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The fight for hearts, minds and membership fees has been taken to a new level by Druids Glen Golf Resort.

Not alone are they offering membership of Druids Glen, which also comes with playing rights on Druids Heath, for €2,600 a year, but that annual sub is FIXED for three years.

Fascinating idea, but one which can certainly be attractive for golfers who are in the market to join one of the country's top resorts. And it may be enough to give the Druids Glen course an edge in attracting members as they bid to increase the membership base to a maximum of 300.

Remember, this is a former home of the Irish Open which commanded a €50,000 membership fee until the last few years and which most recently had been charging €4,000 annual sub for the Glen.

CEO Richard Collins explained the rationale behind this initiative, which has been fully supported by the current membership base. "Druids Glen was set up originally as a low membership base, but a high corporate golf base," he said.

"Corporate golf is still a very important part of what we do, but bear in mind that five or six years ago the amount of financial institution corporate golf in this country was huge and obviously an awful lot of that has disappeared.

So, we made a decision, with the full support of our members, I might add, to turn ourselves into more of a members club.


"Now, you can address driving a membership strategy in many ways, but ultimately you have to do two things: you have to benchmark yourself against what's out there in terms of other member clubs, but you also have to understand where we are as an economy and make sure that you can offer the right product at the right price.

"So, we benchmarked. We looked at very successful, large membership-based golf organisations out there and came up with a price that seemed to be working out at €2,600 a year.

"We also knew that people would have a lot of suspicion about a rate like €2,600 for membership of Druids Glen -- and bear in mind that you've got playing rights in Druids Heath as well -- so we went the further step of guaranteeing that rate for three years.

"A question that's often asked of us is how do your current membership base take this?

"Yes we have people who paid large joining fees to join Druids Glen, but no more so than others who paid large fees to join marquee courses around the country, but I think when you look at joining fees you've got to look at them in the same light as the value of an Anglo Irish Bank share, the value of a holiday home in Spain and, indeed, the value of your own home.

"It's an asset that unfortunately doesn't have the same value as it had five, six, seven years ago. Most of my members are captains of Irish industry. They are great realists. Their businesses have been affected, probably their livelihoods have been affected, and therefore to a man and to a woman, they have been totally supportive of our campaign."

Druids Glen and Druids Heath -- the latter opened for membership two years ago -- have separate affiliations to the GUI and have separate captains and committees.

The Heath membership costs €1,500 a year and Collins reports membership of close to 400 in that club. What about NAMA? Isn't the Glen Resort in their clutches? The answer is no -- and Collins says it never will be. The land for the resort was bought in the 1970s and Collins says the debt is "very, very small."

"When I say very little debt on the resort, I mean very little debt on the resort," he said.

"Our gearing is perfect, and also, I suppose, where I have the luxury over many of the resorts out there, is that my ownership base, which is three Irish families, their main industry is not the property market in Ireland, but it's the mining, construction and oil support services in Nigeria.

"They have a turnover of several hundred million dollars a year and we have the support of a major company behind us. So, I'm probably one of the few resorts in the country that can say: 'I'm not in NAMA' and I'm one of the few resorts in the country that can categorically say: 'I'll never be in NAMA'."

In addition, over €100,000 will be invested in both courses for machinery, drainage and bunkering as course superintendent John O'Sullivan and his team maintain the two courses to a high standard.

Cutler, Dunbar head Irish raid on Portugal

THE GUI players who will compete in the Portuguese Amateur Open Championship at Montado GC from February 17-20 are: Paul Cutler (Portstewart), Alan Dunbar (Rathmore), Eddie McCormack (Galway) and Jeff Hopkins (Skerries).

Paul Cutler won the Lytham Trophy last year, and Dunbar took the Irish Amateur Open title. They also competed for Ireland in the European Championships and Home Internationals.

Hopkins finished runner-up in the 2010 Irish Youths championship, and McCormack was beaten finalist in the West of Ireland championship last year.

Hilary society receives sponsorship boost

The Hilary Golf Society, founded in 1953 by the late, great Joe Carr, has received sponsorship for 2011 from RaboDirect.

This society is open to amateurs with a handicap of six or less and also to professionals. The idea behind it was to provide early season competition and the final event is held in Sutton, synonymous with Joe Carr.

The Hilary has embraced technology through its website, www.hilarygolf.ie and can be followed on twitter at twitter.com/hilarygolf.

Irish Independent