Wentworth golf club asks for six-figure membership fee

Wentworth Club Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Wentworth hosted the 2015 PGA Championships

One of the UK's most exclusive golf clubs is to start charging £125,000 to new joiners.

Wentworth, which was bought by the Beijing-based Reignwood Group in September 2014, has told existing members they must stump up £100,000.

Annual fees on top of that are to rise from £8,000 to £16,000. James Wyatt said he and other members faced having to pay "an enormous amount".

The Surrey golf club said membership pricing "is a private club matter".

'Completely shocked'

Mr Wyatt, who learned of the new fees at a meeting on Tuesday evening, told the BBC: "You'll have to pay a debenture of £100,000 and if you want to join as a new member it'll be £125,000.

"A debenture is essentially a loan note with no interest on it, but there was some doubt as to whether we're looking at what we all think a debenture to be, or if it is really just a payment to the owners to fund their purchase and improvements in the club.

"On top of that you'll have to pay annual subs of £16,000.

"People were completely shocked."

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy won the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth in 2014

He said the debenture scheme and increase in annual subscriptions would come in to force in April 2017.

Currently, full members pay a joining fee of £15,000.

Despite opposition, one of the club's members - who preferred not to be named - said he welcomed the increase, calling it "fantastic news".

He said: "Members for years have been asking for improvements to our courses, facilities and services.

"The new investment plans, focused on quality and family, will propel the club forward to become one of the finest golf and country clubs in the world."

The golf club is on the Wentworth estate, in the heart of the Surrey stockbroker belt.

Its large houses are home to Middle Eastern royalty, international business tycoons, professional golfers and celebrities.

The six-figure cost of membership would make Wentworth the UK's most expensive golf club, although some other exclusive venues worldwide reportedly cost more.

The BBC asked three other top UK golf clubs - Royal Liverpool, Sandwich Royal St George's and The Belfry - for details of their membership fees.

The first two said as private members' clubs they would not disclose the information, while the Belfry revealed the joining fee for the Brabazon course was £2,000, with an annual membership of £3,250.

Analysis: Peter Alliss, BBC golf commentator

It's unheard of [the cost of the debenture plan], in this country anyway, and unheard of in the whole of Europe I would think, although years ago in the Far East and some clubs in the United States have had this sort of thing.

Whether it will work in Wentworth I really don't know. I'd like to see the reaction from the members, because this is a very bold step.

The idea, I'm told, is the club wants to have a very good relationship with those who have houses on the estate, but a lot of them are from overseas, from Asia and Russia and other places.

It's a jigsaw puzzle at the moment and I wonder how many pieces will fall into place.

A spokesman for the Virginia Water-based club said: "We will be discussing our new membership categories, including prices, directly with our members."

He said the club would "invest heavily to significantly enhance and improve its three championship courses".

Mr Wyatt added: "Money needs to be put into the club, and the money needs to come from somewhere.

"Last night we found out that the money is coming from members' pockets."

Image copyright Shazz
Image caption The golf club is on the Wentworth estate, in the heart of the Surrey stockbroker belt

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