Friday 23 March 2018

Clubs come out fighting in bid to beat recession

The magnificent setting of the 12th hole at Ballybunion GC which continues to set standards and was this week named Irish Golf Course of the Year.
The magnificent setting of the 12th hole at Ballybunion GC which continues to set standards and was this week named Irish Golf Course of the Year.
Liam Kelly

Liam Kelly

CAN golf survive the Great Banking Crisis of the 21st century? The answer is: absolutely. To paraphrase Barack Obama: Yes it can and yes it will. As long as people populate this island the game will continue to be played.

However, the 'industry' side of golf, which effectively means the financial structure of every club and golfing facility, is under severe pressure. We have an over-supply of golf courses and we have a financial recession with every householder in Ireland scrutinising income and outlay very carefully.

And yet the country is awash with savings. One financial company estimated there is €14bn in savings tucked away in various institutions.

Admittedly, the rainy days for which the savings were being hoarded are now upon us. But take heart; none of us would be here today if our ancestors hadn't survived famine, war, pestilence, oppression and boom-and-bust economic fluctuations, to name just a few of the challenges that have been visited on mankind over the millennia.

Come to think of it, many people on the planet are being affected by most of these problems at this very moment.


So, what does it all mean for the golfing sector, a sector which has been central to our tourism and employment in a big way, particularly over the last 25 years?

First, a couple of snapshots, a mixture of good and bad news. Take Ballybunion, which forged a great reputation with Americans and had the great Tom Watson as their Millennium Year captain in 2000.

Last week it was reported the club had given voluntary redundancy packages to six employees, reducing to 39 the number of full-time people working at the club.

This comes in line with reduced green fees at Ballybunion, and a drop from 28,000 rounds of golf in 2003 to 8,500 rounds last year.

But then came better news. Green fee income is up by 18pc this year and Ballybunion was named 'Golf Course of the Year' at the Irish Golf Tour Operators awards held in the Slieve Donard hotel beside Royal County Down on Monday.

New Forest Golf club is in receivership, but the receiver appointed Carr Golf Services to manage the facility and on Sunday 400 people are on a timesheet as part of a membership drive at the Midlands club.

A range of marketing and targeted membership initiatives, plus a course-grooming overhaul led by Gerry Byrne, course superintendent of The K Club for the Ryder Cup in 2006, has boosted the profile and prospects of New Forest.

South County in Dublin, also managed by Carr Golf Services, is steadily increasing membership.

Killeen Castle has launched a membership drive for golfers aged 18-30. The annual sub in these categories is €1,250 plus VAT and a €5,000 entrance fee, which can be paid in the period up to their 30th birthday.

And clubs all around the country are offering cheap green fees and holding open events, some of them at weekends. Clearly there is a lot of brain-power wattage being generated all around the country by clubs, committees and organisations to ensure that Irish golf can survive and prosper.

That being the case, there should be huge interest from all areas of golf in the 'Road To Recovery' Golf Business Conference to be held at the new Convention Centre in Dublin on Friday, November 19.

The essential idea behind the conference is to try and take an overview of what's going on in the golf industry and to offer solutions and ideas as to how best deal with the challenges that face the industry.

A high-powered group will address the conference, for which an in-depth survey has been conducted. Over 160 clubs have responded in detail and that report will be presented at the conference.

Other themes are: Restructuring Your Business, Operating Efficiently, and Revenue/Sales, including membership sales and retention.

Dermot Desmond, Chairman of International Investment and Underwriting (IIU), will present the introduction and among the other keynote speakers will be Buddy Darby of Kiawah Partners/Doonbeg Golf Club; Declan Taite of FGS; Marty Carr, CEO of Carr Group and GCMS and Mark Nolan of Dromoland Castle.

Frank Bowen of the GUI and Sinead Heraty of the ILGU will talk about current membership and other aspects of the golf clubs, while Keith McCormack (Failte Ireland), Mike Lasoulat (Executive VP Sales, Golf Channel Solutions) and Roddy Carr, CEO of Solheim Cup 2011, will also address the conference.

Price for the day is €124 plus VAT and the event promises to be a significant brainstorming session for anyone interested in getting involved in golf through the next few years.

Further information can be obtained from

McVeigh joins Maguires in Buenos Aires World test

THE ILGU's top players Danielle McVeigh and Leona and Lisa Maguire are in action today in the Espirito Santo Trophy at the World Amateur Team championship at Olivos GC in Buenos Aires.

Team captain Claire Robinson of Knock and the players have been practising in Buenos Aires for almost a week and are ready for the challenge.

McVeigh and the Maguire twins starred for GB & Ireland at the Curtis Cup earlier this year and ranked in the top four of the side's most valuable players.

They were on the Irish team which finished runners-up to Scotland at the Women's Home Internationals last month and will be ably guided by Ireland's highly reputed High Performance Manager David Kearney this week.

Irish Independent

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