Berkshire venue stops being a membership golf club due to Covid-19

Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir July 15, 2020 06:59

A golf club in Berkshire has been so badly hit by Covid-19 that it cannot afford to have members anymore – and will become a pay-and-play venue instead.

While many golf clubs are experiencing a boom due to the demand for golf at the moment, some, such as those with hotels, are currently struggling.

Donnington Valley is a venue with a hotel that attracts weddings and conferences, as well as a golf course which is run as a separate club with members, but that is a model that is not currently viable.

Donnington Valley Golf Course. Image from Facebook

The hotel has not reopened since the country went into lockdown in March.

To add to the golf club’s difficulties, many members did not renew their annual subscription at the beginning of July, and the club had been subsidised by profits its parent company was making elsewhere, which are now non-existent due to the pandemic.

The club says it will review the situation and hopefully formulate a new membership structure by the autumn.

Andrew McKenzie, managing director of The Vineyard Group, which owns both the golf club and the hotel, along with two other hotels and another golf club, has written to Donnington Valley’s members to say his company is under ‘severe threat due to the catastrophic impact on the company’s finances caused by Covid-19’.

‘We have assessed all the options available and have decided that as of July 17, Donnington Valley can no longer run on a membership basis and will revert to exclusively pay and play,’ he wrote.

Donnington Valley Golf Course. Image from Facebook

Members who have pre-paid will receive immediate refunds, with free play extended to August 22 to compensate for the period the club was forced to close.

The letter added: ‘We will review our position over the coming months and investigate all avenues that may enhance golfers’ enjoyment of the facility, including pre-payment with discounted green fees, the ability to offer handicaps and various other options including, potentially, competitions.

‘We aim to conclude this review at the end of September when the full consequences of lockdown are clearer. When the results of this are published, the temporary green fees discount will be discontinued and replaced by any schemes we introduce at that point.

‘I appreciate this will come as a huge shock and disappointment for many of our longstanding and loyal members, but the unprecedented nature of this pandemic and its financial impact, coupled with many members’ reluctance to re-join on the same basis as before, has called for this drastic action.

‘The profitability of the course was compromised pre-Covid due to prices not increasing in line with costs and was being underwritten by the company’s other businesses. The pandemic has badly affected our ability to continue to do this and we needed to try a different model or face the possibility of closing the course.

‘The decision was fast-tracked when many of our existing members decided not to renew their annual subscription at the beginning of July.

Donnington Valley Golf Course. Image from Facebook

‘Our plan is to review our options over the summer and launch a new model in the autumn, but we thought it was only fair to be upfront with our members and offer those that had paid subscriptions a full refund.

‘Members were also upset about missing out on playing time when we were told by the prime minister to close the course, so we are allowing them to play free of charge for the same number of days as they lost. Additionally,  we are offering them up to 33 percent off green fees moving forward.

‘In the meantime, we are hoping for fine weather in the summer that will give new golfers the opportunity to try Donnington Valley Golf Course.’

 

Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir July 15, 2020 06:59
Write a comment

7 Comments

  1. Tony C July 16, 15:13

    You gave to do what you have to do, it’s tough for all of us

    Reply to this comment
  2. Heedmaster July 16, 13:19

    I agree with Peter. My club has a strong membership but also welcomes societies and occasional visitors via GolfNow. There are tensions at times (not least slow play by visitors) but it keeps the golf operation afloat. Several clubs in the Midlands have closed recently so we are thankful that ours remains.

    Reply to this comment
    • Ray Golf July 16, 15:52

      This is the second club that I have heard has gone to pay and play, thus depriving their members of their CONGU handicaps. In both cases “economics” has bee given as the reason with no further explanation. I cannot understand how foregoing a steady income stream, members, supplemented by green fee income, can be less viable than relying on green fees alone?

      Can anybody explain?

      Reply to this comment
  3. Heedmaster July 16, 13:18

    I agree with Peter. My club has a strong membership but also welcomes societies and occasional visitors via GolfNow. There are tensions at times (not least slow play by visitors) but it keeps the golf operation afloat. Several clubs in the Midlands have closed recently so we are thankful that ours remains.

    Reply to this comment
  4. Keith July 16, 11:15

    Is this going to be a sad sign of the times ?

    Reply to this comment
  5. Peter July 15, 18:34

    Tough times, times of crisis have a way of doing that !! Conversions are often a great strategy to stay afloat and survive !! However, in most cases, I prefer a semi-private model. It allows you to retain members under an alternate dues program. it also gives you a headstart if sometime in the future, another conversion, back to private is on the horizon !!

    Reply to this comment
View comments

Write a comment

Your e-mail address will not be published.
Required fields are marked*

Join Our Mailing List


Read the latest issues

Advertise With Us

To advertise in the magazine or online, contact:

Email marketing@thegolfbusiness.co.uk
Tel 020 7803 2453

Twitter Timeline