Lahinch plays on through the rough as green fees collapse
One of the country's best-known golf clubs has sustained an operating loss of more than €1m in the past two years due to a collapse in green fee income.
In a report presented to members of Lahinch Golf Club yesterday at the club's AGM, the club reported an operating loss of €476,580 for 2009 that followed an operating loss of €551,323 in 2008.
The loss follows green fee income almost halving in the space of two years from €1.87m generated in 2007 to €944,522 last year, due mainly to the drop in US golfers.
However, the losses at the club last year were not as bad as initially feared, as it had budgeted for a €710,382 loss in 2009.
The anticipated operating loss was reduced following cutbacks totalling €505,428 last year.
In his report to members yesterday, club captain Austin Slattery stated that the club "took specific and decisive action to reduce costs where possible".
Also, the operating losses were stemmed last year following the club opening up its coveted membership to 27 members generating €294,150 in entrance fees.
This reduced the club's losses to €152,430. The loss reduced the club's accumulated fund to €4.8m at the end of the year.
The club counts British and Irish Lions and Munster captain Paul O'Connell as one of its members and last November it held an extraordinary general meeting (EGM) in a bid to grapple with the deteriorating finances, resulting in a hike in members' annual subscriptions of up to €200.
In his report yesterday, Mr Slattery stated: "We are currently operating in a world of total financial uncertainty and none of us knows when this uncertainty will end."
But the club is anticipating that it will record a surplus of €30,350 in 2010, providing that green fee income stabilises and shows a slight increase of €5,478, along with measures including the increase in subscriptions and cutbacks across its operation, such as staff reductions.
The decision by the golf club to open up its membership last year followed complaints at last year's AGM that Lahinch had turned down 41 applications -- foregoing €725,000 -- in November 2008.
Figures in the report show that green fee visitors numbers have dropped by 32pc from 24,794 in 2002 to 16,679 last year. In his report, Mr Slattery stated: "All of the predictions that 2009 was going to be a difficult year for Lahinch Golf Club have come true."
Mr Slattery stated that the club "has acted decisively to cope with the ever changing circumstances in which we found ourselves".
Mr Slattery confirmed that the club's expenditure last year was €505,428 less than the €3.1m incurred in 2008 and this was achieved by a reduction in staff numbers; the introduction of a three-day week; a change of work practices and a review of all overheads.
The numbers of full-time staff at the golf club were reduced last year from 34 to 28.
The club course costs last year reduced from €1.8m to €1.4m. Mr Slattery said: "Expenditure on the links was reduced without compromising the quality of our courses."
The club projects that costs will be cut by a further €375,539 this year, resulting in a saving of expenditure of €880,967 over two years.
Mr Slattery said: "Reducing the club's cost base by such an extent puts Lahinch on a much sounder financial footing as we face the uncertainties that lie ahead."