Two courses at an Angus golf club, once tagged the “Augusta of the North”, will close before the end of the year.
Members of Letham Grange Golf Club voted to cease to occupy and operate the courses no later than November 4 and disband their much-loved club, which was passed with the required two thirds majority.
The committee has maintained and operated the Old Course and the Glens Course since spring 2011 against the backdrop of a long-running legal wrangle over the ownership of the hotel at the heart of the estate.
The dispute ended last year with the hotel and courses returning to Taiwanese owner Peter Liu, whose firm Letham Grange Development Company had previously collapsed in 2002.
Bruce Currie, honorary secretary, said the committee at the time assured the members the club, in taking on these greatly increased responsibilities, “would not incur any debt or liabilities exceeding its financial resources”.
He said: “Letham Grange Golf Club is an unincorporated association, which means that the club has no corporate or legal identity of its own.
“Each member is therefore potentially liable both individually and collectively for the entirety of the club’s debts without limitation.
“As the years have progressed, this is an assurance that has become increasingly difficult to honour, but it must be honoured.”
Faced this year with a number of “unavoidable cost increases”, the club set a budget for 2019 which required it to reverse the declining income trend of recent years.
While costs so far this year have been held in line with the budget, income generation from all sources was “disappointing”, partly due to adverse summer weather conditions impacting on visitor numbers.
Membership has also reduced marginally since 2018 and other initiatives to increase revenue have proved unsuccessful.
An updated cash flow forecast was produced in mid-August which indicated the club was likely to run out of money at some point during October and well before the end of the season in February 2020.
The committee did not expect members to fund this deficit and Mr Currie said it “rapidly became apparent” that “no financial support could be expected from the owners”.
Mr Currie said the owners believe they are granting the club a favour by “allowing the members to play on their courses rent-free, and seem to place no store by the benefit of the members’ presence”.
He said: “It is indeed a strange situation in that the owners had fought so hard for 16 years to regain control of Letham Grange Hotel and golf courses and then appear to have done nothing to assist the continuation of the golf club.”
Captain Malcolm Turner said: “We had hoped, indeed expected, that the resolution of the ownership dispute would lead to a reduction in uncertainty over the future direction.
“We have significantly improved the courses over time especially in respect of drainage and keeping them open during and after adverse weather, and take pride in handing them back to the current owners in better condition than when we started.”
Several attempts to contact Mr Liu were unsuccessful.
Opened in 1987 by Sir Henry Cotton, Golf Monthly once bracketed Letham Grange alongside Augusta National, the home of the US Masters.