Members of Gloucestershire club take legal action over holes reduction

Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir April 23, 2024 11:16

Several members of a golf club in Gloucestershire have taken legal action against their own venue over a reduction in the number of holes from 18 to nine.

According to The Sunday Times, Naunton Downs Golf Club opened in 1993 and sold 100 debentures, costing £4,500 each, which came with the right to play golf on the course for 50 years.

The course had been 18 holes since it opened but its owner said the venue was no longer financially viable at 18 holes, and reduced it to nine holes in 2023.

Several venues have controversially proposed reducing their number of holes in order to boost their finances in recent years, with, for example, both Teign Valley Golf Club in Devon and Farrington Park Golf Club in Somerset stating this year that they plan to convert from 18 holes to 12.

The paper states that Naunton Downs had been successful for more than 25 years, and was sold to racehorse trainer Ben Pauling and his wife in 2020.

After a participation surge in 2020 and 2021, during which time the new owners invested in the course and clubhouse, the club, reports the paper, started losing members in 2022, and began opening up revenue streams in addition to golf.

‘As the clubhouse was upgraded, golf was downgraded,’ states the paper.

‘The ladies’ changing room was turned into a crèche and the men’s changing room divided in two; three quarters for the men, one quarter for the women.

‘An upmarket shop selling ladies’ dresses and assorted luxury items opened at the clubhouse.

‘Honours boards that had hung on the wall for three decades were removed, the same happened to photos of past captains, and all trophies were removed from the trophy cabinet.

‘At some point a video of the club’s honours boards being burned appeared online. It passed from one member to another until everyone had seen it.

‘And then, on December 30, 2022, there was a notice from the owners to the members explaining that the club would be reduced from an 18-hole to a nine-hole course.’

In 2023, this happened, which led the debenture holders, who had not been consulted on the proposal, to act.

They formed an action group that has raised £150,000 and this has now issued legal proceedings against the Paulings to assert the rights of debenture holders to play on all of the land at Naunton Downs Golf Club.

‘Right now, both parties have been asked by the court to engage in resolution talks. Pauling is adamant that the future for Naunton Downs is as a nine-hole course, the debenture holders and members say it has to be returned to 18 holes,’ writes The Sunday Times. ‘No one sees a simple way out of this.’


Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir April 23, 2024 11:16
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