Bought by Reignwood (see WiC55 for a profile of the company’s Thai-Chinese founder) for £135 million ($200 million) last year, Wentworth Golf Club boasts an exclusive clientele, many of whom have luxury properties on the fringes of its three courses nestled within London’s commuter belt.
But these well-connected insiders complain that they are being cast out into the cold, following news that their annual fees will double to £16,000 and that they must reapply for membership, paying £100,000 each for new debentures.
The course’s new owners argue that the club needs to be on a stronger financial footing if it is to maintain its reputation as one of the best in Britain. But opponents of the changes claim that the plan is to cull the membership (from 3,000 to 800) and replace it with a much smaller group of Chinese and Russian tycoons. They are promising a bitter legal and public relations battle, under the leadership of a protest group called “Wet Feet” (after the Chinese proverb: “It never rains on your neighbours without you getting your feet wet”). As part of the campaign they have already complained directly to Philip Hammond – who happens to be Britain’s Foreign Secretary, but also the local member of parliament – who has agreed that the changes are “very disappointing”.
In the meantime the mood at the bar is very sour indeed, especially after the latest spat about the flying of the Chinese flag at the club in the wake of the Paris terror attacks. “The failure to lower the Chinese flag caused outrage in the clubhouse,” one Wentworth member fumed to the local press. “The Chinese did not show sufficient respect.”
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