A GOLF club with hundreds of members has been forced to close after its retired owners failed to find a buyer.
Castle Park, near Gifford, will shut tomorrow – making it the third Lothians club to pull the plug in the last 18 months.
In a statement to members, owner Jim Wilson said the 18-hole course – which has hosted competitions for junior golfers run by the Stephen Gallacher Foundation – had been bought by local farmers.
Mr Wilson, who is based in Cumbria, said the club had suffered an “unprecedented loss of members” since he retired in early December.
But the family – who have owned the club for the last nine years – insisted fees and subscriptions would be fully refunded to members.
Today golfers spoke of their “absolute devastation” on hearing the news. Colin Hamilton, from Whittingehame, has been a member for three years and said golfers flocked from all over the Lothians to play a round there.
The 55-year-old said: “I’m absolutely gutted it’s not going to be a golf course any more. The amount of work that went into it in the last 20 years, and all of a sudden it’s going to be ploughed. I got a letter when I got back from work that they have sent out to all the members. They claimed membership was dropping, but I don’t really believe that.
“I just love the place, absolutely love it. I don’t think they’ve thought it through.
“The club is so friendly. If you walked in and you were a stranger, somebody would have spoken to you. It’s just been absolutely devastating. A lot of the old guys are from Edinburgh and they come all the way out to play here.”
And Barry Goulding, 67, who organises Castle Park’s seniors team and has been a member for 14 years, insisted the closure had come as a shock to the club’s 400-strong membership.
He said: “It’s a shame. A lot of people for the past 20 years have enjoyed Castle Park and were hoping it would continue getting better and better.”
Castle Park was opened by Stuart Fortune in 1994 and started life as a nine-hole course, before being expanded ten years later. The course takes its name from the historic ruins of Yester Castle, which overlooks the 14th green.
It comes after Lothianburn closed in September 2013 and neighbour Torphin Hill just a little more than a year ago.
Malcolm Duck, director of East Lothian’s Scotland’s Golf Coast marketing campaign, said the course had fallen victim to a lack of demand.
He said: “It’s a great shame Castle Park is closing. I think it’s very sad. I think there are too many golf courses, and so you’re going to get fewer people on the courses.”
A spokeswoman for the golf club said: “The owners want to retire. The golf course was advertised as a going concern before Christmas.
“They had no offers to keep it as a golf course, but they received offers from local farmers, so the land will be reverting back to agricultural use.”