Locals are too close for comfort for country club

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Locals are too close for comfort for country club

The nation’s most prestigious and expensive country club will close its doors for at least a year to undergo renovations, just 15 years after its opening, after members complained that the course was too public.

The Anyang Benest Golf Club, in Gunpo, Gyeonggi, will be out of service for 12 to 18 months beginning in January to redesign its 18-hole course and improve its clubhouse. With the closure, the membership dues at other country clubs are expected to rise.

Golf industry sources say that the operator of Anyang Benest, Samsung Everland, decided on a top-to-bottom overhaul of the country club in light of members’ complaints that its facilities were too old and cramped and that the course was too visible to local residents after high-rise apartments and office buildings were built nearby.

Some big-name members had apparently asked the club to redesign the course to keep their hobby confidential from members of the public.

“It is odd that the country’s best golf club would redesign its entire course after only 15 years of opening because most clubs do that after 20 to 30 years,” said Jeon Gyeong-in, manager of Daejung Golf Engineering.

Samsung Everland officials, however, said that the decision to renovate was made in order to maintain a competitive edge after newer country clubs began attracting new members with their fancy facilities.

In addition to redesigning the course, Anyang Benest said it planned on making improvements to the clubhouse, spa and locker rooms.

The club said that it was also considering allowing electric golf carts to carry elderly members, caddies and golf equipment.

“We are considering providing the carts as some elderly members requested it, but most members still prefer walking to riding in carts,” a Samsung Everland official said.

Opened in 1968 as Anyang Country Club, it was renamed Anyang Benest - a portmanteau of “best” and “nest,” in reference to its natural surroundings - after renowned golf course designer Robert Trent Jones Jr. redesigned the entire club in 1996.

Today, Anyang Benest limits its membership to the nation’s elite, charging 45 million won ($40,413) in membership dues annually. An industry source said that many Anyang Benest members are business owners and politicians.

The country club is also known as an “emperor golf club” because its property has the highest land value among all clubs in the nation. According to an appraisal by the Ministry of Land, Transport and Maritime Affairs, Anyang Benest’s 890,000 square meters (220 acres) of property is worth 110 billion won.

Samsung Everland said that the club’s employees would be transferred to several other country clubs in Gapyeong and Anseong, both in Gyeonggi, and Dongnae in Busan, while Anyang Benest is under renovation.

By Chung Young-jin [sakwon80@joongang.co.kr]
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