Mark your Society’s card for 2022

by | Nov 6, 2021 | 1 comment

Society Swing - Design by Ed Moynihan

Kevin Markham

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The throng of a golf society milling around the practice green is always good news for golf clubs, particularly after the past two years. Societies and groups of golfers inject a hefty dose of income into club coffers, especially if they can be enticed to eat and drink in the clubhouse, and visit the Pro Shop to stock up on a few things. A relationship of mutual respect between the two parties will ensure that both sides benefit now and into the future.

Put it this way, there are scant few golf clubs which will not try their best to accommodate a large society or a corporate day. Here are nine questions asked and answered on social media. They highlight how groups of golfers and societies think, and what they want and expect:

Q1) If you were to return to a ‘favourite’ golf course with a bunch of mates or society, which Irish course would it be and why?
We all have our favourite courses and we all have our reasons – usually because of location, familiarity, facilities, a fantastic day out with friends or because you walked off 18 with 48 points.
Many Irish golf clubs have an excellent reputation for society/group golf. Places like Rathsallagh, Luttrellstown Castle, Waterford Castle, Dooks, Galway Bay, Enniscrone, Belvoir Park, and Ardglass (to give a good geographical spread… even if we are only scratching the surface) are all well known for welcoming large groups.
The big golf resorts also have so much to offer, ticking all the boxes of society requirements (see Q. 7). Think Carton House, a Fairmont Managed Hotel, K Club, Lough Erne, Fota Island, Slieve Russell, Castlemartyr, The Heritage, the elegant Castle championship course at Galgorm and, of course, the ever-popular Portmarnock Links and Druids Glen. It is easy to forget the depth and breadth of golf resorts that we have in this country… and while many societies/groups are not looking for overnight accommodation, preferring instead to do it all in a day (see Q. 6), the extent of the facilities that comes with a hotel cannot be ignored.

I have a list of favourite courses as long as my arm but I tend to travel on my own or in a small band, not a pack… so here are some pack responses to the matter of ‘favourites’:

“Rosslare without a doubt. Great course great fun lovely staff, it’s a hidden gem.” @47_irish

“Palmerstown [Estate]. Lots of holes are spaced out where you feel you’re the only ones out there. So you feel relaxed and OK to be loud as you don’t think you could be bothering anyone. Lots of great holes too.” @niallhynds

“Carton House for the weekend because we played 2 great courses and had 2 good nights out too!” @fisioterrorist

“I’ve been playing @NarinPortnooGC for 30 years and it is the one course I love coming back to every year ….. the big investment over the past 2 years has improved it a lot, scenery is spectacular and a top class clubhouse.” @lynchr7

“@EnniscroneGolf for sure. Would like to see their faces on 12th & 13th tee box to see what mine looked like. Just an immense course and always perfect. Savage pint of Guinness in the clubhouse also!”
@jaysuzdsizeofme

“For me it is Doonbeg. Sensational golf course. Great resort. Oh, and the steak in the bar is as good as you’ll get anywhere! I could easily spend a few days there playing it a couple of times.” @joejmurph

“The Island, beautiful links course in Dublin, with a variety of challenging holes but a fair test of golf and also great scenery.” @Dmjmurphy

“Druids Glen. Best parkland course in Ireland.” @brianmagee14

“Enniscrone and Carne. The Dunes and beauty are unmatched. They are just so uniquely brilliant. The welcome from both clubs are equally superb.” @RandomObsr

“@dooksgolfclub & @EnniscroneGolf. Great memories, great golf, well looked after by golf staff and great after golf grub/pints in local towns.” @Bogeyfree11

“@woodenbridgegc €40 or so for one of the best courses in Ireland.”
@SERGIO_FELLA81

“When I was on the work golf society committee we found Druids Glen, The Heritage in Killenard and Carton House to be great to deal with.” @irishbeersnob

“Always got a great welcome @Castlegolfclub when with a society. @GolfMountJuliet cannot be faulted for a corporate, all bells n whistles, day.”
@jaysuzdsizeofme

So many others could appear on this list and you’ll undoubtedly have your own.

Q2) Where have you had the best food at Irish golf clubs?

Some clubs have a reputation for great food… so much so that non-golfers from the locality will visit for a meal. I have fond memories of meals at Fota Island, Ardglass, and Belvoir Park, and my home club of Greystones has upped its game in recent years. More recently, Narin & Portnoo and Galway Bay have both proved to be something of a culinary revelation.
Good food matters. It is not an easy thing to get right (or make money from) but many a society will want food to be combined with the green fee package and it will keep golfers on site that much longer… as well as improving bar receipts.
I can’t begin to list the multitude of society/group packages available but many golfers will already know what they’re getting at each club they visit and will therefore know where they will linger longest. To the golf clubs who do it so well, I congratulate you… for others, watch and learn. If you go back over the years you will probably know the places that carry the reputation for great food. Golfers have the memory of an elephant.
“To go alongside all of the correct answers you’ll get on this, I’ll harp back to the halcyon days of the 80’s when clubhouse quality was in large part determined by the quality of their golfers’ grills,” says @Garyfinnerty, referencing Ardee Golf Club, in particular.
I still hang on to the memory of the breakfast feast at Kirkistown Castle, the apple crumble at New Forest, the chicken stir fry at Seapoint or the lasagne at Co. Louth. Why I remember such things is hard to fathom after so many meals at golf clubs but I still don’t hesitate to mention them in any conversation about clubhouse food.

Here are some other recommendations:

“Without doubt, the breakfast at
@Castlebargolf is the culinary highlight during our 22 years travelling to Ireland!!” @Brades1966

“@PortarlingtonGC was always great for grub and service.” @billmartin41

“Chicken curry in Rosses Point.” @ZoePKL

“Had the full Irish at Athlone today and can honestly say it’s the best golf club breakfast I’ve had.” @HarerTheDog

“Greenore make the best Mixed Grill.”
@brianmagee14

“@concrawood certainly up there with the best.” @KevRedCon

“Always great at @KillineyGC – Fresh fish is excellent.” @mongank

Q3) Which Irish golf clubs have the best showers?

Maybe not as important as other elements but there’s always a golfer who wants a shower after 18 holes – after rain or shine – so it’s good to know what you’re getting. To be honest, I play Co. Sligo most years and the showers are the perfect end to the round. It’s a Harry Colt classic and soaking under hot water gives me time to appreciate the brilliance of the links. When I asked the question on Twitter, 13 respondents listed Killeen Castle as the business.“@killeencastle best shower I’ve ever had, can’t say the same for my golf score though.” @dotsoryan

Fota Island and Mount Juliet also received multiple mentions, with The Heritage, Carton House, Doonbeg, Old Head, and Dromoland Castle making the list as well.

Q4) Which Irish golf clubs have the best clubhouse?

In a similar fashion to showers, the clubhouse plays an important if not secondary role in a society/group choosing where to play… but then it depends on the camaraderie of the group in question and whether golfers stay for the ‘afters’. An appealing, friendly clubhouse with good food and hot showers can be the difference between the in-and-out golfer and the golfer who will settle in for an hour of chat and relaxation. Now throw in a balcony or room overlooking the 18th green so you can watch your friends finish in a flourish or failure and the scene is set.“@PortstewartGC particularly their balcony. I could sit there and watch tee shots off that 1st hole with that backdrop all day long. Incredible facilities and just a great place.” @Hurricane3791

“Loved @BallybunionGN clubhouse, has a nice flow, from car park to pro shop to office to bar/restaurant, and on top of that the views are superb.” @Brades1966

“@CairndhuGolfC always a warm welcome and mighty craic.” @GpNUfbl6yhW2eYc

The K Club Palmer North certainly has the terrace to provide exceptional views over the famed 18th hole, but others include Palmerstown House, Fota Island, Portsalon, Powerscourt, Belvoir Park, Royal Dublin and The Heritage.

Q5) Name three Irish courses you’ve played whose condition has been top quality this year.

Let’s talk about course condition because even though I have heard a few negative stories from this summer, the overwhelming feeling is that Irish golf courses have never looked or played better.
I’ve visited some 30-40 courses in the past few months and they were all looking peachy. Glasson, after upgrading its closing stretch, is looking superb. Woodbrook is playing the best it has in several years. Portsalon, North West, Rosapenna and Ballyliffin, as well as Narin & Portnoo, are shining a light on Donegal’s quality.
Carton House and the K Club continue to up their game, while up north, Galgorm’s Castle course continues to reap the benefits of constant investment. Belvoir Park, Clandeboye, Bangor and Malone also showed what the north has to offer golfers. Adare is perfection, as always, and the presentation of Ballybunion is almost overwhelming. Nearby, Tralee and Dingle are ensuring the south west’s reputation remains intact. Arklow also deserves a special mention as its condition is sublime.

Closer to Dublin, and this comes with obvious bias, Greystones Golf Club has become my benchmark for excellent conditioning and maintenance. And Powerscourt continues to show why it is such a popular venue with groups – helped by having two courses, one of which is always open for visitors seven days a week. The greens are superb but, again, that is a common refrain this year. I’ll add Wicklow, Blainroe, Woodenbridge and Macreddin to a very long list. Who doesn’t love a course in superb condition?

“Baltray, Ballinrobe and Dun Laoghaire. Seen massive improvements in the Palmer South course in K Club.” @f_crowe2

“Ballybunion, Waterville, Tralee. Tee boxes in good nick. Fairways cut evenly (same length all over). Greens rolling true and cut well. Bunkers raked and edges maintained.” @MJGolfGuides

“@EnniscroneGolf, @KilkennyGolf, @GolfRathsallagh. Tee boxes, fairways, greens and accurately measured distance markers!! Thats all I look for!” @jaysuzdsizeofme

“Played the European Club two weeks ago and the fairways felt like you were walking on carpet.” @shaneod

“Moyvalley 9/10 The Island 9/10 The European 9/10 …..course I’m playing, Castle, is nearly always 9/10 in fairness. Quality defined by good greens, good amount of sand in bunkers, well-kept level tee boxes, and at this time of year not too many leaves around greens.” @figoflynn79

“Ballyliffin, Castlerock and @GalgormCastle has become a superb course with its improvements. My home course @BallycastleGC is always a
pleasure to play. It’s in great condition and the views and scenery are stunning.” @nigolftravel1

“Enniscrone, Westport , Portsalon. My own course Murvagh also in good shape.”
@joe73ohora

“Tralee, Cork and Rosses Point…. all greens and fairways pristine.” @JDCawlan

“Aside from @MoyvalleyR where the course is in amazing condition, I would go with The European and @CountySligoGC, which received great feedback from our captain’s weekend.” @wagglealan

“I’ll say @BelvoirParkGolf x2. Superb.”
@Barryk7

“Grange Castle, Tullamore Golf Club and Portarlington Golf Club.” @ColinFinlay2

Q6) The location

Golf clubs can’t do anything about their location – that’s fixed – but it’s worth noting how far golfers are prepared to travel in a day when asked the question.
“Generally @AvenueBarGolf (Avenue Bar Golf Society) travel once a month within a 30 mile radius and stick within a similar budget to keep things affordable for all.”
@SERGIO_FELLA81“Having kids: 1 hour. No kids: 2-3 hours or more!” @Binstadt“We would do maybe 2 hours each way to play, but if it’s a special course, we’d travel to the other end of the island.” @dmcd696

There were many more answers indicating that societies/groups will travel a fair distance so there is plenty of scope for clubs to attract societies from a wide catchment area. Consider, for example, the courses easily reachable from anywhere in Dublin… from the dynamic Corballis and The Island, around the M50 to the relaxed and accessible Elm Green, which lies almost opposite the mighty bells-and-whistles Luttrellstown Castle, into the suave Royal Dublin and St. Anne’s, and down the N11 to courses like Powerscourt, Bray and Greystones, as well as Blainroe, Macreddin, Arklow and Woodenbridge… some of Wicklow’s finest.

To the west, there are so many courses within 90 minutes (it’s a little over two hours to Galway) so consider neighbours Tulfarris and Rathsallagh (one of our most delicious parkland pairings), Palmerstown Estate, Naas, Carton House, K Club, Lucan, Headfort, Rathcore, Moyvalley… I have never considered a map that shows all the courses that can be reached from Dublin (or Cork, Limerick, Waterford, Galway, Sligo, Belfast) with a 90-minute driving window, but I imagine there must be close to 100.

From the Red Cow roundabout, working clockwise from south to north, Enniscorthy, Mount Juliet and Callan, Thurles, Glasson and Athlone, Co. Longford, Farnham Estate and Co. Cavan, Concra Wood and Greenore golf clubs are all at that 90 minute limit.

“Anything more than 2hrs makes it a long day. It’s just not possible to rock up after a long, long drive, and be in the right shape to play properly.” @Virginian_x

Q7) What are the three most important elements you look for in a golf course when it comes to society/group golf?

This is an obvious question and one that golf clubs must ask themselves all the time when it comes to attracting societies – old and new. Why should golfers come to your club?

“1. Enjoyability – Cannot be too punishing. 2. Budget – Need to consider the bigger picture, not everyone can afford €150 for 18 holes. 3. Clubhouse needs to be warm and welcoming!” @Brades1966

“Not too expensive. Not too hard. Not too stuffy.” @FixdePitchmark

“Playability for different level golfers Affordability. Been made welcome.”
@billmartin41

“Course quality (e.g. A top 20 and a top 50). Budget (green fee under €70, €120 for 2 courses). Location (under 3 hrs) and good town/city for food/drink.” @cosgrovekieran

Clearly there’s a common theme here but we all have our own interpretation as to what is affordable and what is expensive. Is a €40 green fee expensive or affordable in your eyes? What about €70 or €100? Does it depend on the quality of the course or do you just consider the money? At Esker Hills a society/group of 20 or more can play for €30pp on a summer Saturday. That’s not a lot of money for a unique, rollercoaster weekend adventure. The same comment and the same rate, goes for Rathcore, outside Enfield. The revitalised and always elegant Kilkea Castle has golf rates of €30-€35 for groups of 12 or more. North West Golf Club has a top weekend fee of €35 for societies, an excellent rate for a sublime, sweeping links. Tulfarris weighs in at €30 to €45. At Palmerstown House Estate, for 16 or more golfers, the peak weekend rate is €55.

Up north, Belvoir Park is a Harry Colt design enshrined in mature trees. This big parkland has midweek rates of £45 to £55 for societies. The younger Roe Park Resort, outside Limavady, provides a golf course that flows calmly around a popular golf-centric hotel, with rates for 12 or more starting at £30. Farnham Estate, so close to the border, lists €35 for 12 or more on a Saturday.
The above are all excellent value, whichever way you look at it, but the ‘value’ of places such as the K Club, The Island, Carton House, Portmarnock Links, Royal Dublin, Dromoland Castle, Lough Erne, Cork, Co. Sligo – to name a few – also comes with the weight of their reputation. Some societies will play them as part of their regular annual rota while others will use these big names for their big events (e.g. Captain’s Day).

If you want their rates, phone them up and find out. There are some seriously good deals out there: Portsalon sits at number 18 in Irish Golfer’s Top 100 – you can play it for a peak Saturday rate of €45 (24+ golfers); PGA National Slieve Russell lies at 22 in the rankings and you can play it from €52; the soothing elegance of Luttrellstown Castle, at 38th, is a boon for golfers around Dublin, with rates of €45-€55 for 12 golfers or more; the immaculately conditioned and glorious Galway Bay (ranked 43rd) has a peak 2022 rate of €45 for groups of 20 or more; and the stunning, cliff-top Ardglass (ranked 49th) has society rates starting at £40.

Q8) As a group of golfers, where have you received the best Irish welcome?

Now this one will always be a point of pride for golf clubs. Who doesn’t want the reputation of being welcoming because that’s the sort of thing golfers and societies hear about and remember… and will return for, time and again.

To be honest, it is unfair to exclude any clubs from this list but, at the same time, it was no surprise to see three golf clubs mentioned frequently. Take a bow Esker Hills, Enniscrone and Carne. To be fair, you will always be welcome at an Irish golf club because, a) the clubs appreciate the fees you pay and b) we all love golf.

“The welcome you get @EskerHills is second to none. Ray and Caroline go out of their way to make your day special. @MountWolseley would be a close second. Always a great experience at both clubs.” @DuffySeamus

“@Rosapenna1893 We’ve been there twice with groups of 8 and the service is outstanding. They even opened up early the day we went to The Open Championship so we could get coffee and a little breakfast.” @neillmp

The importance of weekend availability is also a crucial factor. That’s not always easy at busy member clubs so societies need to bear that in mind. Not many clubs are as fortunate as Powerscourt, with two quality parkland courses, one of which is always open for visitors, but many clubs will have slots available over the weekend to accommodate societies/groups. Nearly all of the rates listed in Q.7 previous are for Saturday tee times.

Q9) How many rounds of golf does your society play a year?

Different societies do things differently. The number of rounds varies greatly as do the rates members are prepared to pay. These are important factors for golf clubs to consider when trying to appeal to societies. Most societies have their regular haunts with a tendency to try somewhere new a couple of times a year. And based on the answers given to the ‘travel’ question (Q. 6), many more golf clubs are within reach for Ireland’s golf societies. Any club would be delighted to become one of those regular haunts.

“We play, typically, 8 outings a year (March to Oct) and aim to have a €50 (ish) cap on Green Fees. There was a notable effort by some courses to up the pricing this year. We went elsewhere.”
@Virginian_x

1 Comment

  1. Kevin Maguire

    There is availability for societies at Greenore on a Saturday and the food is great.

    Reply

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1 Comment

  1. Kevin Maguire

    There is availability for societies at Greenore on a Saturday and the food is great.

    Reply

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

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