Historic club fights hard to stay afloat

Gosport & Stokes Bay Golf Club, with the Queen Victoria cruise ship in the background
Gosport & Stokes Bay Golf Club, with the Queen Victoria cruise ship in the background
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When Gosport & Stokes Bay Golf Club saw the possibility of their club going to the wall after 126 years of rich history, the members showed exactly what can be achieved when everyone digs deep for the cause.

The club – with views across the Solent from many of its holes and on historically important land near Haslar and Fort Gilkicker – was formed as long ago as 1885.

It originally went under the name of the United Services Golf Club, providing a golfing facility for officers in the army and navy stationed in Portsmouth.

But the recent loss of members to rival clubs has hit the course’s revenue and the reality began to dawn that the club coffers would run dry in a matter of months.

So rather than sitting back and waiting for new investment or jumping ship to join up somewhere else, the committee showed what can be achieved as they plotted the club’s way back towards a more secure financial footing.

And in difficult times for clubs and businesses up and down the land, Gosport & Stokes Bay have shown there is a way out of it.

Captain John Gunther, former captain Dave Croad and vice-captain Stuart Bearman were the men behind many of the tough decisions that had to be taken to ensure the survival of their club.

But those decisions appear to have paid off with the club looking forward to a bright future.

Croad explained: ‘The committee was voted in in March and there were a lot of rumours about the finances of the club.

‘The new committee set about finding out more and conducted a full assessment.

‘It basically looked like we wouldn’t survive past November or December because we didn’t have sufficient funds.

‘So the committee decided the only way to survive was to get everyone back together, reduce expenditure and cut back on the budgets.

‘We had to get people involved in their club again.

‘It was pretty tough. I’m retired but we were working seven days a week and a lot of people were fitting things around their day jobs.’

With the manager’s position made redundant and the bar staffs’ contract not renewed, the duties suddenly fell on the shoulders of committee members to fend for themselves.

So as some got to grips with the administration of the club, others had the hands-on duties of pulling pints as they took on bar shifts.

Gunther smiled: ‘Someone showed us how to clean the pipes and the next minute we were working behind the bar.

‘It was a great effort from everyone. They all came out of the woodwork when they were needed.

‘I always felt we would succeed but we had to come through some hard times to get there. Some of the members knew we were in a bad situation but they’ve been so supportive and are happy with the way we have run it.’

Aside from cutting costs, the club have introduced a number of incentive schemes to attract visitors to the challenging nine-hole course.

But with green fees of £18, two-for-one deals and a host of events this summer – including the pro am on June 29 – there are plenty of reasons for incoming captain Bearman to be optimistic on his year at the helm.

He said: ‘We’ve got around 300 members, a good ladies and senior section and we’re looking to attract more juniors to the club.

‘We’re getting more people involved in our social functions but we’ve got a close-knit membership and everyone knows everyone here. It has brought people a lot closer together.’

The club is looking for local sponsors for this year’s pro am.

Telephone (023) 9252 7941 or visit gosportandstokesbaygolfclub.co.uk for more details.