The owners of Wentworth have introduced changes to the club’s governance that could see members THROWN OUT for criticising them in public.
According to a story on FT.com, Reignwood, a Chinese conglomerate which bought the club almost three years ago, is threatening expulsion upon any member whose comments “on social media, the internet or in any newspaper or magazine article” are considered by the management team to be “injurious to the character or interest of the club”.
Furthermore, the club’s committee has been replaced by a “membership panel”, appointed by owner Chanchai Ruayrungruang. This, it is thought, will reduce the opportunity for members to have any influence in the day-to-day running of the club.
These are the latest development in a long-running feud between the club’s owner and its membership since Reignwood bought the property for a reported £135m in 2014.
Initial plans to reduce the 4,000-strong membership by more than 75% and introduce a one-off joining fee of £100,000 were abandoned after fierce opposition. That, however, has not prevented Reignwood from raising fees by 75% for an adult, which it said was to offset the cost of investing heavily in on and off-course improvements.
Membership has reportedly declined by 40% in the past two years.
News of the latest club controversy comes just week after it staged the most recent edition of the BMW PGA Championship, won by Sweden’s Alex Noren (above).
A Wentworth spokesperson said: "The new club rules are not materially dissimilar to the rules in place under the previous owner of the club.
"One rule has been amended to include express reference to current forms of media; as before the club wishes for member complaints to be handled through the established internal channels, committees and consultative forums at the club, rather than through the media.
"This rule is in common with equivalent rules at other private member clubs."