GOLFERS were left “heartbroken” when the course they loved was forced to close – so they decided to buy it instead.
Castle Park Golf Course, near Gifford, shut its doors in January and was expected to be turned over to farmers for agricultural use.
But now the beleaguered club, whose previous owner retired, has reopened under the ownership of a consortium of five locals, who finalised a deal to buy the course for an undisclosed six-figure sum.
Craig McLachlan, chairman of Gifford Community Council and one of the partners behind the buyout, said the group was determined to invest in the club and improve its facilities – including constructing a new clubhouse in September.
The 49-year-old said: “It’s been on and off and up and down, but the deal is 100 per cent done and dusted now. It was done through determination, desire and a brass neck.
“I don’t think it’s stretching it to say that some members were actually heartbroken when it closed. It was one of those courses where the people who loved it, really loved it.
“Everybody thought it was done and dusted. In eight months hopefully it’s going to be growing and blossoming. We have some loan partners for the short term. If we went to a bank for backing to the extent that we have backing now they would have turned us down.
“It’s probably worth more right now as farmland, from a hard-nosed fiscal perspective. Golf is not a business that is going to make you a millionaire.
“But it’s more than the sum of what the acreage is worth. For us as a family, we believe in it passionately. And we’ve had really good backing from members.”
Mr McLachlan’s partner, Pam Wilson, whose parents and brother were the previous owners, is fronting the new partnership and the group is offering discounted membership deals until the club’s facilities are refurbished and expanded in September.
The consortium also revealed plans to install a small gym and sauna in the clubhouse, as well as early-stage proposals to allow golfers to play Castle Park as two nine-hole courses alongside the traditional 18 holes.
Ms Wilson, who runs Love Coffee and Food in Gifford with Mr McLachlan, said: “As new owners we will be looking to develop the course as a relaxed, friendly, family environment where golfers can enjoy their sport and leisure time.
“The facilities will be enhanced with a new clubhouse and we will be investing in the quality of the course to provide a golfing experience to match the beauty of the setting.
“We are also passionately committed to junior and youth development within the sport of golf and have exciting plans for expanding our facilities to encourage this aspect too.”
Malcolm Duck, director of East Lothian’s Scotland’s Golf Coast marketing campaign, said the reopening of the course was “fantastic” news for the community. He added: “I think the local population will try and support it as much as they can.”
Castle Park was opened by Stuart Fortune in 1994 and started life as a nine-hole course before being expanded ten years later. The club takes its name from the historic ruins of Yester Castle, which overlooks the 14th green.