Charity terminates lease of club less than a year after acquiring it

Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir January 22, 2021 12:55

A charity that took over the running of a Surrey golf club just last summer has terminated its lease and said the club has been ‘burdened by a commercially unrealistic rent’.

Get Golfing, a charity that seeks to increase participation in golf, acquired Oak Park Golf Club last year, along with five other golf clubs from Crown Golf.

However, the charity and the club’s landlords have failed to renegotiate the last four years of the lease.

“With great reluctance, Get Golfing has exercised its right to terminate its lease of Oak Park Golf Club after failing to renegotiate its terms with the landlords,” reads a statement on the golf club’s website.

“Oak Park was acquired in 2020 as part of a package of six clubs from previous owner Crown Golf. A loss-making site, Get Golfing took it on knowing that it had received little-to-no investment over the years and was burdened by a commercially unrealistic rent.

“It was hoped that the remaining four-year lease could be reworked to put the business on a stable financial footing, reflecting its current income and allowing Get Golfing to direct much-needed investment funds into the course and clubhouse.

“Get Golfing had begun that process, repainting parts of the clubhouse and repairing the car park as well as drawing up a major drainage plan to transform the 18-hole main course and the nine-hole Village course. Traditionally, both were so wet in winter that golf was unplayable for much of the time. Get Golfing had also paid its first-quarter 2021 rent on December 24, believing that the lease talks would reach agreement.

Oak Park Golf Club. Image from Facebook

“As is their right, however, the landlords rejected Get Golfing’s proposal. This left Get Golfing with no alternative but to exercise its right to terminate the lease.”

The option to surrender was triggered by the government lockdown in November, which closed the course, and was covered in the original lease agreement that Get Golfing acquired from Crown last summer, states the charity.

“As a charity, we cannot knowingly operate a site that we know will lose money. At no time has it ever been our intention to walk away from Oak Park but, unfortunately, we have been unable to find a suitable compromise and so we are vacating the site,” Get Golfing CEO Edward Richardson said.

The club’s website

 

“No member will be left out of pocket by our decision. Refunds of subscriptions — including all the period that the club was closed — will be made to them without delay. We are keenly aware that the closure of Oak Park could cause huge upheaval to its members’ golfing and social lives, particularly at a time when we all need the companionship of our friends. In light of this, we have offered all members the option to join nearby Sherfield Oaks (near Basingstoke) at the same rate they paid at Oak Park in year one. If that is not convenient, we can also offer the opportunity to upgrade to membership at Pyrford GC (Wisley).

“We have begun the process of major improvements to both clubs. Our investment in Sherfield has seen a complete clubhouse renovation programme that is due to open on March 30. The course too has commenced a comprehensive five-year remodelling programme. Pyrford has already seen many of its lake banks renovated and all the bunkers will have been remodelled by mid-summer 2021.

“We are genuinely sad that we could not have played a significant role in the future of Oak Park. However, when our first lockdown at Oak Park took place in November – the previous lockdown was under Crown – and the opportunity arose to vacate the property early, when a new lease on realistic terms was not forthcoming, we really had no choice.”

Get Golfing, which operates seven sites in total, is actively looking for more sites to help reach its stated aim of creating greater participation in golf in order to deliver a positive impact on the physical and mental health of those who play.

In addition to Sherfield Oaks and Pyrford, the charity operates Redlibbets in Kent, Warley Park in Essex, Surrey’s Hampton Court Palace, Hertfordshire’s Mill Green and The Bristol Golf Club in Gloucestershire.

 

Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir January 22, 2021 12:55
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