I have written a few articles recently rounding up how golf clubs around the country fared in 2019… and what they had planned for the year ahead. There remains an underlying swell of concern that membership numbers have not bounced back from the highs of 2006. Fourteen years is a long time to wait.
On the other hand, golf clubs can’t sit idly by and it is positive to hear of many clubs investing in their courses and facilities. There are those pursuing important drainage work and sanding programmes, others who have introduced new bunkering schemes, the few who have rerouted holes or created new ones, and those who have been implementing multi-year investment programmes, such as Ardglass and Dundalk. Clubhouses and practice facilities also improve the quality of ‘product’ that visitors and members alike will enjoy.
The list of courses is hefty and you could run through just about every county (except Leitrim, obviously) and find a club doing worthy works… but here are just a few names to prove the point: Ardee, Ashbourne, Castlebar, Castlerock, Concra Wood, Delgany, Dingle Links, Douglas, Hermitage, Malone, Newcastle West, Royal Dublin, Tralee, Tulfarris, Westmanstown, Wicklow. I could go on, but there’s no point. You get the idea.
A few years ago, Ballybunion ripped up all of their greens in order to return them to hard, fast and true links conditions, with fescue grasses… at a cost estimated at €1.5 million. It was a massive step that saw the course closed for a number of months.
That is also now true at Druids Glen, where my favourite parkland in Ireland is bringing in Peter McEvoy to oversee the replacement of all 18 greens (and tee boxes too) to give the Glen fresh energy. The course will be closed for a year (2021) as this and other work is carried out thanks to a significant investment by the new owners (the Neville Hotel Group).
It is not unfair to say that the greens at Druids Glen have not looked their best in the past couple of years. They roll and play well… but they look patchy and I have seen various comments online to that effect. Well that is going to change very soon and should see this magnificent and challenging parkland reinforce its position in ‘Ireland’s top parkland’ conversation. The work will also undoubtedly see the Glen smelling of roses as it retains its title as the ‘Augusta of Ireland’.
The end result, it is hoped, will be the distinction of hosting the Irish Open again in a few years’ time. Who, then, will add their name alongside Montgomerie (twice), David Carter, and Garcia, the former victors at Druids Glen?
Look around… ask around… and you will find Irish golf clubs investing despite the membership/income difficulties most of them face. That’s because golf courses evolve constantly and demand continuous effort and money to keep them in the best shape possible. It’s the nature of the game and – well – nature!
*For anyone younger than 45, 18 and Life is a 1989 track by Skid Row.