Waldringfield Golf Club are offering free golf to existing members as the changes begin to take shape

A wintry scene on the 11th green at Waldringfield.

A wintry scene on the 11th green at Waldringfield. - Credit: Archant

Waldringfield Golf Club owners, Heritage Developments Ltd, are not accepting a renewal of club membership fees when they expire at the end of March.

Waldringfield Golf Club owners, Heritage Developments Ltd, are not accepting a renewal of club membership fees when they expire at the end of March. In April work starts on the adventurous project of laying out a nine-hole course with alternative tees (like Southwold) for those who play 18 holes.

Instead the club is offering free golf to existing members. Those who take up the offer will be able to play on holes where work is not taking place although there could be times when the entire course is closed.

This free golf will be welcomed by those to whom holding a handicap is of little importance. To play a few holes and then visit the club house for refreshment may appeal.

It will not, however, be much use to members who look forward to monthy medals and Stablefords or to those who have represented the club in Suffolk Golf Union inter-club competitions. The WAGS (Waldringfield Ancient Golfers) will no longer be able to play inter-club friendlies. Another casualty, until the work is completed hopefully by mid-2018, will be the junior open.

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Many competitive players have already joined other clubs. It could be that they will also take up the offer of free golf so they can play a few holes, follow the progress of the development and maintain a tie with a club to which they may return in the future.

Golf architect Guy Hockley is masterminding the development with a cleverly designed layout that means players who prefer a quick game can be near the club house after both four and six holes. This will present the possibility of realistic green fees for just a few holes. Cross-over holes will no longer exist.

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Mr Hockley began his design career with Hawtree (1991-96) and has been the principal Europe-based architect for Sir Nick Faldo and Gary Player. He continues to work for Sir Nick on a consultancy basis. Land down the current first fairway will be transformed into a par-three layout.

Matt Bartram, managing director of Heritage Developments, has stressed that it was not financially viable to continue running the club is its present form. He explained: “Golf is going through a very challenging time. Many people don’t have the time to go out and play 18 holes. Our offer is about quicker games of golf but, if you wish, you will also be able to play 18 holes.”

Members of the greens staff are being retained as is club manager Ben Rayner and PGA head professional Matt Ransome who is hoping for an indoor swing simulator to be installed to help with his teaching.

The first Suffolk Winter Alliance meeting of 2016 was hosted by Waldringfield. As this was the last major event at the club before development it seemed fitting that a home team should win first prize. Bernie Aldous, Glen Davis, Chris Ward and Sean Whelan were the successful players.

Both in Europe and the United States there is the feeling that a four or five hour round of golf, a relaxing visit to the club house as well as travelling time takes too big a chunk out of a day. Waldringfield are following the pattern of a course I visited in Chile 18 months ago where the thinking is much the same.

The long-term development of the site is subject to planning permission. Supported-living homes, executive houses and tourist lodges are in the pipeline on land which is currently the eighth and ninth holes.

There are also long-term plans for a croquet lawn, a swimming pool, a bowls green and upgraded clubhouse which make the complex most appealing to those with a sporting instinct. Club captain Stefan Jochen was quoted as saying he felt the club “would never be the same again.” He is right, but painful as this must be in the short term it is a pattern for viable golf in the long term.

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