

“We have even had members of staff offer to pay the levy when they are under no obligation to do so.

“That epitomises what Newmachar is about, and with the continued support of everyone involved with the club, we will get back on track.

“Like all members, we are desperate to play either of the two fantastic courses we have as soon as possible.

“Hopefully, that will be sooner rather than later.

“However, we will be guided by the government and will only reopen when it is safe.

“By implementing these measures, we are certain golf will get better at Newmachar.”


Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir May 2, 2020 06:32 Updated
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  1. Otbc February 25, 22:12

    I agree with the members club, that’s plain stupidity, however if the club is a Ltd, and has had the funds set their budgets, which they would of done for 2020, their income has already been collected, staff have been furloughed and flexi furlough, so wages have been taken care off, so my question is where has all the money gone, so for me Ltd companies that own golf clubs should pay back or show forbearance towards the hand that feeds them, for I know of a club that has been stripped of all its profits for many a year, now they are being hit and want members to bail them out. So for me its give something back and earn the members loyalty to support in the years to come, as they have been loyal to them in the past.

    Reply to this comment
  2. Sherrod May 6, 14:22

    This example teaches us what to look for in new members and what not to do as existing members of our golf club.

    Reply to this comment
  3. Jonnoj May 6, 08:19

    That’s because they have no running costs though isn’t it? Do you want your golf club to reopen with an overgrown course that will takes months to bring back?
    I think quite a lot of clubs would have gone bust without the loyalty of members.

    Reply to this comment
    • Disillusioned Golfer May 6, 12:51

      so lets let all airlines and hotels and gyms etc keep your money and pay nothing back to ensure they all survive too or is it just your golf club you want to remain – as I said, no morals – thinking of precious green grass over people – sad folk out there…

      Reply to this comment
      • Its just another membership March 31, 14:14

        Exactly, why is a golf club any different, you pay for a service if you don’t receive it why should they keep your money, all these comments are from people who were probably first on the phone trying to get their money back for holidays and flights last year. If you are retired with a pension you are probably better off than you were last year but just because you are doesn’t mean every one is in such a fortunate position. It’s just a membership to some with no particular allegiance to that club, to others it’s there life and an escape from their nagging wives. Let me guess which ones are commenting on here

        Reply to this comment
  4. Disillusioned Golfer May 5, 11:23

    I can understand his frustration here. Some clubs have morals and understand some members are struggling through this crisis and proposing ways to help both the club and the members.
    Some are just being plain ignorant that there are people out there suffering financial hardships – his may be one of those clubs. Not everyone may be financially secure at present, so if they have just paid may be looking for some help back – is that unreasonable?

    Many people are furloughed on less salary and many now unemployed (with no doubt more to follow), while a lot of golf clubs hide behind it’s not in our constitution to give refunds. Governments have re-written the rule books so why cant they.

    We all love golf, but people and members should always come before good looking grass.

    Reply to this comment
  5. Steve H May 4, 16:44

    David Lloyd have suspended fees from beginning of April and looking to also reimburse from 23rd March. Well done.

    Reply to this comment
  6. James A May 3, 19:17

    He has no chance as it’s not a club decision

    Reply to this comment
  7. Brian L May 3, 10:10

    Legal action!!!!! Unbelievable! That’s being ‘REALLY’ supportive of your golf club

    Reply to this comment
  8. Peter May 3, 09:55

    Terrible for the member to be suing in a time of crisis ! However, the club should have a plan, options and the courage to engage and raise awareness !

    Reply to this comment
  9. Leo May 2, 15:41

    Dirt bag. Give that person a refund and show them the door out of club.

    Reply to this comment
  10. Mr T May 2, 14:13

    If it is a member’s club effectively he is trying to sue himself? He’s thought that through hasn’t he?

    Reply to this comment
    • Stangovan May 7, 11:45

      We were advised by our lawyer several years ago that members of a private club can not sue it as they are the club and you can not sue yourself

      Reply to this comment
      • Redders January 5, 15:54

        The decision to close all golf courses was made by the government so if anybody should pay it should be the government especially if you are not a members club and pay 20% vat on top of your fees. I would urge all golf club members to lobby their local MP.

        Reply to this comment
  11. Tim L May 2, 10:16

    What a disgusting thing to do to your golf club. All clubs will, I am sure try to reimburse members for their lost period however it will take a toll in the longer term. Some members will value something like guest passes whereas others will want more of a financial incentive such as an extension of time. Clubs will find this a very delicate balance to achieve and unfortunately just like the economy will be paying this period off for a number of years however better to plan to struggle for a few years than force foreclosure. Good luck everyone in the golf industry, stay well.

    Reply to this comment
    • Gavin May 2, 10:30

      Yes but I think an individual should be able to choose which organisations they wish to support. If the club have an idea in mind..e.g. extend subscriptions then they should make a decision and announce it, so the club member can make an informed decision. Perhaps the club member needs the money to survive.

      Reply to this comment
  12. Martin May 2, 10:01

    In that case, I’m going to sue my local paper shop because I didn’t like what was in today’s Guardian

    Reply to this comment
  13. Phil May 2, 09:57

    Did they demand a refund for lost golf when we had bad winters and it snowed for months. Or did they demand a refund every time the course was closed due to wet weather. I think not !

    Reply to this comment
  14. Frank May 2, 09:31

    A really good club member, I don’t think

    Reply to this comment
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