Clubs consider uniting

By Jared Smith, Iain Hyndman

Declining numbers and financial hardship has the members of three country golf clubs in the Marton/Rangitikei area considering the prospect of amalgamation.

After three months of planning, a working party from the three clubs has brought an amalgamation proposal to meetings at the Marton, Hawkestone, and Rangitikei clubs to consider merging under one banner.

The Rangitikei members heard the proposal last Saturday and there will be a vote on it at their 2012 AGM today.

Marton has also heard the proposal while the Hawkestone members will have their meeting tomorrow at 9.30am before the day's tee off.

Rangitikei's secretary/handicapper George Girling confirmed that, if approved, their members would move from their 18-hole Raumai Rd course near Bulls to the Marton course, an 18km drive north on Santoft Rd at Lake Alice.

From the eastern side of Marton, the Hawkestone members would come 19km from their Kakariki Rd home to the prospective new club.

"Marton [club] was the proposed venue due to the course and the financial position of the others," said Girling.

"That was the aim of the amalgamation. If there was going to be a new club, there would be a new name, a new constitution. It would just be based at Marton."

At Rangitikei's AGM, they have to balance the tradition of their own club, established in 1923, against the long-term prospects of survival.

While golf amongst the youth continues to flourish in more urban centres, participation in the countryside is "not so great".

"It's going to come down to a vote. It's got a long history," said Girling.

"All three clubs, the memberships declined, the members are getting older, there's just not the juniors coming in."

Despite the realities of falling membership, amalgamation is sure to be distasteful to many long-time club men.

Outgoing Hawkestone club captain Gary Southee said earlier that their members were unlikely to want a bar of it.

A key financial concern is, although Marton is the centrally located, it leases the course from a Ngati Apa trust.

Hawkestone and Rangitikei's courses are owned freehold by their clubs.

Southee said Marton wanted both Hawkestone and Rangitikei to sell up and bring their memberships and money to Marton, which was "no way".

Hawkestone is financially sound, has a growing membership and has development going on, he said.. In June 2011, Hawkestone reduced its course from 16 holes to 13 in a long-planned reconfiguration.

The club had sold part of its land in 2004 to mining enterprise Rangitikei Aggregates.

At the time, Southee said land not previously used for golf would become part of the new course.

- Wanganui Chronicle

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