Your golf club needs you
PUBLISHED: 13:21 14 April 2011 | UPDATED: 12:01 28 February 2013
Golf clubs no longer have the long waiting lists which once gave them a mark of exclusivity. Debbie Graham spoke to members and officials at Herefordshire's oldest to see how they are overcoming the handicaps caused by the recession
Golf clubs no longer have the long waiting lists which once gave them a mark of exclusivity. Debbie Graham spoke to members and officials at Herefordshires oldest to see how they are overcoming the handicaps caused by the recession and changing playing habits
Photography by Antony Thompson
Herefordshire Golf Club, with its 18-hole course set in the beautiful Ravens Causeway, is one of the most picturesque places in the country to play golf, says proud chairman Peter Griffiths.
The club is the countys oldest, formed in 1896 and 115 years later it is still a members club, "run by the members for the members," says Peter. There are paid staff to look after the greens and clubhouse, but all the rules are made by the members.
It moved to its present location in 1932, occupying 138 acres of undulating, rolling countryside, with stunning views over to Wales, Clee Hills and the rest of Shropshire. Its future here was secured when the club bought the premises from the Foxley estate in 1968.
For Peter the appeal is quite simple: "Its situated in a lovely part of Herefordshire. A brochure we have says it is set among unsurpassed, unspoilt, rural splendour, that sums it up for me."
Oldest member Cyril Jones, aged 92, is equally passionate: "Its a superb location, its an excellent golf course, its maintained extremely well. Every hole is different and its one of the most picturesque golf courses you could play at, at a country golf club."
Cyril, who first teed off at Herefordshire more than 50 years ago, was the clubs honouree secretary between 1970 and 1993 and during that time saw considerable changes: "The facilities in the clubhouse are totally different. The clubhouse in the 1970s was very limited. You went from the ground floor to the upstairs by a glorified ladder. In those early days there wasnt even a telephone in the office. In fact you could say there wasnt even a proper office there. It used to be pretty crummy." Forty years later, it is now a luxurious clubhouse with restaurant, bar, changing facilities and shop. It was developed by architect and fellow member, the late Ted Johnson, to make the most of the setting and views, and for Cyril, he definitely succeeded.
"All the public rooms are all upstairs to take advantage of the views. So if you are sitting there having a pot of tea, it is worth the annual subscription just to look out of the windows. Its a marvellous place to be now."
In the 1990s, the club had more than 600 members and a waiting list of over 20 years to join. It was almost impossible to get in, thus was its appeal, but how times have changed. The recession, along with a new breed of golf player, means numbers have reduced to around 500.
"Theres no doubt about it people are having to cut back. Membership has definitely levelled off. Whether people playing golf has levelled off is another matter," says Peter. "In recent years the nomadic golfer has appeared. This is a person who wants to play golf but isnt a member of a golf club, therefore he can play where he chooses."
Julian Parry, the clubs professional, agrees: "Golf has changed dramatically over the past five to 10 years. People are not committing to membership. The majority of people in the age group we want to attract, the 30-40 year olds, do not have 600 to spend on a golf membership. So a lot of people prefer to pay a green fee than join a club."
All of which means potential members are now actively sought and welcomed with open arms. "You can come in straight away now as long as you have got the money," says Julian.
But what do they get for the money?
"Its a super course, every hole is different" says Julian. "We are a friendly bunch of people here. They get good value for money." But perhaps the last word should go to Cyril who says simply, "its an extremely happy place to spend your spare time."
The Herefordshire Golf Club, Ravens Causeway, Wormsley, Hereford, HR4 8LY. Tel: 01432 830465; www.herefordshiregolfclub.co.uk
Brockington Hall Golf Club, Bodenham, HR1 3HX. Tel: 01568 797877. www.brockingtonhall.co.uk
Burghill Valley Golf Club, Tillington Road, Burghill, Hereford, HR4 7RW.
Tel: 01432 760456; www.burghill-valley-golf-club.co.uk
Belmont Lodge Hotel and Golf Course, Ruckhall Lane, Belmont, Hereford, HR2 9SA. Tel: 01432 279739; www.belmont-hereford.co.uk
Kington Golf Club, Bradnor Hill, Kington, HR5 3RE. Tel: 01544 230340; www.kingtongolf.co.uk
Leominster Golf Club, Ford Bridge, Leominster, HR6 0LE. Tel: 01568 610055; www.leominstergolfclub.co.uk
Ross-on-Wye Golf Club, Gorsley, Ross-on-Wye, HR9 7UT.
Tel: 01989 720267; www.therossonwyegolfclub.co.uk
South Herefordshire Golf Club, Twin Lakes, Ross-on-Wye, HR9 7UA. Tel: 01989 780535; www.herefordshiregolf.co.uk