When the doors closed at Woodham as the golf club slid into administration last week it was a warning signal which flashed from Newton Aycliffe all round the North East and Cumbria.
If the receivers there decide enough is enough after a golden summer for the sport like 2013, at least in terms of sunny weather, which club in the region could be next for the scrapheap?
It is coincidental Wearside will host a tournament launching a splendid new initiative later this month which has involved months of careful planning.
However, a successful conclusion to countless hours of discussions between six North Durham clubs has every chance of ensuring the wolf will never come knocking at any of their doors.
Beamish Park, Brancepeth Castle, Chester-le-Street, Durham City, Wearside and Whickham have been forward-thinking enough to band together and form a collective marketing and promotions company – the North East Golf MasterKey Partnership.
The clubs have already been nicknamed the “Super Six” because of the scenic splendour of their courses.
The main difference to members is they can play a free round every year at the other five clubs, which adds more than £100 to the value of their subscription.
MasterKey clubs have an extra agenda – to help the tourist trade by attracting visiting golfers to North Durham from all over the UK with Scotland, Cumbria and Yorkshire the prime target areas. A man who has played golf all over the world is ex-footballer Ritchie Pitt, a member of the Sunderland team who beat Leeds in the 1973 FA Cup final at Wembley.
The 61-year-old eight handicapper, a retired teacher who lives in East Herrington, is a member of Ramside and a former member of three of the MasterKey clubs – Brancepeth, Beamish and Chester-le-Street.
Having accepted an invitation to play as a celebrity in the MasterKey launch tournament, he was curious enough to look at the partnership’s website, negolf.co.uk
He said: “The website is in the early stages of development.
“Yet you can see already the clubs know where they are going with this, provided they invest in getting their message out there.
“I have firsthand knowledge of what these courses have to offer golfers and as a former maths teacher I can do my sums.
“When you see an offer like playing five of these courses for £109, then you know they are getting the basics right by putting bums on seats.
“Knowing how good these courses are, I would want to take advantage of that if I was a golfer living anywhere in the UK.
“This is effectively a golfing passport and they have been cute enough to run a competition with a prize of a free fourball at three courses of the winner’s choice among the MasterKey clubs.
“If I was a member of any of these clubs, I would be looking forward to a free game at five other clubs on my doorstep next season.”
To join Ritchie Pitt and play the MasterKey launch tournament at Wearside on Friday November 29 costs £12 per pair.
It’s a fourball betterball stableford for both men and women.
Ring 0191 534 2518 (ext 1) for information and to register an entry.
:: See this weekend’s Sunday Sun for a preview as Chris Paisley leads a North East and Cumbria contingent into the final stage of the European Tour’s Q School in Spain.