Members hit out at owners as club closure is confirmed

Letham Grange

Members have approved a proposal to give up the operation of the golf courses at Letham Grange and, subsequently, dissolve the club.

At a general meeting at the Meadowbank Inn in Arbroath last night, members voted by simple majority to cease occupying and operating the golf courses by no later than November 4. The motion to wind up the affairs of the club was passed with the required two-thirds majority.

Since opening in 1987, Letham Grange has been beset by convoluted legal wrangling. Indeed, the many cases and appeals over the ownership of the two courses and its adjoining hotel are reckoned to be among the longest running and complex in Scottish legal history.

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Those issues appeared to finally be settled last year when an agreement was reached between the liquidator of Letham Grange Development Company, which collapsed in 2002, the company’s former Taiwanese owner Peter Liu, and its then owners PI Ltd. The resolution saw Mr Liu regain control over the development’s assets through another of his companies.

However, according to club officials, nothing has been done since then to improve matters. 

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In a statement following last night’s meeting, a club spokesperson said: “When the members decided to take over the operations in spring 2011 following the abrupt closure of the hotel that January, they thought they were doing so in a temporary caretaker role lasting a year or two at most and certainly not until 2019 – the ninth year of operation.

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“The committee at the time assured the members, in taking on these greatly increased responsibilities, the club would not incur any debt or liabilities exceeding its financial resources. This was because of the way the club is structured. 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 what it described as “aspirational” budget for this year to reverse the declining income trend of recent years.

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“Whilst costs so far this year have been held in line with the budget, income generation this year from all sources has been disappointing, partly due to adverse summer weather conditions impacting on visitor numbers,” added the spokesperson. “Membership has also reduced marginally since 2018. Other initiatives to increase revenue, such as international or country membership and joint ticketing with Arbroath Links have proved unsuccessful in their uptake.”

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In August, club officials held a meeting with the owners where they indicated that the club was likely to run out of money at some point in October. However, according to the spokesperson, it “rapidly became apparent” that no financial support could be expected from them, prompting the reluctant decision to wind up the club’s affairs.

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“We have given it our best shot at running the courses over the last nine years, a period that vastly exceeds our initial expectation of a short caretaker role,” said club captain Malcolm Turner. “We still have two excellent courses that meet with unreserved positive responses from those playing them for the first time.

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“However we have to face the reality that in the current marketplace excellent golf courses are not in themselves sufficient to constitute a viable business model without the related off-course quality facilities and services that the modern market expects.

“We had hoped, indeed expected, that the resolution of the ownership dispute would lead to a reduction in uncertainty over the future direction. Getting on for two years later, no meaningful progress is evident. 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.

“We will continue to keep the courses open as long as our financial resources allow.”

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