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by Chris Tobin

Several prospective buyers of the St Andrews Golf Club course, south of Timaru, are looking at it for farmland but at least one potential buyer would keep it going as a nine-hole course.

The club, which bears the same famous name as the home of golf in Scotland, placed the 32.7ha, 18-hole course on the market at the end of August, citing a drop in playing numbers and a surfeit of local courses as the reasons.

“We’ve had seven interested parties from as far away as Auckland and Twizel asking for the information pack,” the real estate agent handling the sale, Stu Piddington, said.

“Farmers are interested in it for the land, while one gentleman rang from Palmerston North who was thinking of retaining it as a nine-hole course and probably as a lifestyle block with accommodation.

“There’s been a variety of interest.

“St Andrews were forced to look hard at their future after their greenkeeper accepted a job offer in Christchurch and for financial reasons the committee decided not to replace him.”

Club president Graham Cadigan did not respond to Courier phone calls for comment.

Club secretary Janet Rae said once a sale went ahead the club would meet to decide what would happen to the funds.

The course had a rateable value of $1.14million. The land is valued at $730,000.

“We’re controlled by being an incorporated society,” she said.

Members had been discussing possible closure most of the year, she said, and were just accepting it.

The course is still open for play.

An October 1 deadline has been set for the sale.

If this was met, Mr Piddington said play at the course was likely to cease by mid-December.

Mrs Rae was not aware of the club’s 66 members, about a dozen of whom are women, joining other clubs but this was likely to happen “down the track”.

Decisions had not been made regarding the the club’s chattels, trophies or the like, she said.

The clubhouse includes a bar and kitchen facilities plus a greenkeeper’s shed.

When the sale was announced, Mr Piddington said a region with a population of 43,000 could no longer support nine courses.

“I don’t think St Andrews will be the only one considering their future,” he said.

Aorangi Golf president Debbie Lovett would not comment on the possibility of other clubs considering closure, nor of St Andrews sale.

“We need to wait for the club to make their own comments.”

Last year, Lois Beattie, a St Andrews member since 1977, was named the club’s first woman life member. She is likely to be the first and last.

The par-70 course opened in April, 1975.

New Zealand has more golf clubs per head of population than any other country except Scotland – a total of 390 – with 105,000 New Zealanders affiliated to a club.