EXETER Golf and Country Club says it could be forced to move its 18-hole golf course from Countess Wear if a planning application for safety netting 30 metres high is refused by councillors.
Exeter City Council is due to meet on Monday, September 30, to decide on the application put forward by the club.
It is being recommended for refusal – although action would be deferred if a compromise could be reached.
The club, formed in 1929, has around 5,000 members and employs more than 100 staff. It is not only a golf club but also squash club, tennis club, bridge club and a 800-strong fitness club.
So far the council has received 130 letters in support of the club's netting plan – with one letter of objection.
The netting is needed to stop stray golf balls from leaving the course and causing injury or damage to homes that are being built close to the golf course boundary.
The council have suggested that instead of putting up netting the club move some of the fairways – although it accepts this would be expensive.
Great Woodcote Park – a development of around 200 new houses – is being built by Charles Church, part of the Persimmon group. Around 25 of these houses are being built on a section of the golf course boundary.
Two separate specialist golf architects have advised that the proposed houses are too close to the boundary and that safety netting up to 30 metres high needs to be installed to preserve the safety and playability of the course – professional golfers can hit a ball 60 metres high.
The fencing, set on steel lattice towers at 30 metre intervals, would mainly be along the boundaries of the ninth, 10th and 18th holes and along other sensitive sections of the boundary.
Will Gannon, chairman of Exeter Golf and Country Club, said he was "completely mortified" by the situation and stressed that moving was a "serious consideration as a possible outcome" of being refused the netting.
He said "This is extremely disappointing. The netting is absolutely crucial to the playability of the golf course and also to the safety of future homeowners and homes.
"This is a serious concern for anyone who might be considering buying one of the properties at Great Woodcote Park.
"If we are unable to protect our boundary with this netting, we will have to seriously consider moving the 18-hole course from its current location.
"We recognise that the netting is high but we have no other option. Our insurers have stated that netting less than 30 metres high would not be sufficient and any insurance claim could be invalidated in the event of an incident if the netting is lower than the proposed height.
"We have been in discussions with Persimmon and Exeter City Council since August 2011 about this issue, and had urged them to move their houses further away from the boundary before they started on site as that would have solved the problem.
"Persimmon has refused to do this and the houses are now being built so the club is left in this difficult and worrying position of being potentially liable for damage caused to property or persons if the netting isn't installed.
"That is clearly an unsustainable position for us and we will need to take action and consider moving the 18-hole golf course if the application is refused.
"Although the fencing is high, it is a transparent structure and would therefore be largely undetectable against the backdrop and wouldn't result in any loss of light. In many other circumstances around the country and worldwide, golf courses have used this form of netting to protect sensitive boundaries and have been deemed a suitable measure.
"We are especially dismayed with Exeter City Council's current position as their reasons for recommending the application for refusal are based on the views from houses that don't have any residents and are not even built.
"Also, the fencing is not located close to the houses themselves as gardens and a significant tree boundary separate the two. For these reasons we strongly dispute the council's position.
"The future of the golf course rests on this planning application. The club is an important facility for both the city and the region, with almost 5,000 members and more than 100 members of staff, plus many more that come to events here.
"Our continued success relies on the quality and character of the golf course setting and it would be a huge disappointment for the club and the city if we are forced to move as a result of this."
Mr Gannon added that moving fairways would be "incredibly expensive" and would not necessarily solve the problem of errant golf balls.
As to where the club could move to, Mr Gannon said: "We have not got to thinking that far ahead."