Owners’ decision to sell East Lothian club to local famers is met with outrage
THE MEMBERS of Castle Park Golf Club are said to be ‘very disgruntled’ at the closure of the Gifford facility after its owners sold the land off to local farmers.
The East Lothian club shut its doors for the final time at the end of January, following weeks of speculation over its future.
Having initially furiously denied reports that the club was facing a desperate fight for survival, its owners, the Wilson family, informed their 350 members on January 28 that the popular venue would be closing for good just three days later, on January 31.
In an email circulated to the membership, the Wilsons said: “It is with great regret that I have to inform you that Castle Park Golf Course will close for good at the close of play Saturday 31st January 2015.”
They added: “The reasons for this are two fold: Since we announced our impending retirement in early December we have had an unprecedented loss of members and as a result the golf course business will not be viable for 2015.
“We have had offers for the land to revert to farmland and none at all to purchase a golf course. This is not how we intended our ownership of the course to end, but have accepted one of the offers. Clubs throughout the country are seeing drops in membership.
“It has been an absolute pleasure to work with you all for the past nine years and it is with sincere regret that we have to bow out on such a sad note.
“It is better to make a clean break at the end of the golfing year i.e. 31st January 2015 and allow you all time to get fixed up with another club, in good time to get signed up for Spring and Summer competitions.”
That news was met with annoyance amongst the members, with former club champion Tom Rintoul noting that many had been left ‘very disgruntled’ by the news. “The way it has been handled seems very underhand,” he said. “They’ve effectively given us three days’ notice.”
He added he first became concerned for the club’s future at its AGM in December.
“All that Jim talked about was the value of the land, the value of the land, the value of the land. Not once did he mention the value of the golf course. I could see [the closure] happening and tried to convince as many people as I could to join other clubs in the area. Around 20 listened to me but most didn’t.”
Incredibly, Rintoul added that he saw membership fees for the forthcoming season still being taken at the club’s reception desk on Sunday afternoon.
“That struck me as really strange,” he said. “I do not believe for one second they didn’t know then that they were intending to inform people on Wednesday about the closure.”
However, the statement from the club added that all monies would be returned to current members. It said: “We shall shortly return all subscriptions to those who have paid prior to 1st February and we are informing Fairway Credit not to collect any standing orders on 1st February 2015.”
Castle Park became the third course to close in the Lothians in the last 18 months, following the earlier closures of Lothianburn and Torphin Hill. Rutherford Castle, in West Linton, also shut at the start of the year.
These closures, however, are in stark contrast to the current flourishing membership figures currently being enjoyed by Haddington Golf Club. It has reported 120 new members since September, of which 71 are full members. Encouragingly, 48 of those new additions have come from Castle Park, with the potential for more.