Saturday 17 March 2018

Castlepark Holdings offer for Greystones Golf Club set to be a long battle for control

Jordan Spieth tees off during a practice round for the Open at the Robert Trent Jones Jr designed Chambers Bay near Seattle, Washington
Jordan Spieth tees off during a practice round for the Open at the Robert Trent Jones Jr designed Chambers Bay near Seattle, Washington
Peter Flanagan

Peter Flanagan

The news that a developer has made an unsolicited bid for Greystone's Golf Club will conjure up images of the Celtic Tiger days all over again.

Castlepark Holding's offer came out of the blue, catching club members largely off guard.

The offer would seem to be comprehensive. In return for taking over the current location of Greystones Golf Club near the centre of the town, Castlepark is offering a Robert Trent Jones Jr designed golf course 2km away as well as a new clubhouse and other facilities.

This is not a trivial offer.

Mr Trent Jones is one of the most celebrated designers in the world game. The US Open begins today on a course he designed at Chambers Bay near Seattle in the Pacific Northwest.

And from the outside at least, it would seem there is a case for a deal to be explored at least. Greystones Golf Club is short by today's standards at a touch over 6,000 yards from the back tees, and development is restricted by the residential areas the course borders.

There is an issue with errant tee shots landing in back gardens, although that is a problem in any golf course that is beside private housing.

Founded in 1895, Greystones is a historic track. But the restrictions on the course's size mean it rarely attracts overseas visitors who are a valuable source of income to many clubs around the country.

Inevitably, I suppose, there will be longtime members who enjoy the course as it is and who do not see any reason to lengthen it, or seek players from overseas clogging up the fairways.

The offer is a long, long way from being complete, and there are several hurdles to be cleared first. Top of the list will be price. Press reports indicated that Castlepark were willing to pay €100m Greystones Golf Club. However anyone in the property industry knows this figure is completely unrealistic.

While the current site of Greystones Golf Club could be a prime residential site in the future, that reality is years away.

For a start, the land has no planning permission for housing, it is not even zoned for residential development. Even if Castlepark closed a deal for the site this summer, then planning applications will take some time, and will probably come up against stiff opposition from the Nimby brigade.

Castlepark's Damien Moore has said the offer to buy the golf club "was the very early stages of exploring an idea that was put to him" and confirmed that "if the proposal worked for both parties, then Castlepark would be willing to engage with Greystones GC and investigate further".

There is a long, long way to run in this saga yet. Some members will not want to sell, some will be happy to move to a new course, and the price will have to be hammered out. Any deal will ultimately be put to the membership, with 75pc majority required to pass it. Conor Whelan of Allsop is advising Castlepark.

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