McIlroy's favourite golf course in danger of being washed away
Rory McIlroy's favourite Irish golf course is inches away from disaster, patrons have warned.
The Ballyliffin Golf Club, Ireland's most northerly course, has seen natural defences washed away in spring storms. Now the 13th green is perilously close to crashing into the Atlantic ocean at the club in Inishowen, north Donegal.
World number one McIlroy is a frequent visitor to the links course; and has visited it before competing in the British Open. He has even appeared at the Donegal club to help promote tourism in an area which relies heavily on visitors to drive the local economy. Club officials want to bid to host the Irish Open there in 2019.
However, red tape is preventing the club from reinforcing the sand dunes because it is in an area of special scientific interest.
"We are in danger of losing our course completely," warned Ballyliffin CEO John Farren. "We are expecting very high tides again this autumn, and if that ocean water comes over and into the 13th green, we could lose the whole lot.
"In the past, we would have brought in diggers and put back the hundreds of tonnes of stones which were our natural defence but we've been told by the National Parks service we cannot touch it."
The club has been ordered to hire an ecologist and submit a planning application just to restore the defences. An official from the Department of Public Works has written to the club warning that, even after the application, work may not be given the go-ahead.
"We could fix this in a couple of weeks ... but instead the process could take years. We don't have that time," said Mr Farren. "It seems that no Government agency will take responsibility for coastal erosion and each is unwilling or unable to make decisions that need immediate action."
He added: "It's our dream to host an Irish Open with Rory and Ireland's other golfing greats here, because it would transform the whole of Inishowen."
The Office of Public Works (OPW) confirmed no repair works can take place until a scientific study and a planning application are submitted to the council. The OPW also said funding was available if given the go-ahead. But Mr Farren said: "We'll pay to do it ourselves if need be; we just want this done quickly."