Cranbrook Golf Club (formerly Hemsted Forest Golf Club) was founded in 1969 and is located just a 20-minute drive from Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells. The course lies in a beautiful natural setting and has been renowned for being a haven of peace and tranquility far removed from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Cranbrook has enjoyed an established reputation of being one of the prettiest courses in the local area.
The course, which at just over 6300 yards long was tough and tricky for its par of 70, was very popular with golfers in the Weald of Kent. Just a couple of years ago, the clubhouse was closed so that it could be redeveloped for a more lucrative purpose. The course was then re-shaped and re-configured so that a new and much more basic clubhouse could be built close to the golf range.
With just over 250 members, most paying just under £600 a year for the privilege of their golf, Cranbrook was not at the top of the tree when it came to economic vibrancy. But it had a reasonably good income stream and a low-cost base so its closure at the beginning of the season seems harder to understand. In the letter announcing the closure of the course, it does seem that the distortion in VAT rates for private member owned golf clubs, as opposed to proprietary golf clubs, has played a part. Some of Cranbrook’s competitors do seem to have been able to utilise almost 20% more of the money they collect from the customers from both annual subscriptions and also green fee income, due to this unfair distortion. To those of us operating golf courses, this will continue to be most unfair. Cranbrook had made huge strides in encouraging more golfers to play and welcoming all standards; they have offered lessons and encouragement from their excellent pro, Henry Law and the range is well used, especially when considering its rural location.
The course itself is very pretty and towards the end of his life, the great crooner, Bing Crosby fell in love with this particular corner of Kent. At the time of his death, which was on a golf course in Spain, Crosby was said to have been negotiating to buy the golf course. This sale obviously did not go through.
Unusually, the course was always closed for maintenance on Mondays, with the exception of bank holidays. This allowed the course to be prepared and important processes being carried out without any golfers present. Perhaps losing a seventh of the courses weekly income added to the problems.
22/03/2018 - 10:56am