Wentworth hiking membership fees under new ownership

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The cost of membership at Wentworth Golf Club, home base for the European Tour, is about to go up - a lot.

Members currently shell out £23,000 (around $35,000) to join the club outside London: £15,000 as an initiation fee and £8,000 per year in dues. But the club was recently purchased by China-based Reignwood Investment Group, headed by billionaire Chanchai Ruayrungruang, who plans to "cull" membership by drastically increasing those costs, according to a BBC report.

The annual fees at the club, which hosts the BMW PGA Championship each May, will rise to £16,000 (around $25,000) while a sizeable "debenture" will also be required: £100,000 (around $155,000) for existing members and £125,000 (around $193,000) for new members. 

The rate hikes are expected to go into effect in April 2017, and the U.K.'s Telegraph reports that the changes could trim the membership from 3,000 to around 250, paving the way for "ultra high net worth" individuals from Asia to join.

"This is a very bold step," said BBC commentator Peter Alliss, an honorary member at Wentworth. "The idea, I'm told, is the club wants to have a very good relationship with those who have houses on the estate, but a lot of them are from overseas, from Asia and Russia and other places. It's a jigsaw puzzle at the moment and I wonder how many pieces will fall into place."

Wentworth is home to three championship courses, including the West Course which has hosted the European Tour's flagship event annually since 1984 and is reportedly set to undergo a "major renovation."