On a scale of one to ten – ten being the best – what kind of year do you reckon Irish golf had in 2020. Covid probably has you thinking it’s about a 3, but counter that with the giant leap in membership across the country and perhaps you’ll re-evaluate, chalking up a 7 instead. As with all things it depends on your point of view.
The new Irish Golfer Magazine arrives in golf clubs next week and it includes a lengthy article on investments made by golf clubs throughout 2020. Some small, some big. Despite the difficulties the industry faced there was still plenty of activity out there, which can only be positive news.
And there’s one more big one to add to the mix. (It arrived too late to be included in the article.) St Margaret’s Golf & Country Club, in North Co. Dublin, announced on Wednesday that it will invest €1m in the club over the next five years. For a club that was slipping away ten or so years ago and then returned to its impressive best by Synergy, a few years later, this is a big boost for members, visitors and employees… and its own self esteem. It was designed by Pat Ruddy and Tom Craddock, after all. The investment will enhance the quality and standards across all areas of the golf club including significant changes and improvements both on and off course.
Since its inception in 1992, St. Margaret’s Golf & Country Club has played host to many high-profile events including the Ladies Irish Open, the Senior Irish Open and the Irish PGA Championship. Steeped in history, the club has long been associated with quality. Built by world class golf course designers Pat Ruddy and Tom Craddock, the course design and conditioning is second to none.
Under the management of Synergy Golf, the club’s goal has been on constant improvement and over the past six years this has been evident with the clubhouse and golf course all undergoing significant makeovers. Since the end of 2014, over €1.2m has been invested. Now a further €1m is planned over the next five years with the club outlining its ambitious plans to continue its pursuit of excellence to members last week.
“At St. Margaret’s, we pride ourselves on offering quality and consistency to our members and their guests, said Andy Kenny, Director of Synergy Golf and General Manager, St. Margaret’s Golf & Country Club. “Year after year we continue to improve our facilities on and off the golf course. As we enter 2021, we renew our focus, and we are delighted to announce significant investment in the golf club over the next few years. Throughout next year the evolution and refinement of our membership experience will become very evident to all our members and they can look forward to significant improvements on and off course, some of which have already been completed. The coming years are set to be very exciting for the members of St. Margaret’s, we have major plans in the pipeline and the re-introduction of the club’s joining fee outlines the true value on offer at our fantastic golf club.”
Over the Winter months and into the future, the suite of improvements and benefits includes:
- €250K + will be invested on-course to create the best possible playing conditions including lake dredging and general appearance upgrades of built features.
- €600K+ will be invested in golf machinery, leading to increased quality of presentation and a better all-round experience.
- €150K+ in the continued upgrade of the clubhouse including improvements to environmental sustainability, locker rooms, outdoor dining area, building exterior and upgrades to the driving range, kitchen and IT requirements.
- In 2017, the club launched its Lír Restaurant. Once government restrictions allow, there is intent to enhance the member’s experience of this area and provide access to private dining rooms with ease of social distancing and private services.
It is great news to hear that another golf club is focused on investment and improving the overall experience… but I’m sure that some of you have spotted something in Andy Kenny’s remarks. The return of a membership joining fee (€2,000) may be seen as unusual in the current climate and it may encourage a spurt of new applications before the February 14 2021 deadline. And once the club reaches capacity the membership will close. The goal is to offer greater exclusivity for existing members, such as extended member times, introductory offers for family and friends, high profile series competitions, among other things.
Membership fees are not always easy to take. They can involve a lot of money that doesn’t always come back to you. It makes sense – as St Margaret’s has done here – to introduce it on the back of a big investment programme. I confess to seeing the benefits of a joining fee: most important of which is you invest time and effort into finding the golf club that’s right for you and where you won’t leave because a neighbouring club drops its fee for a year. In such circumstances you simply bounce from club to club without ever setting down roots. That’s never been my thing – which may explain why I’ve been a member of the same club since I was a kid. Of course, there are many who like to do exactly that… and a €2,000 fee will mean such golfers won’t be joining St Margaret’s. Instead the club will have a more loyal cohort… who will benefit from an impressive looking investment plan over the next five years.
* One in Ten was a top ten hit for UB40 in 1981.