Judas Priest bassist Ian Hill says one of the major reasons guitarist K.K. Downing parted ways with the group was to look after the golf course he designed and oversees in Shropshire, England.

Downing designed the Astbury Hall golf course, which opened in September 2010, and he told the band that he needed time to run the business. But he also chalked up his decision to leave Priest to some creative differences he had with the other band members and the group's management.

"It came as bombshell to all of us,” Hill tells England's Express & Star newspaper in a new interview. "I think Ken had just had enough. He’d got a lot on his plate with his golf course and I think he couldn’t spend the time away. This tour’s going to be, by the time it’s wrapped up, the best part of two years. It’s a long, long time to be away from things and I just think Ken couldn’t handle the time away."

Hill goes on to say that his longstanding friendship with Downing will continue forever. “I’ll always be a friend of Ken’s and I’m sure he’ll always be a friend of mine," explains Hill. "Still waters run deep and we’ve been together as colleagues and friends since we were about 5 years old. We went through school and everything together.”

The bassist adds that Priest is very happy with their replacement guitarist, 31-year-old Richie Faulkner, a Downing doppelganger of sorts. And he also says there's no end in sight to Judas Priest's current farewell tour.

"This tour is going to be the best part of two years by the time it’s all wrapped up … if it’s ever wrapped up -- it’s open-ended at the moment," divulges Hill. "As long as people want to hear us we’ll keep on going."

Watch Judas Priest Perform 'You've Got Another Thing Comin'" in 1982