Members and staff at Waterlooville Golf Club have been given 99 reasons to breathe a collective sigh of relief after securing the club’s future into the next century.
The popular parkland course has signed a new 99-year lease on its 35-acre northern section that was added in the 1970s following the loss of several holes during the construction of the A3(M).
The compulsory purchase from the government eventually saw the redesign of the course.
Holes six, seven, eight, 13, 14 and part of 15 have been revamped using the new stretch of land.
But the uncertainty of several short-term leases sparked ongoing rumours that the land could be sold off and potentially see the club closed down.
Now, thankfully, Waterlooville’s members can rest a little more easily in the knowledge their club can enjoy a secure future after signing the new agreement.
Manager John Hay said: ‘It’s great news for everyone connected to the club.
‘It has taken quite a bit of negotiation and there is obviously a cost involved, which we will continue to pay to the landlord.
‘But it just gives us that security going forward and we can invest a bit more money in that top part of the land.
‘If we had lost that part of land, we could have lost the course or had a nine-hole or 12-hole course, which nobody wanted.
‘Having these short leases, the rumours would start every two or three years that it wouldn’t be renewed and the club would be forced to close down.
‘I think it might have affected some people on whether they chose to join the course.
‘Hopefully, they will not see that as a factor any more now that we have our future secured.’
It was the generosity of a former club member that effectively saved the club from closure in the 1970s when the new road was built.
Dr Eddie Borrow stepped forward to effectively donate the 35-acre plot to allow the club to build several new holes and charged just £1 per year for its lease.
It then meant Borrow was able to secure the services of his friend and three-time Open champion, Henry Cotton, to redesign a new 18-hole course.
This resulted in the course changing significantly and being lengthened by more than 1,000 yards into what is now one of the longest courses in Hampshire.
And the course is predominantly the same layout to this day.
After Borrow’s death, the land then passed to a charitable foundation, which increased the rent payments.
But although Hay declined to reveal the amount the club will continue to pay, it’s fair to suggest it is significantly more than the token £1 charge that Borrow accepted.
Hay explained: ‘When the land owner died, that area of land was then owned by a charitable foundation.
‘They then had to charge the going rate, rather than the £1 per year.
‘It’s a rate we have agreed and we are comfortable with.
‘We had 10 and 15-year leases and we never had that security because you never know what’s going to happen.
‘But signing a 99-year lease gives us that security to move forward.
‘It signifies a very important event in the golf club’s history.’