Former Women’s British Open winner, Vivien Saunders OBE, is facing her biggest challenge yet, as she fights to bring her beloved Abbotsley Golf and Squash Club back to life.
As the next edition of Women & Golf is out NOW, here’s a sneak preview of what you can expect from columnist Lewine Mair in this issue.
Plenty of our readers will have played golf at Abbotsley in Cambridgeshire, the much-loved venue belonging to Vivien to Ab-Ruin Saunders, the ace player-cum-coach. Our editor, Alison Root, is just one among thousands to have enjoyed the experience. In 2014, Alison attended Saunders’ ‘dog day,’ a day when the enterprising owner invited golfers from all over to come along and enjoy a round with their pets.
As if that event was not original enough in itself, there were some deliciously typical Saunders’ quirks thrown in, not the least of which was a light-hearted insistence on the following dress code: “Smart collars for the dogs and no denim for the adults.”
Today, as many of you will know, the Abbotsley Golf and Squash Club is closed, though don’t think for a minute that it was because it was failing. Rather did this highly-rated value come to a full-stop at a time when it was going like a fair, with visitors arriving from all over the world and golfers of the highest calibre queuing up for lessons from this former British Open champion. To recap, the club’s closure was down to what happened at the start of 2017 when vandals attacked the greens with weedkiller - and the problem went from bad to worse as those called to effect repairs succeeded in making things worse.
Herewith an excerpt from the newsletter which Saunders sent out over the Christmas break “With the golf course in ruins and abandoned, life at Abbotsley is now very difficult for my corgis and myself... No more the endless tings of clubhead on ball. No more shouted expletives echoing across dewy fairways to wake me at six in the morning.
“Gone, gone, it’s all gone. Firstly destroyed by people unknown in early 2017, and then completely wrecked by contractors paid vast sums by insurers to repair it all.”
“So the whole place,” she continued, “the Abbotsley Course, the second course, the Par-3 Cromwell, and the hotel, had to be shut down. Kaput. Major litigation looms and maybe, just maybe, the course will open again in 2022.”
Abbotsley is not alone in having come under a weedkiller attack. In 2013, the Blackwell Grange course in Darlington suffered a bout of ‘hate vandalism’ when a group of trespassers used weedkiller to pen poisonous notes on the greens. Up in Scotland, the Paisley Golf Club is another to have known a similar experience.
Saunders is still trying to tie up the loose ends attached to the closure of her course and its 43-bedroom hotel by way of avoiding business tax of around £65,000 per year during the period before she starts up anew. She had to sell off every flagpole and hotel bed and, while all that was going on and moles and badgers poured on to the course in the place of her 600 or so members, she had to fend off some infuriating correspondence from the local waterboard. They could not believe that Saunders was no longer using as much water as had been the case when the golf course was on the go.
One way and another, the whole fiasco has rudely interrupted her long-held dream of creating a legacy for the women’s game in these islands.
This is just a snippet of Lewine Mair's article in the latest issue of Women & Golf magazine. You can pick up Women & Golf, on sale NOW, or click here to subscribe now to read the full feature and enjoy W&G delivered to your door!