Wentworth golf club in U-turn over $141,000 membership fees

    Wentworth stages the European Tour's PGA Championship each May.

    Story highlights

    • Wentworth retracts plans to make existing members pay £100,000 fee
    • But new members will still have to pay £125,000 debenture
    • Changes come after protests from club members and residents

    (CNN)The grand plans intended to make Wentworth one of the most exclusive golf clubs in the world have been revised.

    It was revealed in October that the Beijing-based Reignwood Group -- which owns Wentworth in Surrey, England -- was to introduce a new membership scheme that would see existing members charged a £100,000 ($141,000) debenture and new joiners £125,000 ($176,300), with the annual subscription also going up from £8,000 ($11,300) to £16,000 ($22,600).
    The changes were reported to be part of the Chinese owners' plans to make the golf club more exclusive by helping to reduce membership from 4,000 to 888 -- a number said to be chosen as it is considered lucky in China.
    However, Wentworth has confirmed to CNN that Reignwood Group, which bought the golf club for a reported £135 million ($190.4 million) in 2014, has opted to make alterations to those planned changes.
    Existing members will now not have to pay the new debenture fee, with residents of the neighboring Wentworth Estate also being given reduced rates -- although newcomers will still be required to pay the £125,000 ($176,300) fee.
    A spokesperson for Wentworth members told CNN last month that new members previously paid around £15,000 ($21,100) to join the golf club.
    Wentworth confirmed that annual subscriptions will still rise for members, although it failed to say if that fee will increase to £16,000 ($22,600).
    The original plans did not go down well with Wentworth's members, who threatened legal action -- alongside neighboring residents -- after talks with the owners broke down.
    Residents even threatened to block roads in protest during the European Tour's PGA Championship, held at the golf club each May.
    Wentworth said in a statement that the "latest membership update" followed a number of meetings between members, residents and Reignwood Group president Songhua Ni.
    "We have listened to a variety of differing interests from members and estate residents," Ni said. "We are continuing to make every effort to accommodate those, whilst focusing on our vision of making Wentworth Club the world's premier private golf and country club."
    Wentworth Club chief executive Stephen Gibson added: "For several months, we have been working to find the right solution to include as many current members as possible in the new vision for Wentworth Club.
    "I believe that today's update, alongside the new membership offers and enhancements we announced last month clearly show our commitment to our existing members and local estate residents, who are an integral part of the club's past and our future."
    Reignwood Group said in October it would be investing £20 million ($28.2 million) into Wentworth to improve facilities by December 2018 to help ensure that it "becomes the world's finest private golf and country club."
    The founder of Reignwood Group is billionaire Chanchai Ruayrungruang, a Thai-Chinese national.
    Reignwood Group owns a mixture of finance, real estate and leisure assets, including the Pine Valley Golf Club & Resort near Beijing, and the Princeville golf resort in Hawaii.