Letham Grange Golf Club in Scotland shut down last week after members followed through on a vote to ‘cease to occupy and operate’ the club’s two 18-hole courses.
According to a report in The Courier, the closure brings an end to a long-running legal battle over the ownership of the hotel at the heart of the Arbroath-based venue that stretches back to 2011. The dispute ended last year with the hotel and its two courses returning to Taiwanese owner Peter Liu, whose firm, Letham Grange Development Company, had previously collapsed in 2002. Although the hotel shut in 2004, the daily operation of the golf club fell to the membership and its committee since 2011, without financial assistance from Mr Liu or his various companies.
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 that required it to reverse the declining income trend of recent years. While costs were held in line with the budget, income generation from all sources was down, partly due to adverse summer weather impacting on visitor numbers, while membership had also reduced marginally since 2018, down to just 275, and other initiatives to increase revenue had proved unsuccessful. An updated cash flow forecast was produced in August which indicated the club was likely to run out of money 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”.
He added: “It is 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 have done nothing to assist the continuation of the golf club.”
Club Captain Malcolm Turner added: “We had hoped 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, and take pride in handing them back to the current owners in better condition than when we started.”
Letham Grange’s par-72 Old Course was officially opened in 1987 by Sir Henry Cotton and earned the nickname ‘The Augusta of the North’, while the shorter par-68 Glens Course opened in 1992. It is not known what plans Letham Grange Development Company has for the future of the hotel or the courses.