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If Golf is Booming - Why is This Happening

By: | Wed 13 Dec 2023

We are consistently told that club golf is in a really good place and that our sport continues to enjoy a boom. 

That is all well and good and is largely correct but there have been a couple of alarm bells ringing recently.

For starters, there is the news that Renishaw Park Golf Club, near Sheffield, has closed its doors. It is a club that has seen falling membership caused by regular flooding.

The course is more than 110 years old and was built on a flood plain and its landlords say that it is no longer financially viable.

Sheffield Union of Golf Clubs secretary Graham Needham told the BBC: "Over the years it's been a fabulous place to visit. Everything about it is old tradition in golf terms. We all looked forward to going there. In the days when I started it probably had the best greens in Yorkshire.

"It's a great part of history, it's a sad, sad loss. It will be very sadly missed."

Mr Needham said the course, which lies next to the River Rother, had been badly affected by regular flooding in recent years, which had led many members to leave.

Those left pledged almost £20,000 to try to keep it open, but it wasn’t enough to save the day, or the course.

The money "is not sufficient enough to see us through the winter months and present a viable business plan," the club said in an email to its members.

"We are respectfully declining the very kind offers made and will not be using your money to prop up the club for the next couple of months with no future beyond."

A statement from Renishaw Hall & Gardens, which runs the Sitwell Estate where the club is located, said: "The club has been struggling in recent years due to a decline in memberships, together with course issues caused by the increased frequency of flooding, and its operation is no longer sustainable.

"We are working closely with the club on a managed handover and the estate is relieving the club and the trustees of their liabilities."

The flooding issues at Renishaw may well have something to do with climate change. Several other clubs around the country have experienced similar problems.

It has also emerged that the golf course at Dudsbury Golf Club, Hotel & Spa in Dorset is to close next year.

Dudsbury Golf

According to Golf Business, owner Beate Robinson has written to members to explain that while the hotel and spa will continue to function, and will be invested in, the course will close in April amid "extremely unprecedented times."

Robinson said: "It is with great sadness that I have to announce that the golf course only at Dudsbury Golf Club, Hotel & Spa will be closing from 1st April 2024.

"We were recently informed that the lease purchased on the golf course will expire on March 31, 2024 and will not be renewed.

"I would like to confirm that the hotel and spa, bistro, events and the guesthouse will operate as normal but will undergo extensive refurbishments and investment and will continue to provide excellent facilities for the local community to use.

"Dave Braban’s vision when purchasing the club back in 2006, was always “golf for all and not just the few”. I feel I have fulfilled his wishes over the past 18 years during some extremely unprecedented times.

"I would like to express my sincere gratitude to my team who have maintained the course and supported the club throughout our time here.

"I would like to also extend my thanks to our members and patrons who have enjoyed the course over the years."

And earlier in 2023, West Lancashire Borough Council decided to pull the plug on Beacon Park Golf Club.

Announcing the decision, the local authority said it was "pausing" the loss-making facility, a decision which would "present an exciting opportunity to develop the park's facilities and green spaces and to maximise the benefit of the area for all residents of the borough."

It said it would consider future development possibilities for the site which "will be in keeping and complimentary to the beautiful landscape of the park", while offering improved facilities for locals and visitors.

A full consultation is to be made before any plans are progressed and in the meantime the council is reclaiming the cafe building which was also used a clubhouse. 

A minor refurbishment is planned for this as well as improvements to the access road. "The week before Christmas, we got called in for a meeting with Serco and they said they've been told the council had a meeting and voted to close it. So a week before Christmas we're told we're losing our jobs."

It may seem like a pretty gloomy picture but there are lots of positive things going on around the UK. Generally, membership is booming. Some clubs have had to introduce waiting lists and, as you will know, we have seen the reintroduction of joining fees at many golf clubs - this could not happen unless there was sufficient demand among would-be members.

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