Road sign rules making courses invisible
Hundreds of golf courses around the country, many barely surviving because of the recession, have been 'disappeared' by the National Roads Authority (NRA), who have refused to allow signposts on the motorway network.
Under new guidelines, golf courses allowed to put up directional signs on the motorways will have to be 'blue chip' championship courses that have hosted major events, including the Ryder Cup and the Solheim Cup, or pass stringent Fáilte Ireland guidelines.
"We have been made invisible by the NRA," said golf club owners' spokesman Michael Dolan.
Mr Dolan, owner of the highly rated Mount Temple Golf Club, claims many golf courses are now also under severe pressure because of "below-cost selling" by courses controlled by the State-owned bad bank NAMA, or are in receivership, examinership or administration.
"They are undercutting us. NAMA and the receivers are selling golf and accommodation packages for well below what they actually cost. Ordinary golf courses already under pressure can't compete with that," he told the Sunday Independent.
At a major seminar held late last year called 'Road to Recovery', businessman Dermot Desmond said it was vital that golf courses target the international traveller and indigenous tourism to survive.
But that task of attracting trade is made difficult because of the ban on motorway directional signs.
Mr Desmond, a member of The K Club, was gloomy about the prospects for many golf courses.
"Definitely, golf courses will have to close. Clubs were built on a dream and won't recover. Let them be turned into tillage, or whatever, and let other clubs survive rather than death by a thousand cuts," he said.
Meanwhile, Mr Dolan was among dozens of golf course owners and hoteliers from the lakelands region of the midlands, who say their survival hopes are being hit by the lack of signposting on motorways.
Mr Dolan told the Fáilte Ireland tourism industry briefing in Glasson that it was ironic that many of the high-profile golf courses that are allowed to have signposts on the motorways are now in NAMA.
A spokesman for the National Roads Authority confirmed new criteria have now been agreed on signposting.
"Only the larger, higher profile courses will be considered for signage from the motorway and dual carriageway network," he said.
The courses that are allowed signposting on the country's busiest roads include those which comply with, and adhere to, the Fáilte Ireland tourism quality assurance scheme for golf courses, and are certified as such by Fáilte Ireland. Another qualification for a motorway or dual carriageway sign is that the course should have hosted at least one nationally significant championship event.
NRA spokesman Sean O'Neill said these 'nationally significant' tournaments include:
Ryder Cup or Solheim Cup Event (or equivalent international professional tournament).
European Tour Event (e.g. Irish Open).
Seniors European Tour Event (e.g. Seniors Irish Open).
Ladies European Tour event, (e.g. Ladies Irish Open).
Irish PGA Championship.
Courses which are located within 10km of the national road junction are allowed a motorway direction sign if continuity signage, both to the course and back to the national road, is provided by the course operator under licence from the relevant local authority.
Many golf course operators say they were given commitments around the time of the Ryder Cup in The K Club that they would be allowed signage on the motorways being completed around the country at that time. The NRA denied this on Friday.
Spokesman Sean O'Neill said: "There would have been no outright commitment made, because the policy was not even finalised until all the consulting agencies involved finalised the standards for the Fáilte Ireland tourism quality assurance scheme for golf courses."
Sunday Indo Sport