While some golf courses were forced to stand still as a result of the pandemic, Palmerstown House Estate has ploughed on with intent.
Headed by Director of Golf, Graham Byrne, and his fellow PGA pros Mick O’Shea and Mark Cribben, the team at Palmerstown House has benefited from unwavering support and enthusiasm under the banner of Comer Group Hotels and the result is a member focussed centre of excellence with golf at its core.
“I’ve always had a vision of us being a centre of excellence,” says Byrne who, having qualified as a PGA professional under the tutelage of Simon Byrne at Hermitage in 2007, moved to Palmerstown House in April that year.
Course conditioning was bolstered by a new fleet of machinery, while the new island green par-3 tenth hole, opened in 2021, was heralded as Ireland’s answer to the famous 17th at the TPC Sawgrass.
The top-class changing facilities in the clubhouse boast a sauna and steam room but the new Sindon’s Bar and Restaurant is the star of the post-round show and includes a designated members-only area and an extensive menu sure to please, and a vast outdoor dining area boasting a remarkable view of the 18th.
What’s more, Palmerstown House Estate has just launched a full TrackMan Driving Range. A “long-time pet project” of Byrne’s, the ground-breaking technology is about to elevate the club alongside some of the most revered in the country.
“We needed 12-month revenue and the driving range became paramount,” says Byrne.
“We always intended to have a covered range with floodlights, and we were thinking of getting a TrackMan or two for Mark and Mick to teach and hopefully growing from there, but once TrackMan presented us with the TrackMan Range, we went down to Ballyneety Driving Range and saw how that worked and it became a no brainer.”
Following a substantial investment, the result is 14 covered as well as six outdoor bays all equipped with TrackMan technology. Add-in the high-quality short-game practice facilities already on-site and the club has quickly become one of the premier game-improvement centres in Ireland.
“We’ve put our emphasis on golf and trying to become one of the best member’s clubs in the country and I think we’re achieving that,” says Head Professional Cribben whose PGA journey began at Palmerstown before he completed his training in Moyvalley, moved to New Forest and then eventually returned to Palmerstown in 2013.
“The addition of the TrackMan Range is going to be massive for the golf club. The bays and the floodlights mean we’re going to have 12 months of the year to teach and that in turn means our members will have access to year-round golf.
“The next big job is to go out on the golf course and fix our wet spots to make us more durable in the winter. The work never stops but we wouldn’t have it any other way!”
The TrackMan Range officially launched at Palmerstown in June and it has already proved to be a big hit.
“We had 264 golfers in for a charity day and they couldn’t believe it,” O’Shea says of the reaction.
“It’s top class, and it’s going to bring the club to another level. As a teaching professional, if you don’t have access to technology these days you’re behind the black ball. It will be great to bring it to all the members and visitors and take people’s games to the next level alongside us.”
O’Shea qualified as a PGA professional under the guidance of Jimmy Bolger at Kilkenny Golf Club in 2002. His ambition, like most PGA pros, was to carve out a playing career but when the realisation arrived that his game didn’t meet the required standard, he revelled in golf operations, teaching and the daily interactions behind the desk of the pro shop.
“We’re very fortunate to have a great group of members at Palmerstown,” says O’Shea, who also enjoyed stints at Mount Wolseley, Callan and Rathsallagh Golf Clubs before making the move to Kildare.
“We had 340 members pre-Covid, and now we have 710 and we’re pretty much at capacity. Member times have expanded from 7-11am and are now 6.30am to 1pm every Saturday and the place is flying.
“Members have to come first in a golf club and although we’ve enjoyed fantastic investment, we’ve never lost sight of that.”
As a TGI member, Palmerstown House Estate has been able to provide its members with a competitively priced selection of high-class new gear and equipment in the club’s pro shop.
“Being a TGI member allows us to get the best possible price to bring stock into the shop for our members, and allows us to compete with the large retail stores,” O’Shea explains.
“We’re all about our members, and by being in TGI and dealing with your suppliers at the best possible rate, we can then look after our membership.”
Although Byrne is also a PGA Professional, his role has evolved from the front of house to the back, meaning O’Shea and Cribben manage the teaching side of things, societies and day-to-day affairs while he oversees the club’s bigger picture.
“I leave lessons to Mark and Mick because if I can’t put the time and effort into bringing fresh ideas to consumers, then it’s best left to them,” Byrne explains.
“Thankfully they’re both brilliant in how they deliver lessons, allowing me to focus on ensuring the company is delivering targets.
“We’re primarily a member-based golf club now. You won’t survive long-term without a solid base, and for us that means 70-80 percent of what you’re doing revolves around your members to sustain the club.
“We have a championship course that would challenge any golfer and now we have the practice facilities to match it. From a club perspective, that best enables us to chase a national pennant for the wall. And in turn the experience is elevated for the members and the visitors.
“The new bar has added to it. You have the warm welcome. You have a sauna and steam room and a luxurious locker room for when you come back in, and we’ve the balcony set-up outside too.
“We’re striving for that all-day experience, and we believe we now offer it.”
Throughout his 15 years in Palmerstown, Byrne has seen it all, from challenges to all the new advancements made in recent years and memberships reaching full capacity.
These successes embody the drive forward set down by Comer Group Hotels, a vision of excellence has been realised, and the future looks brighter than ever for Palmerstown House Estate as a result.
“They’ve been brilliant,” Byrne says. “This is the first golf course project they’ve taken on. They’ve backed our vision, and in fairness to the golf team, the greenkeepers, the marketing team, F&B, just to be able to grow it every year, and then to have the support from the members every step along the way has been fantastic.
“Next year is our 10th year as a golf club which is a big deal for us so the fact that we’ll have a driving range to match up with the golf course, and clubhouse facilities to complement the lot is something to celebrate, and something on which to build.”
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