‘Day of doom’ as golf clubs close down16th January, 2014 by Alistair Dunsmuir
Two major UK and Ireland golf clubs closed down and a third was placed into receivership within the same 24-hour period this week, in what has been described as a ‘day of doom’ for the industry.
Several golf clubs have gone under in the last few years but it is thought that this was the worst day in British golf club history.
Garnant Golf Club in Wales went into liquidation, Belmont Golf Club in Herefordshire announced it is to close down and Doonbeg Golf Club in Ireland had receivers appointed to it all between January 13 and 14.
Garnant’s closure controversially comes just days after a £160,000 taxpayer subsidy came to an end – which has led to one politician calling for an inquiry to be launched.
Carmarthenshire Council paid Clay’s Golf £160,000 to run Garnant Golf Club for two years from late 2011 in order to keep it open, in a move that was criticised by politicians and neighbouring golf clubs.
This week Steve Williams, managing director of Clay’s Golf, wrote on Garnant’s website that the club ran out of money. “Garnant Golf Club has now effectively gone into liquidation,” he wrote. “I am not going to try and explain myself with the complexity of the operation of the golf club, only that we tried all ways to keep the club operational but unfortunately ran out of cash.
“For everyone’s benefit we also pumped a great deal of our own cash into this project, I wish everyone the best for the future and hope that one day you can understand that we were unable to carry this any further.”
Rhodri Glyn Thomas, Plaid Cymru AM for Carmarthen East and Dinefwr, said an inquiry now needs to be launched about the £160,000 payment.
“We have to ask who authorised this expenditure, why, what conditions were placed upon this company and why the council wasn’t aware of the fact this company was in financial difficulties,” he said.
“This is public money and there is a responsibility on the local authority to use that money responsibly, but as well as that, the local people have now lost this facility that was very important to the Amman valley.”
A spokesman for Carmarthenshire Council suggested that the closure had come as a surprise.
“We have concerns regarding the situation especially as Clay’s Golf has not been in touch with us to see if there is a way out of their difficulties,” he said.
“We cannot comment further until we have spoken to the company directly and ascertained their position.”
At the same time, Belmont Golf Club’s operator, Golf Inns, announced that the club was going to close following years of difficult trading. It will officially be shut down in six weeks’ time.
A statement on the club’s website said: “We regret to confirm that Belmont Golf Course will be closing permanently on March 1, 2014.
“The closure comes as a result of many years of difficult trading. Despite significant investment and effort we have been unable to turn the business around and whilst this has been a difficult decision, the current situation is unsustainable.
“We’d like to take this opportunity to thank staff, members, visitors and suppliers for their support at Belmont over the years.”
A local golfer said the clubhouse roof was in need of repair but the club did not have the funds to pay for it.
And the Greg Norman designed Doonbeg Golf Club has had receivers appointed to it.
“Its facilities are recognised as one of the premier golf and leisure destinations in Ireland and Europe,” said one of the receivers.
“Doonbeg Golf Club will continue to trade as normal with all employment being maintained and suppliers being retained. Additionally, there will be no change in the status of members of Doonbeg Golf Club.
“There will be no disruption to services as a result of the appointment, events booked will go ahead as scheduled, and all deposits and gift vouchers will be honoured.”
An industry insider said what had happened to the three clubs was evidence that many clubs are still struggling, despite the recovery.
“The recovery is too little, too late for many clubs,” he said.
“These three clubs are all significant venues; proof that closure can happen to any club that doesn’t give customers what they want.
“We’ve seen a day of doom for the industry this week – I’ve never known two major clubs to go in one day before, let alone two closing and a third entering receivership.”