Row over bill for watering greens at exclusive golf club tees up rebellion

Greens at the exclusive Queenswood Golf Club
Greens at the exclusive Queenswood Golf Club - BRIAN MORGAN/GETTY IMAGE

One of Britain’s most prestigious and expensive golf clubs is in the midst of a civil war as moguls, pros and sport stars are up in arms over rising prices.

Members of Queenwood Golf Club in Surrey were given a £1,800 bill on top of their £13,000 annual fees to fund a multi-million pound irrigation overhaul to ensure the greens met the highest standards in the world.

The demand irked some members and led to scrutinisation of the board, The Sunday Times reports, which led to calls for more transparency, democracy and changes to management.

Crunch talks are reportedly happening between the founder, US businessman Fred Green, and a number of disillusioned members.

The club has immaculate courses, professional caddies and staff that polish shoes incessantly and address patrons as Sir and Madam.

Bitter power struggle has lasted for years

Founded by Mr Green in 2001, it is designed to bring the US-style of exclusive members’ clubs that are popular with the uber wealthy to the Home Counties.

It is modelled on Augusta National, home of the Masters, and one can only play the course at the invitation of, and alongside, a fully paid-up member.

Professional golfers, including Rory McIlroy, are said to be members and as a result the greens are maintained to PGA Tour standards. Fees for new joiners include a £175,000 payment for a share of the club, and a one-off “playing privilege fee” of £48,000, The Times reports.

But the golfing paradise has been mired in a bitter power struggle for several years, starting with when Mr Green, 85, appointed businessman Gerard Tvedt co-chairman in 2013.

Green stepped down in 2021 leaving his co-chair Mr Tvedt, 69, to take sole charge, which allegedly led to a less genial atmosphere and allegations that the club had been turned into the chairman’s “personal fiefdom”.

Taxpayer money taken for furlough pay

After members queried being told to fork out yet more money, an investigation into the club’s finances was initiated among members.

Barrister John Kelsey-Fry KC, alongside Aidan Heavey, founder of Tullow Oil, revealed the club took almost half a million pounds of taxpayer money for furlough payments despite not lowering membership fees during the pandemic.

This was lawful, but displeased some members who warned the board that should it become public knowledge Queenwood was using Government money to pay its staff who wear white livery, “the shame would destroy the club”.

However, the members were more chagrined by a £5.9 million payment from the club to Mr Green in exchange for his controlling shares which left ultimate control of the club with the board, headed up by Mr Tvedt.

A Queenwood spokesperson said: “Queenwood is one of the world’s leading private members’ golf clubs. That doesn’t happen by accident. It’s down to the focus, dedication and hard work of management and the staff. Our members play a critical role in creating the unique experience at Queenwood and their views will always be considered.”