Donnington Valley ceases to be a Golf Club – from “Newbury Today” dated 8th July 2020

DONNINGTON Valley Golf Club is scrapping its membership scheme to become a ‘pay and play’ venue.

Company chiefs blame the coronavirus crisis for costing the parent business millions of pounds in revenue.

Consequently they say they are no longer able to prop up the club’s finances with cash from hotel guests and corporate events.

The managing director of parent company The Vineyard Group, Andrew McKenzie, said in a letter to club members: “Due to the catastrophic impact on the company’s finances caused by Covid-19, the owners and directors of the company have decided they are no longer able to provide that support in the future.

“Their focus has to be on preserving the future of the overall business and its workforce, which is under severe threat.”

Company flagship The Vineyard hotel and spa is currently open on a part-time basis, while the Donnington Valley Hotel remains closed.

Mr McKenzie continued: “We have assessed all the options available and have decided that as of July 17, Donnington Valley can no longer run on a membership basis and will revert to exclusively pay and play.”

Members who have pre-paid will receive immediate refunds, with free play extended to August 22 to compensate for the period the club was forced to close.

The letter added: “We will review our position over the coming months and investigate all avenues that may enhance golfers’ enjoyment of the facility, including pre-payment with discounted green fees, the ability to offer handicaps and various other options including, potentially, competitions.

“We aim to conclude this review at the end of September when the full consequences of lockdown are clearer.

“When the results of this are published, the temporary green fees discount will be discontinued and replaced by any schemes we introduce at that point.”

The letter concluded: “I appreciate this will come as a huge shock and disappointment for many of our longstanding and loyal members, but the unprecedented nature of this pandemic and its financial impact, coupled with many members’ reluctance to re-join on the same basis as before, has called for this drastic action.”

Mr McKenzie added: “It’s a very sad day as many golfers have been loyal members here for a very long time and will miss the social and competitive nature of club golf.

“The profitability of the course was compromised pre-Covid due to prices not increasing in line with costs and was being underwritten by the company’s other businesses.

“The pandemic has badly affected our ability to continue to do this and we needed to try a different model or face the possibility of closing the course.

“The decision was fast-tracked when many of our existing members decided not to renew their annual subscription at the beginning of July.

“Our plan is to review our options over the summer and launch a new model in the autumn, but we thought it was only fair to be upfront with our members and offer those that had paid subscriptions a full refund.

“Members were also upset about missing out on playing time when we were told by the Prime Minister to close the course, so we are allowing them to play free of charge for the same number of days as they lost.

“Additionally,  we are offering them up to 33 per cent off green fees moving forward.

“In the meantime, we are hoping for fine weather in the summer that will give new golfers the opportunity to try Donnington Valley Golf Course.”