Report on the status of UK Golf Courses

Another excellent piece from Alan on the current plight of Golf Courses in the UK. 

NEWS ON OTHER GOLF CLUBS.........................................

In November 2014 it was announced

  •   Peover Golf Club in Cheshire has come up with a radical and unique solution to secure its future – it has permanently closed down its economically unviable golf course. The extraordinary development means the golf clubs clubhouse will still operate but the venue will no longer be burdened by the economic costs of having a golf course. The owners of Peover golf club have said the facility will from now on be entirely focussed on generating income via weddings and events.
  • Two major clubs to close this month. Two premier golf clubs, both in the south west of England, are both set to permanently close this month. The plights of Taunton Vale Golf Club and Lostwithiel Golf & Country club suggest that what some have described as an industry recovery has so far had a limited or no impact on a number of venues.
  • Magnolia Park Golf & Country club, in Buckinghamshire is to aggressively expand its business by the end of the year, including providing a hotel, which will result in 70 new jobs.
  • Survey finds struggling clubs are being badly run.
  • 12 major golf clubs sold to foreign buyers in 2014. Wentworth Club, the home of the PGA European Tour, host of the BMW PGA Championship and location for the first ever Ryder Cup was bought by Chinese company Reignwood investments for £135million. Fairmont St Andrews was sold to US property fund Kenedy Wilson for £32.4million. Turnberry golf resort was sold to the American businessman Donald Trump for an undisclosed sum. Portmarnock Hotel and Golf Links near Dublin was sold to Kennedy Wilson for £24.2million and Brehon Capital Partners bought Mount Juliet Resort in Ireland for £12million. Chicago businessman Tony Saliba purchased Lough Erne Resort in Northern Ireland, price not revealed. Two giant global financial institutions, Sankaty Advisors, LLC (Sankaty) and Canyon Capital Advisors LLC (Canyon), bought all six of the golf clubs De Vere owns – Cameron House, Loch Lomond; Dunston Hall, Norwich; Oulton Hall, Leeds; Mottram Hall, Macclesfield; Slaley Hall, Northumberland; and Belton Woods, Grantham.
  • 22 golf clubs put up for sale in the last 13 weeks. Forest Hill Golf & Conference centre in Leicestershire. Fingle Glen Hotel in Exeter. Huntswood Golf Club in Buckinghamshire. Eccleston Park Golf Club in Merseyside. Stockwood Vale Golf Club in Bristol. Windwhistle Golf Club in Somerset. Wirral and West Cheshire councils announced they have put up for sale seven municipal golf clubs: Arrowe Park, Brackenwood, Bebington, The Warrens at Wallasey, Hooton, Knights Grange and Westminster Park. The six De Vere clubs (see above). Waterford Castle Hotel in Ireland. Carden Park Hotel Golf Resort and Spa broke away from the De Vere group after 14 years to become a fully independent venue. Loch Erne Resort in NI.
  • Most golf clubs in Australia are in financial trouble. Golf Australia director of golf development, Cameron Wade, said: “our research tells us that at least 50% of the 1,600 golf clubs in Australia are currently under some level of financial distress.
  • Average age of golfers up a massive 15 years since 2009. The average age of people who play golf regularly in the UK is up an incredible 15 years from 48 to 63 in less than 5 years according to data. A report from the Financial Times, referencing work conducted by Sports Marketing Surveys (SMS INC), states that “in the UK, the average age of golfers is up from 41 in 2009 to 45, whilst that of ‘avid golfers’, those who play at least once a week, is up from 48 to 63 according to SMS INC.


In October 2014 it was announced

  •   Northernden Golf Club in Manchester suffered a terrible fire in October that completely destroyed its clubhouse and threatened to put the venue out of business forever. At least five nearby golf clubs offered Northernden’s members free use of their facilities.
  • Tetney Golf Club to build 27 homes. Tetney GC in Lincolnshire hopes to build 27 homes by its course in order to significantly boost its finances.


In September 2014 it was announced

  •   Tapton Park golf course in Chesterfield has received funding to run a project that will keep elderly people fit and active. The club has teamed up with Derbyshire golf to launch the ‘fifty plus golfing academy’, which is designed to improve the fitness of older people through weekly group coaching sessions over a five week period. For £50 each golfer will receive four one hour group sessions, two one hour lessons on the course and a free made to measure golf club.


In August 2014 it was announced

  •   The deal to secure a 91 year old municipal venue in Liverpool has fallen through. Allerton Golf Course was to be sold by Liverpool City Council after the authority said it could no longer afford to run it.
  • Another golf course is set to lose its protected green belt status, as the cocktail of the UK’s housing shortage and the financial struggles golf courses have faced in recent years continues to bite. Rushcliffe Borough Council has put forward plans for Edwalton Golf Centre in Nottingham to lose its green belt status, with a view to the site possibly being developed.


In July 2014 it was announced

  •   Irish clubs have lost 26% of their members since 2007. More than a quarter of all the adult members of golf clubs in the Republic of Ireland have abandoned their membership since the start of the economic downturn. The country had 229,000 members in 2007, which was made up of 177,000 men and 52,000 women. Today it has just 170,000 members in total.
  • Tom Watson golf course to be built in Surrey.
  • OAP’s have dug trenches for golf club. Leslie golf club, an historic Scottish golf club has clear demonstration of how the financial pressures have hit the industry in the last few years – by ‘employing’ 50 members to dig a drainage trench using shovels, Some of the ‘workers’ include old age pensioners.


In June 2014 it was announced

  •  New golf course opens in Scotland – Maverston Golf Course, located near Aberdeen offers full membership for less than £300 and even sells 10 year packages for less than £2,000 while green fees are £20 per round.
  • Newton Stewart GC in Scotland is a Private Members golf club that was on the brink of being closed down less than 2 years ago is now posting good results following a series of changes.
  • The controversial Garnant GC, which entered liquidation earlier this year despite receiving £160,000 of taxpayer funded money, has been saved by its members.
  • De Vere to sell all 6 of its UK golf resorts, Cameron House in Loch Lomond, Mottram Hall in Cheshire, Slaley Hall in Northumberland, Dunston Hall near Ipswich, Belton Woods in Lincolnshire and Oulton Hall near Leeds. The 6 clubs together are expected to fetch about £160 million.
  • The 104 year old Western Park GC and Humberstone Heights GC both in Leicestershire and Tamworth GC in Staffordshire all Council owned are set to close.


In May 2014 it was announced:-

  • North Worcestershire GC is to be turned into at least 800 properties. About 80% of North Worcestershire’s shareholders agreed the move after the club suffered financial problems caused by declining membership. The club, which has lost nearly half of its members in the last decade, is said to have made a loss of £130,000 last year and has seen a 34% decline in adult male membership in the last 12 months alone.
  • Keele Golf Centre in Stoke has been earmarked for development. All or part of Keele has been earmarked to be turned into housing. The club closed on Christmas Eve 2013, due to poor weather, but has not reopened because a deal to hand control of it from its local council to a company fronted by Ian Woosnam collapsed in January.
  • Participation in golf has dipped below 3.5 million golfers for the first time in the last 10 years. According to a survey by SMS INC, Britain lost 150,000 golfers in 2013.


In April 2014 it was announced:-

  • Two golf club burglars who stole more than £750,000 worth of equipment from the lockers of more than 60 golf clubs in 17 counties have been jailed for a total of 8 years.
  • Bradley Park GC in Yorkshire has been handed over to charitable trust Kirklees Active Leisure (KAL) after nearly 37 years of being owned and run by Kirklees Council.
  • Tamworth Borough Council has announced that Tamworth GC will close next year. The club which has 230 members and about 200 other visitors is running at an estimated £100,000 loss per year and will be subsidised to the tune of £142,000 in 2014.


In March 2014 it was announced:-

  • Members of a prestigious golf club have agreed to close their course down so that it can be converted into a housing estate. Royal Norwich GC is now set to merge with Weston Park GC, based 7 miles away, following an historic vote where more than 80% of the club members voted to move.
  • A jungle themed adventure golf course has opened at a golf venue in Norfolk – the latest adventure golf course to be built to attract more children to the game. Congo Rapids adventure golf has opened at Norwich Family golf centre.
  • JCB (based in Staffordshire) are to build a £30 million ‘world class’ golf course which will be used to develop relationships with customers and dealers, due to be completed in 2018.


In February 2014 it was announced:-

  • Garnant GC in Wales went into liquidation and has closed down.
  • Belmont GC in Herefordshire announced it is to close down at the beginning of March 2014 following years of difficult trading.
  • Doonbeg GC in Ireland, a Greg Norman designed course has had receivers appointed to it, it will continue trading as normal.
  • Ashby Decoy GC in Scunthorpe has agreed a deal with Persimmon Homes to sell off five acres of surplus land which will be converted into 71 properties.
  • Brixhampton Court golf complex in Gloucestershire is planning to give up four holes from its main course to be converted into housing.
  • Blue Mountain Golf and Conference centre and Maidenhead GC are set to be closed down so that they can be converted into housing developments.

In January 2014 it was announced:-

  • Woodham GC in Durham has gone into liquidation and has closed down.
  • Mount Oswald GC in Durham closed down at the end of December 2013, the venue will be converted into buildings for housing and student accommodation.
  • Torphin Hill GC in Edinburgh needs a £20k cash injection to survive. The problem has come about because its membership has dropped from 500 to 200.
  • Pryors Hayes GC in Cheshire has entered administration and is still operating as a golf club.
  • Reaseheath College golf course in Cheshire is to close and be converted into student accommodation.
  • Seckford GC in Suffolk an example of the mixed financial fortunes of some venues. The club is thriving, with a growing membership, but it has entered administration because its members acquired a commercial company, Golf G.B. in 2008, which has been unable to service historic debt. It continues to trade.


In December 2013 it was announced:-

  • Ruislip GC (Middlesex) and Uxbridge GC (Middlesex) have stated that both golf venues will close when the new HS2 is built.

In November 2013 it was announced:-

  • UK’s most exclusive golf club is to open – St Andrews International Golf Club.

An exclusive golf club with £200.000 joining fees aimed at super rich foreigners is set to open at St Andrews in less than 3 years time. It will be the only private members club at the ‘home of golf’. Membership will be by invitation only and targeted at wealthy people internationally. Joining fees will range from £75,000 to £200,000 depending on one of the two types of membership available, with annual subscriptions of approximately £5,000.

  • Lothianburn GC in Scotland has been closed down after its membership dropped from more than 820 to 270 in the last nine years.
  • Inchmarlo GC in Aberdeenshire was placed into liquidation earlier this year.
  • Whitemoss GC in Perthshire, Letham Grange GC in Angus and Craibstone GC in Aberdeen all closed between 2010 and 2011.
  • Three struggling golf courses have reported a sharp improvement in their financial performances

o   Portishead golf course in Somerset – a closed course that has reopened after its local council found someone prepared to take the course on and invest in it.

o   Oadby golf course (Leicestershire), which closed down in 2012 following huge losses over several years, now hopes to reopen.

o   Milford Haven GC in Wales, which in 2012 was on the verge of being shut down as it owed debts of £600,000. It is now reporting that its finances are far more healthier.

In October 2013 it was announced:-

  • Cambridge GC has closed down and will be converted into a new town’s housing estate. At least 1500 homes will be on the former golf course.

In September 2013 it was announced:-

  • Wimbledon champion’s Andy Murray’s mother, Judy Murray, has teamed up with Colin Montgomery to announce that a purpose built tennis and golf centre is to be built in Scotland between Dunblane and Bridge of Allan.

In August 2013 it was announced:-

  • Four clubs have been put up for sale.......

o   South Weald GC in Essex controversially closed in 2012, when it was called Weald Park GC, it has reopened as a pay and play venue, cost is £1.75m.

o   Northop Golf and Country Park in Wales announced that it wants to sell the 20 year old Flintshire golf club designed by former Ryder Cup player, John Jacobs.

o   Waldringfield Golf Course in Suffolk, 30 years old, is offered with vacant possession at a guide price of £1.25m.

o   Grange and Links hotel in Sandilands is being marketed by Christie & Co for £1.75m

  • Hawick GC in Scotland announced an immediate 13.5% increase on membership subscriptions to address a financial shortfall. The club’s full membership has dropped from more than 300 to just 114 in the last 10 years, and is on course to make a loss of more than £20,000 for 2013.

In June 2013 it was announced:-

  • Four clubs saved from going under.........

o   Redhill and Reigate GC in Surrey is one of the world’s oldest private members clubs, but it has agreed to convert to proprietary ownership. Members of the 126 year old venue are selling the club, which was on the verge of folding, to a consortium led by a golf professional.

o   Tamworth golf course, Staffordshire, and Keele golf course, Staffordshire, were both run by Jack Barker Golf Company, which entered liquidation in February 2013. Tamworth closed down in February 2013, but it has reopened because Tamworth Borough Council, which owns the land it is situated on, has agreed to manage the venue for the next two years. Keele Golf Course stayed open in the days following Jack Barker’s fall, but the venue had made eight employees redundant. Its local authority, Newcastle Borough Council, has also taken control of the site and has pledged to keep it open until it sells it.

o   Tynedale GC in Northumberland is a 105 year old municipal venue that its local council was going to cut funding to. However, the club agreed a deal with councillors regarding the purchase of course machinery.

  • A golf club that used to donate all its profits to a charity has been closed down after its membership dropped to just 50 people. Fairthorne Manor Golf Club in Hampshire, which was opened in the early 1970’s, did have some 250 members in the 1990’s. The course was cut from 18 holes to 9 holes in 2012 in a bid to cut costs. It will now revert to its original use as a campsite for young people.


In May 2013 it was announced:-

  • Blarney Golf Resort – Ireland is up for sale.
  • Limerick County Golf and Country Club – Ireland is closing down.
  • Now Killarney Golf and Fishing Club - Ireland, which hosted the Irish Open in 2010 and 2011, has revealed that it has made 21 of its 41 members of staff redundant.
  • Two golf clubs mergers have been approved.........

o   The members of Newbury & Crookham GC in Berkshire have approved plans to operate the golfing facilities at nearby Newbury Racecourse Golf Club.

o   Stressholme Golf Course (municipal) in Darlington is to be sold to Blackwell Grange Golf Club (Private Members’).