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Last call for rounds: Golf course set to close down

The trophy room . . . a reminder of past glory. PHOTO/PAM GRAHAM

PAM GRAHAM
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The last putt is about to fall at Featherston Golf Club.

Club members have decided to close the course, which will probably happen in late October.

Club captain Charlie Fairbrother said the membership of about 70 was not enough to sustain it financially.

At a special general meeting a few weeks ago, it was resolved the club would no longer operate the golf course and will sell the assets.

There have been talks with real estate firms about selling the land.

“There are six golf clubs in Wairarapa for not that many golfers anymore.

“The golfing population is ageing. It is very hard to find new young members,” Fairbrother said.

The Times-Age visited the club on Sunday and Peter Gray and son, Jackson Johnson Gray, were rugged up and heading out for their round.

Inside the clubhouse, there were a handful of members.

One member had been the only person playing on the course on Saturday afternoon.

“It is what it is,’’ they said when asked about the closure.

All nodded that Featherston was a country course – you don’t have to book at any time – but said it had been a long time since sheep had been used to keep the grass down. Yet, people always asked them about the darn sheep.

“This has been coming for probably the last 20 years,” Fairbrother said.

The club had tried many things to remain viable.

“We spent three years without a greenkeeper to save money and the work was done by volunteers.

“That kept us going for three years. Now we don’t have enough members to do that, so we’ve had to employ a greenkeeper again,” he said.

That obviously cost money and when membership shrinks, the ability to pay shrinks with it.

The club had a special levy a few years ago.

“That probably gave another year’s worth of life.”

It put up the annual subs to $500 from $400 three years ago but that deterred some people.

The weather was also not the club’s friend.

Wet winters had made winter golfing “real winter golfing”. Even in some spots on fairways, balls have been lost in the bog and grass that was too wet to mow.

“A lot of older members find it a struggle in long grass and they don’t like looking for balls.

“Even the young guys in the winter can lose a ball on the fairway in a few places.”.

None of the above was a deal breaker but, collectively, they added up to people going elsewhere to golf.

The booming property market in the town had brought new residents but not golfers.

The club was formed in 1902 and was originally a nine-hole course at Gun Grove on Western Lake Rd.

In the 1970s, Guy Brandon organised the buying of the land the course is currently on which is why it is called Brandon Park.

That was when it was turned into an 18-hole course. The clubhouse was built using a lot of volunteer labour.

At its height, the club had from 150 to 200 members. Until two years ago, it fielded two interclub teams.

It had a great relationship with the Cosmopolitan Club in Upper Hutt. Their members came over the hill a lot to golf and for tournaments.

“I think they enjoyed after-match,” Fairbrother said.

Featherston was “very much a country club”, he said.

The club also had a relationship with the Wanderers, a club of casual golfers who don’t want a fixed abode. They pay a $99 subscription, and Featherston acts as their home course, paying their NZ Golf and Wellington Golf fees. It gets to keep about $21 per player.

“We have tried a lot of things,” Fairbrother said.

Featherston is talking to clubs in Carterton, Martinborough and Te Marua in Upper Hutt about options for doing something with them.

Golf club membership numbers are declining by about  one to two per cent a year but Carl Fenton at Golf NZ says that’s no longer a relevant measure.

He says there are 80,000 casual golfers registered across the country.

3 COMMENTS

  1. I spent many of my childhood years playing golf at Featherston with my Grandfather (Graham Ward) we would make the trip over the hill from Upper Hutt every Sunday

    Sadly he passed away 10 years ago and with that my connection with the club

    I was thinking to myself today that I should make a trip over for a game and googled the course to find out that it has closed

    Really sad to know that I will never be able to play here again

  2. Feels almost like a death in the family….but well done for hanging on as long as you did. Hope everything goes smoothly, and all the best to all past and current members.
    from Tokyo

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