Get Golfing calls for review of England Golf

Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir April 11, 2023 10:54

The CEO of a charity that runs nine UK golf clubs has called for an independent review to take place before England Golf invests in a new clubhouse at Woodhall Spa.

In 1995 the body that runs amateur golf in England, England Golf, then called the English Golf Union (EGU), bought Woodhall Spa Golf Club for about £8 million and relocated its National Golf Centre headquarters to the club.

Edward Richardson, the CEO of Get Golfing, says there is now a proposal to build a £9 million clubhouse at the club and that an independent review should therefore take place “to assess and measure the impact of Woodhall Spa on the state of amateur golf in England.”

He questioned if a new clubhouse would be the most efficient way for the organisation to spend its income at a time when many clubs are still struggling.

“England Golf were not formed to operate golf venues, their focus was on championships and the development of elite golfers,” he said. “In more recent times they have broadened their remit to managing the health and growth of amateur golf in England.

“The quantum of investment into Woodhall Spa since the acquisition in 1995 and the positive impact that it has had to amateur golf in England needs to be reviewed independently. As we come up to its 30th anniversary I believe it would be in the game’s best interest, and England Golf’s, if their eyes are open to review the contribution that Woodhall Spa makes to the amateur game in England and the role that the affiliation fee plays in the capital expenditure developments at Woodhall Spa.

“I would estimate that more than £20 million has been spent on the acquisition and investment into Woodhall Spa. The proposed third clubhouse would take that to closer to £30 million. I believe we need to independently review this investment and ask ourselves if it is the best way to have invested in amateur golf in England.

“The net benefit to the nation’s affiliated members of a new clubhouse at Woodhall Spa I believe can be recognised as negligible.

“Golf courses around the country continue to close at an unprecedented rate while participation is on the rise, so is it the best use of surpluses from affiliation fees to be channelled to stemming this flow of closures rather than one big clubhouse in Norfolk?

“Soon after Woodhall Spa was acquired by the EGU, they built a clubhouse that the members of Woodhall Spa refused to use. It has then sat empty and other rather flimsy uses have been found for it. This was funded by the affiliation fee, and no one was ever held to account.”

Woodhall Spa. Image from Twitter

Richardson added that England Golf has grown significantly in the last 30 years.

“At the time of acquisition, the EGU employed less than 25 staff and the nation had broadly the same number of golfers as it has now. My understanding is that England Golf now employs circa 125 staff,” he said.

“I am also aware that Woodhall Spa is profit making and has been for a few years now. Looking back at the historical trading numbers, it seems that since about 2010 England Golf have not been subsidising the Woodhall operation.

“The question then leads to whether those profits should be retained within the confines of Woodhall Spa or redistributed back into the grass roots. With England Golf having this asset and it being a cash generator, in my mind it leads to the question as to what should happen with the surpluses, and where is the greatest need. Without having the opportunity to really understand all the issues, my instinct is that an investment of circa £9 million at Woodhall Spa in a clubhouse seems out of kilter with commercial sense.”

He stated that England Golf does carry out important work.

“I recognise the benefit of the facilities for elite coaching and am an advocate of this. Clearly, England Golf should be paying a venue fee to Woodhall Spa for the use of these facilities. The proposed development of the clubhouse will have no impact on the development of elite players.

“I want to stress that I am not opposed to England Golf, nor the affiliation fee or even the proposed clubhouse, but I am afraid I am old enough to know the history and the undertakings made at different stages by England Golf in relation to Woodhall Spa to want to stop and ask for a review – a moment to reflect and account. I also have seen the inner working of the organisation, their influence and impact and, in my opinion, before any further money is spent on Woodhall Spa, the bigger question needs to be asked as to whether there are lessons to be learned from the first 30 years and what the measurement is of its impact on amateur golf in England.

“The context of what is happening at the pit face with the closure of courses at an alarming rate should not be lost on the powers that be at a time when they are discussing investment of this magnitude at a location where practically no affiliated members will ever experience.”

A spokesman for England Golf commented: “In reference to the points raised and comments around the proposed developments at the National Golf Centre, all information is freely accessible and in the public domain, with this in-mind we do not feel it is necessary to provide any response.”


Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir April 11, 2023 10:54
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  1. Golf Week Store July 29, 07:51

    (AI generated). This webpage provides an interesting perspective on the ongoing discussion about the proposed developments at the National Golf Centre. The article highlights the concerns raised by Ed Richardson of Get Golfing and his call for a review of England Golf. The response from England Golf, stating that all information is publicly accessible, might not be perceived as sufficient by some readers.

    It’s intriguing to see the comments section, where various individuals share their opinions on the matter. Some express support for Richardson’s message, while others question his credibility. The remarks about the clubhouse modernization and the allocation of affiliation fees add further dimensions to the discussion.

    Overall, this webpage offers insights into a significant industry topic and stimulates readers to consider different viewpoints. It’s valuable to have a platform where various perspectives can be shared and discussed.

    Reply to this comment
  2. Interested Observer May 16, 21:02

    Whilst his message appears sound and is, I suspect, generally supported throughout the UK golfing fraternity, it’s a bit hypocritical of Ed Richardson, of all people, to question the integrity, efficiency and accountability of EG when he himself spends “Charity” money like confetti and pays no attention to the membership of the clubs that he now represents. Yes, and to his credit, he’s spent millions improving the 10 golf courses now under GG management and has increased the participation in the beautiful game. Although we can only speculate on how much of that was post COVID driven. Nevertheless, he’s probably wasted a fair proportion of those funds through poor management and supervision of works and an inability and unwillingness to listen to any constructive advice. Ask any member at any GG club and they will all tell you that it’s Ed’s way or the highway. So, it’s shear arrogance for him to think that EG should listen to his message, however well-reasoned, when he refuses to apply the same philosophy to his own business dealings. He has an axe to grind with EG over a number of issues but this is appears to be the biggest and most convenient stick to beat them over the head with.

    Reply to this comment
  3. Worried Affiliate. April 20, 16:44

    Very poor response from EG which would lead me to think that there may be something to hide and that they have become a group of untouchables. I will now be taking an interest on how my affiliation fees are being spent and what the governance of EG entails.

    Reply to this comment
  4. Membership Manager April 20, 12:27

    The finances of England Golf and Woodhall Spa as a Golf Club are entirely seperate… It’s hardly like they are spending affiliation fee money on the clubhouse investment. And like all investment, there will be a return. Good on them for helping to modernise Woodhall Spa!

    Reply to this comment
  5. General Manager April 17, 10:44

    For a golf facility so well renowned, the clubhouse is in need of significant modernisation. It has barely changed in 40+ years. Not sure about £30m but it definitely needs major investment if Woodhall Spa is to retain the current ranking and reputation. How any development is funded is another question.

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  6. Tim Taylor April 13, 16:16

    Does Mr Richardson (or anybody else) think this was an adequate response to his perfectly valid and reasonable questions?
    These guys must be either fireproof or delusional. Unlikely they are both.

    A spokesman for England Golf commented: “In reference to the points raised and comments around the proposed developments at the National Golf Centre, all information is freely accessible and in the public domain, with this in-mind we do not feel it is necessary to provide any response.”

    Reply to this comment
  7. McGlone April 13, 13:49

    It isn’t in Norfolk, it is in Lincolnshire.

    £30M on a clubhouse when they already have a decent, functioning one already seems somewhat OTT to an outsider.

    Reply to this comment
  8. Golf Club Manager April 13, 08:50

    Ed’s right. Needs looking at.

    Reply to this comment
  9. MT April 12, 08:33

    A very balanced challenge to the status quo.

    On the surface of it, a £9m clubhouse doesn’t seem to be in the best interests of the wider golfing community that England Golf are funded to represent.

    What is EG’s mission and purpose?

    Reply to this comment
  10. Robin Wilson April 11, 16:36

    A very reasonable viewpoint. Being involved for nearly 2 years as a volunteer within my local golf club I can say hand on heart we have received zero support or input from EG other than to tell us to renew our Safe Golf certification. On the one occasion I’ve called EG at Woodhall I was given no help and told the right people I needed to speak to were ‘all’ on holiday.
    The final paragraph and comments by EG are a clear indication that the good of the game at grassroots isn’t in their priorities

    Reply to this comment
  11. Copsey April 11, 13:12

    Well worth the query. Having been there numerous times, it is fair to say that it is not exactly located for easy or swift access by modern standards.

    Reply to this comment
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