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UK Golf Clubs Report Stunning Rise in New Members

By: | Thu 25 Jun 2020 | Comments

WITH so many golf clubs reporting increases in membership it would be all too easy to believe that all is now well once again in the world of club golf, but a cautionary tale emerges from The Herefordshire, a private members’ club that has voted to dissolve itself in the hope of finding a buyer who can turn things around.

During the lockdown, members called an extraordinary general meeting, during which they voted to dissolve the club. It is now on the market with a guide price of between £1m and £1.25m, but obviously there are no guarantees.

The club’s marketing pack says: "Inconsistent management and lack of investment over time have brought challenging financial circumstances in recent years, which have only been partially addressed by the club’s newly appointed executive committee. Thus, following a club EGM in April 2020, at which the members voted to dissolve the club, the opportunity now exists to shape the next chapter of The Herefordshire Golf Club’s history.

"A purchaser is sought for the property, specifically one who will undertake to preserve the future of the club, and to invest in the facilities, for the benefit of all."

First established in 1896, The Herefordshire, which was designed by James Braid, is the oldest golf club in Herefordshire, and moved to its current location in 1932. It had been scheduled to host the Midlands Mid-Amateur Championship in May..

"The Herefordshire Golf Club operates as a true private member’s club facility," adds the marketing brochure. "Offers that meet the club’s objectives are invited for the property, based on a guide price of £1.0 – £1.25 million. All options for the disposal of the property will be considered, including an outright sale, joint venture, sale and leaseback and so on, albeit that a sale of the freehold, along with the promise of capital investment, is seen as the most likely scenario to secure the club’s long term future."

Elsewhere, reports continue to emerge of golf clubs being swamped with new members, and there are some astonishing success stories brought about by the spike in interest in golf since the game reopened for business. 

Perhaps the most remarkable of all is Braes Golf Centre in Falkirk. Last year it seemed certain to close but since October it has attracted almost 300 new members, which coincides with a change of name. It used to be called Polmont Golf Club.

“The number of members the club had was down to 88 when the new owners took over and we are currently approaching 400,” said Richard McLuckie, general manager. “In the last month alone, we’ve taken on 270 new members, including 30 juniors, having not had any juniors at all.

“It’s been kind of crazy. As Polmont Golf Club, it was gone. It was finished until Steve Matthews took the gamble on taking it over and, all of a sudden, it has come back from the dead, absolutely. We got a wee bit lucky in terms of coming out of lockdown and finding that people were looking for activities right away and golf seemed to get the big hit. But it’s been reborn, no doubt whatsoever.

“It’s always been a community club and a lot of people are returning to the club, which is down to what we’ve done over the last three months. We’ve totally redeveloped the course and they are saying, ‘crikey, we’ve got a golf course again’.

“It is a great story. Not just for the Braes but every golf club in the surrounding area. If we get kids and women playing, they might not stay at the Braes, but they will go somewhere else. Other golf clubs in the area may benefit from us having lots of ladies and juniors playing golf as that’s where the future of the game lies.”

The new owners are redeveloping the course - there will be new tees and bunkers and the greens are to be reshaped. West Lothian Golf Club has welcomed more than 50 new members this month alone. “Under normal circumstances it would be one, two or three new people joining,” said West Lothian captain Pete Cowen.“Some of the new members are returning members and some are taking up golf for the first time, within a complete cross section of age groups.

“In the short term we are getting the economic benefit of golf being one of the sports to return since lockdown was eased and we hope it continues. It’s been challenging and we’re glad to be golfing again. We’ve had lots of positive feedback from members.”

There are success stories all over the UK, with Wortley Golf Club attracting 72 new members in May and Hillsborough Golf Club in Sheffield attracting 32. So, in the main, golf appears to still be enjoying an uplift but The Herefordshire reminds us all that not everything in golf’s garden is quite as rosy as it may seem.

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