Thetford Golf Club is here to stay, say officials

Thetford Golf Club has pulled itself back from the brink of closure and officials are adamant it's here to stay. The South Norfolk club has been forced to restructure its business with a key element being how it has managed to re-negotiate its rent agreement with its landlords, the Crown Estate.

'We have struggled. It was a question of whether we would survive this year,' said club spokesman, Alan Ashcroft. 'We have survived. Over the past few years Thetford Golf Club along with numerous golf clubs throughout the country has suffered a reduction in memberships, society bookings and casual fee-paying visitors.

'This has led to the management committee reviewing all aspects of club finance with a view to ensuring the continuation of the club in the future. Detailed negotiations with the clubs' landlords have resulted in a more manageable rent scenario and a review of staffing levels has resulted in savings in the areas of club administration, greenkeeping and professional services.'

Now that the club has put itself on a firmer financial footing it is determined to take a far more professional and modern approach to the way it conducts its business.

'We have had a tremendous September,' added Ashcroft. 'We introduced an online booking system earlier this year. A lot of people, me included, said 'no, we don't want that, it is going to restrict our ability to play when we want to play', but I am converted. It has worked an absolute dream and it has brought a lot of people in. People can go online and book a tee time and know that they don't have to ring the club first.

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'The old story used to be that people would ring up to play and they would be told 'oh yes any time after nine o'clock just come along and pay and queue up on the first tee', which is clearly not a satisfactory way of working.'

The club's problems stem from the fact that it has been haemorrhaging members over the past three years. The playing membership has fallen from 821 in 2007 to 537 this year – a fall of 284.

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The club has, however, set itself a target of attracting 60 new full members before the end of 2013 in a bid to safeguard its future. This can surely only be achieved if they adapt their business model to reflect the times we are living in.

'We still exist, we are going to exist and we have changed our procedures,' said Ashcroft. 'We will see out the year. We have recouped enough to cover our outgoings up until the end of next year 2013. I think the club has to be more open and more inviting and the membership has to be open to the fact that there has to be change,' added Ashcroft.

'I think we have got to change the swing. I think we have to relax the rules on dress, on the course, in the clubhouse. We have got to communicate more with the general public. Golf is not for the elite. It's not all about the course but how you perceive the membership, the clubhouse.'

Club membership is currently available with no waiting list in operation and various memberships are available: Full members (male and female), seniors, military, academy, juniors, county and the Breckland membership, which is suitable for those golfers who cannot play on a regular basis throughout the week. Full details can be obtained from the office on (01842) 752169.

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