Golfers ‘gutted’ after popular Reymerston club shuts

Members of a popular mid Norfolk golf club were 'gutted' after they played their final round at the course which closed for good today.

Last month, the Dereham Times reported the Norfolk Golf and Country Club (NGCC) at Reymerston, near Dereham, owned by Ray and Kate Barlow, was sold to a farmer. It closed on Friday.

When the news first broke, NGCC captain Alec Thornber, of Attleborough, said that Mr and Mrs Barlow were retiring and were not willing to support the losses made year on year by the club.

He said: 'We were aware that the club had been actively marketed for sale since last September... It is a sad fact that nearly all golf clubs, under the present economic climate, and who are struggling to attract new members are now worth more as agricultural land.

'The NGCC has always been noted for being a friendly place where the members and staff have always been proud to be associated with it. It's a club that has the potential to be the premier golf and leisure facility in Norfolk. It already boasts one of the best courses, leisure facilities and PGA professionals in East Anglia. We have some 370 golf members and 460 leisure members. Sadly this potential will now never be realised.'

The Dereham Times reported in September that the business had been put on the market with a guide price of �1.6m and Mr Thornber said that out of 47 initial enquiries, there were eight serious prospective buyers who were interested in running the site as a golf and leisure complex.

After offers were invited in early November none were received, but eventually one was accepted from a local farmer, according to Mr Thornber.

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He added that the owners and members were led to believe the farmer would convert the land back to agricultural use.

Yesterday, the captain said the club had become a way of life for some of its members.

On the final day of play Mrs Barlow said: 'We are very upset the club is closing.'

Dozens of members played on the course to mark the final day of the business and everyone said it was a sad day.

Julian Ellis, 38, of Toftwood, said: 'It is devastating. I don't think there is another club like it.'

Another member, Paul Carter, 52, of Shipdham, said he was absolutely gutted and felt sorry for the club staff.

'The social side will be missed. I have made a lot of friends here,' he added.

John Tavener, 53, of Wendling, said: 'It is particularly sad and I am disappointed.'

The club was built in 1993 and a health club was added in 1997, and since then the owners have developed a detached manager's house and gained planning permission for 15 holiday homes.

Estate agent Savills indicated the owners would consider retaining the house and holiday home site and selling the golf and country club separately with a guide price of �1.25m.

There is also a golf shop, day nursery, restaurant, function room and greenkeeper's building, while the fitness club includes three beauty rooms, a gym, two swimming pools, a spa and sauna.

Mr Thornber said that everyone who had a pre-paid membership would get their money back and the money raised by the club committee through competitions will be given to staff and the East Anglia's Children's Hospices charity.

He added that a lot of the members will be moving to other clubs, including Weston Park Golf Club and Barnham Broom Golf Club.

Tony Varney, who is the professional at the club, said: 'It is like one big family here and the staff are really friendly. The members think a lot of the staff and the staff think a lot of the members. The golf course is one of the top 10 in the county, in my opinion.'

He added that he thought golf had become too commercial, which had caused membership numbers to suffer.