There are few golf clubs in Ireland which have not had a positive 2022. The pent-up demand from 2020 and 2021 spilled into 2022… and it looks like it is extending into 2023. Not that this necessarily reflects on how golf clubs decide how much to invest in their facilities, or what to invest their money on because many decisions are made years in advance or are part of a rolling series of investments. They also tend to follow the purchase of a golf course, in the shape of a hotel/resort. Consider Druids Glen, Adare, Carton House, Portmarnock Links and Castlemartyr: they all have new owners and all have enjoyed a burst of investment. The year 2022 has seen an immense amount of investment by many clubs across the country, helped in places by the Sports Capital Programme. Here is a brief outline of many of these… and I apologise to clubs that have invested money and a lot of hard work who are not mentioned here.
The major course development plan at Ardglass has now been going on for several years. In 2022, the par-3 5th – Black Rock – was replaced with a new hole including tees, green and five bunkers. New greenside bunkers were also added to the 12th hole. The new hole (by Ken Kearney and DAR Golf) will be in play for summer 2023.
Arklow demonstrates the type of continuous annual investment that goes into a club. 2022 saw the introduction of new course machinery, new bunkering (holes 4 and 5) and a new 6th tee. Irrigation was upgraded, drainage work was completed on 16 and 17, and new bridges were constructed on holes 10 and 12. These constant efforts to improve playing conditions, aesthetics and facilities often go unnoticed (and/or unappreciated) by golfers and it is unlikely that your club – wherever it might be – hasn’t been following suit.
One to watch in 2023 with a Masterplan presented to the club in 2022.
A new short game area with multiple greens was created. ➜ Ballyhaunis
The greenkeeping team installed new irrigation on all greens and removed non-native trees on two holes. New greenkeeping sheds were also added. Elsewhere, a new short game practice area (two chipping greens, practice green, bunkers and artificial tees) will open in spring 2023.
All gravel pathways have been converted to grass, for aesthetic and maintenance purposes, thus requiring new irrigation. A new bore hole has also been added. On Glashedy, a new starter’s hut and 1st tee complex were constructed and new and enhanced tee boxes were introduced on several holes of both courses. Glashedy’s par-3 7th was sleepered and tees realigned.
A full remodelling of all greenside bunkers was carried out by Beaverstown’s inhouse team and DAR Golf. The project commenced in the spring and bunkers were in play by the summer.
➜ Beech Park
New equipment purchased included leaf blowers (the clue is in the club’s name) while two new tee boxes were constructed for holes 11 and 13. Two more (holes 8 and 9) will be completed in 2023.
➜ Belvoir Park
“Belvoir Park Golf Club is an ambitious club backed by strong financial management, and an unwavering commitment to improving the member and visitor experience” – Brendan McDermott, General Manager. The club purchased three new machines (Toro Rough Mower, Toro Fairway Mower and a John Deere Gator) costing £158K. New tee boxes were constructed on the 2nd and 8th holes while a new bore hole and pump were installed in May. New crockery and tableware, new crested mats and LED lights for locker rooms were also purchased.
➜ Black Bush
Various new tee complexes and new pathways were constructed by DAR Golf.
The major rebuild of all the club’s bunkers started in the autumn and the new bunkers will be ready in time for summer. Marc Westenborg is the designer with DAR Golf conducting the work on the ground. This is a big project which will only enhance Blainroe’s already sizeable reputation.
Five new machines were acquired and ten new buggies added. Bunclody’s biggest step, however, was to increase its full-time greenkeeping team from four to seven. It explains why so many golfers raved about Bunclody’s condition in 2022.
In 2022, the re-design of the entire 1st tee complex for all three nines was carried out by course designer Ally McIntosh, alongside Carne’s greenkeeping team. The changes ensure that the two 18-hole options (WAD and Hackett) can be easily navigated by golfers. It also increases the size of the practice putting green. Work was completed in late December. At €70,000, it is the biggest investment in the course design since its inception (excluding McIntosh’s third nine in 2013). €200k of new machinery was purchased.
➜ Carton House
One to watch in 2023 as European Golf Design (EGD) are implementing a full review of the resort’s two courses. EGD were involved in the original designs for O’Meara and Montgomerie.
➜ Castle New
USGA-quality tees were built for the 11th hole.
The resort is receiving an €8 million investment, including a complete renovation of the bunkers on the Ron Kirby-designed, inland links-style course. The design work was by Kirby himself and 21 of the bunkers were also remodelled. A new driving range has also been introduced.
Ken Kearney carried out a remodelling with new green complexes on holes 3 and 6. A tree management programme was also undertaken.
On the links, Castlerock’s greens team rebuilt eight bunkers, built four new tees and reshaped two green surrounds. New buggies were purchased and water fountains were installed at points around the course. The locker rooms and Proshop are to be upgraded. “All clubs have to keep improving and investing in their main assets and annually we do this as part of an ongoing process. We try to attract visitors from US/Canada and this is an expectation of them along with our members” – Bert MacKay, General Manager.
A new 2nd green was built on the Dufferin course. In addition, two sustainable on-course toilets were constructed, new machinery was purchased, the driving range bays were covered and paths were re-surfaced.
➜ Concra Wood
New buggy paths have been added across the course and a major overhaul of its 72 bunkers is taking place.
In 2021, the club began replacing its bunkers (27 holes) with Eco bunkers, which are more cost efficient and require less maintenance. Fifteen were completed by the greens team over the 2021/22 winter and six more have already been completed this winter. Two new winter tee boxes have been added (9 and 11) and a new 15th tee box is under construction. 2023 sees the club celebrating its 50th anniversary.
Ken Kearney has been working on the course introducing a new 16th green complex and new 17th tees, as well as remodelling bunkering on 8, 11 and 17.
➜ Co Armagh
The little known – south of the border – Co Armagh is a sweet tree-lined parkland with a tough finish. Ken Kearney and DAR Golf have created a new par-3 18th hole, due to health and safety concerns, with new tees, green and bunker. A new 4th tee complex has also been added.
➜ Co Sligo
County Sligo has invested some €350,000. The famous burn on 14 has been entirely re-sleepered and new pathways have been completed on 4, 10 and 18. An irrigation system upgrade costing €170K will also be completed by March as will 22 greenside bunkers which are being rebuilt. “As a members club we continue to reinvest in the whole offering, both facilities and links, which will enhance the member and visitor experience” – David O’Donovan, General Manager.
Due to safety concerns (boundary issues with neighbouring park) the par-4 8th hole will be changed. This may well affect the layout of one or two holes that follow. One to watch in 2023.
The club upgraded its practice area and introduced a new chipping green. An indoor Trackman studio was also added.
Investment in new machinery included €15K for a leaf blower, and anyone who knows the pretty parkland that is Courtown will appreciate that it will be well used. The practice range and short game area have received a major make-over to make them playable all year round, as well as more level. Concrete-based bays are due to be added.
Bunker remodelling continues at this wonderfully wild and challenging links, and there is more to come with a revised short game area and practice putting green in the works.
A new par-3 4th hole has been constructed to accommodate the new M28 road. It replaces the existing par-3 and will measure 165m from the back tee. The tee boxes are in a field alongside the course which is owned by the golf club. The hole was designed by Jeff Howes and constructed by DAR Golf. Machinery was also purchased and the refurbished clubhouse was opened officially in May.
➜ Dromoland Castle
As host of the Women’s Irish Open, it is no surprise that the team at Dromoland Castle had a busy year. It was the start of a multi-year investment that combines the skills and efforts of Superintendent Paul Coleman and his team, Eamonn O’Donnell (Director of Golf), Ron Kirby and European Golf Services. The work included the renovation and redesign of all bunkers, inclusive of new drainage, as well as the construction of a new 18th fairway and water feature short of the green. A new Swilcan bridge now connects the 11th green to the new 12th tees. The total investment is expected to be in the region of €2.5 million.
➜ Druids Glen
The year 2023 will be a big one for Druids Glen, and all those who love what is undoubtedly Ireland’s most colourful and – in my opinion – most exciting parkland. The vast range of work carried out in 2022 saw a full course remodel, including 20 greens, 18 sets of tees, bunkers, new irrigation system, dredging of lakes, course drainage, thinning of trees and new lake. Pause for breath. And the new 4th green deserves a special mention… as do the names of designers Peter McEvoy and (re)Golf’s Jeff Lynch. The multi-million project started in Spring 2022, and was completed by the winter. The course will re-open Spring/Summer 2023. The heavy lifting fell to DAR Golf, alongside the greenkeeping team and Turfgrass.
➜ Dundalk GC
A new Master Plan has been drawn up for the club by Ken Kearney. Watch this space.
Major lake-clearing work has taken place in front of the four star hotel (18th century mansion) affecting the aesthetics and challenges on holes 1, 2, 3 17 and 18. A fountain has been added to the lake on the 1st and another will be added next to the 18th tee box in 2023.
New irrigation has been added on the 2nd and 17th holes. The clubhouse has been fully refurbished and new floor-to-ceiling glass stretches across the front of the restaurant/bar to show off the course.
➜ Forrest Little
A new Master Plan has been drawn up for the club by Ken Kearney, while a bunker remodelling is due to start in January 2023.
➜ Galgorm Castle
The course continues to evolve, confirming the club’s reputation as a first-class facility. The year 2022 saw changes to the parking area (to make way for a dedicated drop-off zone) but the overall focus was on making the River Maine a more dominant feature. New tee boxes on the banks for 11, 13 and 14 are right above the river and will demand so much more from the Pros in the ISPS Handa World Invitational (17-20 August 2023) The new 13th is not dissimilar to the 15th at Adare while the par-3 14th green extension takes the putting surface much closer to the water. The par-5 9th will combine the two lakes down the left-hand side into one.
A substantial change on the 16th saw the expansive bunker on the right of the hole filled in and sodded. Trees will be added in due course. Golflink Evolve was brought in to help with the work which will greatly reduce maintenance. Elsewhere a large section of gorse was removed on the 17th in order to bring it back to the original design… which was by Alister MacKenzie!
➜ Galway Bay
Galway Bay rebuilt four bridges using sustainable materials (wood and natural hemp rope), at a cost of some €60k, and 12 new lithium ion golf buggies with GPS computers were added. The club is pursuing an agenda to reduce its carbon footprint and become more sustainable. A new 115HP tractor (€100k) and a New Greens Mower (€53k) will ensure the perfectly conditioned course remains just that.
Glasson is evolving its golf product with a new golf simulator room using Trackman technology. New signage and furniture were added, and a new website (glassonlakehouse.ie) established. A €250K investment in new golf course machinery is underway. In all, some €1.5 million has been pumped into the course. “We are absolutely thrilled with the outcome to the course improvements. The feedback has been tremendous both from members and visitors. The investment in the drainage has paid off as we can now offer 18 holes of golf through the winter months. Our new Golf Course Superintendent, Lenny O’Callaghan, is doing a fantastic job here leading the team. The practices that he has put in place have taken the course to an all-new level and, as a former course rater, I would definitely put the experience here at Glasson amongst the finest parkland courses in Ireland” – Lynn McCool, Director of Golf.
Paul McGinley’s team, alongside DAR Golf, have been upgrading Dublin City’s colourful parkland. Bunker and green surrounds have been remodelled on the 1st, 2nd, 5th and 18th holes, with a new tee complex added on the 2nd. Construction of a new access bridge on the 2nd also took place during 2022.
➜ Grange Castle
New paths have been laid on some holes at this popular public course. Grange Castle is the first club in Ireland to plant a Stepping Stone Forest – small dense woodlands that use only native trees and shrubs.
Another Master Plan to be watched with interest during the year.
A new remodelled 5th green opened at Greystones in 2022. The par-3 at my home club has always generated ‘lively’ debate and it was included in my list of Irish Golfer’s 50 Toughest Par-3s.
“In the last two years we have made a significant investment in our course but, particularly our fairways, to ensure quality playing surfaces throughout the golfing season. The installation of the fairway irrigation (spring ’22 to winter ’23) will simply enhance these surfaces even further leading to a greater overall playing experience. The addition of the wellness suite (Peter O’Keeffe’s Golf Strong) will add to the golfing life of our members and adds a special element to being a member of Hermitage” – Eddie Farrell, General Manager. With a reputation for immaculate conditioning, it is no surprise the club acquired several John Deere 220SL greens push mowers and a new rough mower.
➜ Hilton Templepatrick
One issue that gets raised when discussing this big resort parkland outside Belfast is its lack of dedicated clubhouse. No more: a new clubhouse opened in 2022.
Bunker remodelling took place on various holes around the course.
➜ K Club (Palmer North)
One of 2022’s big projects saw all 18 fairways completely rejuvenated. Some 13,000 cubic metres of the soil cap was removed. This returned the course to the original sand cap which was then enhanced with a further 1,300 tonnes of fresh sand. All 18 fairways were harvested, sanded and seeded… within five working days. The course opened nine weeks later on 1 June. “We now have firm, fast and dry playing surfaces, all year round. Fairway presentation and striping effect has significantly improved. Firmer fairways during winter months have also increased seasonal availability of golf buggies” – Conor Russell, Director of Golf.
A remodel of the 13th and 17th green complexes means that the par-4 17th green has moved back some 45 yards while the 13th is 6 yards farther back. The club has also purchased its first ever greens iron. Visitors may well be more terrified than before as the small greens have proved many-a-player’s kryptonite.
New practice facilities designed by Ken Kearney include a six-hole short course. Other work included bunker remodelling, definition mounding, irrigation and drainage.
Two holes had bunker remodelling, while there was also some mound/fairway reshaping. Some additional remodelling work was carried out on the lake.
➜ Killeen Castle
Full course bunker renovations have taken centre stage at this vibrant and expansive parkland while there was additional drainage installed throughout the course. For the first time since opening in 2008, the Nicklaus Architecture and Design team visited in 2022. This was to ensure the standards and quality of turf care, presentation and maintenance practices were keeping up with the industry leaders. Specific penalty areas were added throughout the course’s native areas on 11 of 18 holes, which improves both speed of play and enjoyment. The club also introduced a luxury fleet of 36 EXGO premium golf carts which offer live pin locations and GPS measurements. A new golfers’ bar and restaurant has enhanced the hospitality experience.
➜ Kirkistown Castle
Planning is in place to remodel the 1st and 18th holes.
A new short game academy has been designed and developed by Ken Kearney and DAR Golf. This includes two greens, bunkers and tees. Work started in the autumn and will open summer 2023.
The three full new holes at Lucan, laid out on virgin land were started in 2021 and opened for play in June 2022. The designer was (re)Golf’s Jeff Lynch and work was carried out by DAR Golf. It included tees, fairways, bunkers, greens and wetland.
➜ Luttrellstown Castle
All 55 bunkers are being renovated. Work began in November and will be finished by the end of 2023. “Our bunker design was always links-style but with a grass face. The new revetting will allow the golf ball to roll better off the face and into the bunker, thereby creating a fairer shot for the golfer. They also add a really striking feature to the course” – Trevor Dargan, Luttrellstown Castle Resort Superintendent. New greens and bunkers were added to the practice course.
New tee complexes have been added on various holes at this 27-hole course.
Greenside bunkers were added on holes 3 and 4.
As part of its three-year plan to improve all its facilities, Monkstown opened a new short game area (two greens, bunkers and tees) and an 11-bay driving range with a state-of-the-art teaching bay/studio (Trackman studio and Well Putt putting green with Capto Gen 2 software). It also includes a fully functional repair studio. The club also added a new buggy bay, a new greenkeeper staff facility and a new verti drainer. The breadth of the work has called for expertise from several quarters, namely DAR Golf Construction, Ken Kearney Design, Peter Murphy Construction, Desmond Engineering, Steeltech Sheds, and Geaney Machinery Ltd. Approximate cost of all works is €460K. “We are delighted with the outcome of the above projects. The Club is really moving forward and we have a can-do attitude. All of the team including Committees have been working tirelessly to make these projects successful. We look forward to continuing our capital development programme in 2023 with our bunker programme and other smaller projects. And the overall enhancement of the member and visitor experience will always be our focus and priority” – Maurice O’Meara, General Manager.
➜ Mount Juliet
With the Horizon Irish Open held once again last year, it was a big two years at the Estate. On top of that, adding Toptracer in July was another huge addition to the Mount Juliet golf experience.
A remodel of the practice area with new tees and target greens.
➜ Old Conna
There was a remodelling of green surrounds on holes 1, 2, 14 and 18. New pathways were laid throughout the course. The designer was Eddie Connaughton.
➜ Old Head
The 16th green has been completely renovated – it has been lowered by two metres – to improve its playability whilst making the most of the dramatic cliff-top site. Over the last 25 years no hole has experienced more work than the 16th due to the constant barrage of mother nature. The improvements include completely remodelling the green complex and surrounds. There will be no bunkers but a series of holding hollows to the left will leave an easier second shot for anyone missing the green on that side. All new, still terrifying.
➜ Palmerstown House Estate
A new Trackman driving range has been established at this big parkland. There are six outdoor bays and fourteen covered bays, and their addition gives the club an impressive set of facilities. This was supported with the addition of 15 new lithium ride-on buggies as well as new kitchen equipment after the total refurbishment of the bar and restaurant in 2021. New machinery was also added to the greenkeeping fleet.
➜ Portmarnock Links
Another of the bigger projects taking place in recent months is the re-routing of six holes at Portmarnock Links. This includes six new greens, tees, fairways and bunkers, and it will see a third of the Bernhard Langer-designed course being re-imagined. The multi-million euro renovation involves (re)Golf’s Jeff Lynch, DAR Golf and Aquaturf Solutions. Work commenced in autumn 2022 and the new holes will open this summer.
Portstewart Golf Club has appointed European Golf Design (EGD) to develop a masterplan for the three 18-hole courses and the onsite practice facilities. Holes 16-18 on the Strand course will be the initial focus.
Portumna Golf Club is one of Ireland’s great but not-well-enough-known parklands. The club is keen to correct that. 2022 saw an investment in 10 top-of-the-range lithium battery buggies, a new, fully stocked golf shop, internal resources/systems developed and the re-design of the 3rd and 18th greens. The investment is in the region of €250,000. The work paves the way for a 5-to-10-year strategic plan, which will begin in 2023.
A new fleet of buggies has been purchased for the 36-hole club. In addition, the East course’s 2nd fairway bunker has been replaced after 25 years as it created various maintenance issues and was not ideally placed for the modern golfer. It was replaced with two smaller bunkers. Elsewhere, wildflowers have been planted across the two courses to enhance biodiversity… which is further enhanced by bee hives. The honey produced is used in Powerscourt’s restaurants.
In June 2022, the club reverted to its original Christy O’Connor Jnr/Peter McEvoy routing and, as such, has introduced new signage around the golf course. The buggy fleet has increased by 50%, new flags introduced and new machinery purchased.
➜ Ring of Kerry
Purchased by the owners of Sheen Falls and Castlemartyr in September 2022, the Eddie Hackett and Ron Kirby-designed Ring of Kerry Golf Club is in line to receive significant upgrades in the years ahead. Watch this space!
The first phase of an irrigation programme saw the installation of a well point system to source ample amounts of water. Elsewhere, on holes 7 and 16, the tee boxes were raised, realigned and relocated to improve the playability of the golf holes and offer spectacular views of the Wexford coastline. Continuation of the long-term bunker programme saw four high profile bunkers (on 6, 7 and 16) completed with ECO bunker revetting turf while sand scrape areas were created to enhance aesthetics.
➜ Royal Curragh
Of the many works undertaken at Royal Curragh, the removal of the invasive poplars to the right of the 5th green – as part of a tree management programme – is a huge positive for one of Ireland’s only true heathland courses.
➜ Royal Dublin
The oldest links on the island is undergoing a full course bunker rebuild with designer Frank Pont (Clayton, Devries & Pont). Started in Autumn 2022, the course will be fully ready in Spring/Summer 2023. Interestingly, the total number of bunkers will be reduced from 93 to 55… although the square meterage of sand will actually increase.
➜ Royal Tara
A bunker remodelling Master Plan was presented to Royal Tara by Ken Kearney. Watch this space.
New tees and tee remodelling on all holes started in the spring and finished in the summer of 2022, under the eye of Ronan Branigan and implemented by DAR Golf.
➜ St. Anne’s
DAR Golf have had a busy year at a links that celebrated its centenary in 2021. The course’s lake has been extended for irrigation purposes. Green surrounds were remodelled on the 18th and a green extension and chipping area extension were added to the short game area.
A Master Plan was drawn up by Ken Kearney, but 2022 also saw the remodelling of the 4th and 9th greens and the 11th tees.
The course has been busy in recent years under the design direction of Ally McIntosh. The 1st tee complex was remodelled in 2022, to make it more inviting… and befitting of a fabulous links.
➜ West Waterford
Efforts in 2022 included an overhaul of the restaurant and bar as new caterers – Garden Kitchen Café – took on the lease for the bar and restaurant, investing considerable money in upgrades.
Two brand new holes will be opened in spring 2023. Peter McEvoy did the design on a project that started in the summer of 2021.
Tee levelling has been carried out by DAR Golf on various holes
Youghal’s entire sprinkler system was replaced during the year and, combined with the arrival of a new acting head Greenkeeper (Ross Collins), the course’s condition is greatly improved. A new practice green has doubled the size of the previous one and new tee box signage is being introduced. On course toilets have also been added and a driving bay installed.
The rolling programme of machinery upgrades by golf clubs continues across the country. A handful of examples includes Moyola Park, Cavan, Hollywood Lakes, Slieve Russell, Craddockstown, Bray, Edmondstown, and Black Bush. This is but a fraction. Tree Moving Tree moving has become a more common strategy at clubs thanks to the equipment available. Adare did a lot of it during the Fazio redesign, but 2022 saw DAR Golf’s ‘tree spade’ in use at Tramore, Monkstown, Coollattin, Naas and Black Bush.
If your club is undertaking significant investment in 2023, please let Irish Golfer know so that we can stay up-to-date with how Irish clubs are improving their course and services. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org
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