Meet the director of golf operations: Andy McMahon

Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir November 20, 2018 12:26

Andy, at Adare Manor in Ireland, the venue for the Irish Open in 2007 and 2008, talks about the major changes that have taken place at the venue and his experience of the likes of Rory McIlory playing there this year.

Andy McMahon

You’ve been director of golf at three outstanding golf clubs in three countries: The Grove, Fairmont St Andrews and now Adare Manor. Can you take us through the similarities and differences between the three roles?

The key similarity between the three resorts are that each plays very much to its strengths, focusing on what it needs to be and can be, rather than what it’s not. Having spent 12 years at The Grove in various positions, I felt we offered something different. With no members and a heavy corporate presence, with the location being so close to London, local corporate business was a key driver. For the short period at Fairmont St Andrews with Troon, I was given a terrific insight into how important it is to understand your market and to create opportunities that would attract local golf. This was particularly interesting in an incredibly tough market, St Andrews, which already included the Old Course, Kingsbarns and so on. With this in mind we knew we had to be able to add value to any visit to St Andrews by enhancing the guest experience.

JP McManus Pro-Am Launch, Adare Manor, Limerick 20/4/2018
Padraig Harrington, Paul McGinley, Rory McIlroy and Shane Lowry pictured at The Golf Course at Adare Manor, as the 2020 JP McManus Pro-Am was launched.
©INPHO/Morgan Treacy

Here at Adare Manor we have a fairly blank canvas but with such strong physical products in the golf course, The Carriage House and all golf and hotel facilities, it was our goal to create an experience that matches these and is beyond everything else in world golf. We are aware that many visitors travel to Ireland to play the historic links, therefore we need to present a golf course that rivals the very best in the world and becomes a must play when visiting Ireland, as well as providing exceptional service and an experience that sets us apart.


What are your biggest challenges at Adare Manor?

As a property with such a rich history, having hosted Tour events such as the Irish Open and boasting a golf course designed by Robert Trent Jones and a five-star hotel, the biggest challenge we have presently is to communicate the huge changes that have taken place in recent times. To attract visiting golfers, we have to communicate the incredible improvements to Manor House, the installation of The Carriage House and the complete reconstruction and redesign of the golf course with Tom Fazio, the Fazio design team and Atlantic Golf Construction. As many golfers are starting to discover, Adare Manor now presents a new prospect, and we think this is something they are really starting to get excited by. We have to keep telling this story and making the world aware of what we now offer, as one of the world’s finest golfing destinations.

Can you tell us more about these changes?

In terms of golf, we invested in key areas, which have resulted in significant improvements in the playability of the golf course, the excellence of the facilities and in our service provision. Technology such as SubAir, the use of the latest Pure Distinction super fine bent grass and the incorporation of 220,000 tonnes of sand within the reconstruction to create firm and fast playing conditions year-round on an inland Irish course are just some of these.

In addition to this, we now operate to a whole new level of detail, with Alan McDonnell and his team of nearly 50 greenkeepers working around the clock to present the golf course to the highest standard imaginable.

With the brand new pro shop, which is beautifully appointed within The Carriage House, and a halfway house with floor to ceiling glass looking out over the course, it is clear to see that no stone has been left unturned.

The club had a high profile re-opening this year when the likes of Rory McIlroy, Padraig Harrington, Paul McGinley and Shane Lowry played the venue. How did you get these names on-board and what were your experiences of the day?

To have these Irish icons open our golf course was incredible. Mr McManus, our owner, has close relationships with these players and to be able to offer €500,000 [approximately £444,000] as a charity prize fund for their match was great. The whole day was a wonderful experience. To see how the very best managed their way around the course and to allow the many of our members and spectators to see some of the best golfers in the world up close was the perfect way to announce our opening to the world. The players interacted with the crowd throughout the round and the feedback from them about the golf course gave us great pleasure. It also gave the invited international media an opportunity to see the changes first hand.

The club is hoping to host the 2026 Ryder Cup. What have you had to do to be considered for this and how do you rate your chances of success? 

The golf course and facilities were reconstructed with hosting the world’s biggest events in mind. Our infrastructure means that are ready to host golf tournaments and this is something we definitely see ourselves doing in the future. We do have the JP McManus pro-am returning to Adare Manor in 2020 with some big names already committed – Tiger Woods included – which is exciting to see and we greatly look forward to many of the game’s greats joining us for this occasion.

With regards to marketing, what does the club do to attract potential new members and visitors?

We want to be a destination that attracts visitors from all over the world.

Ireland is extremely well known for having some of the very best links courses, but we need to communicate that Ireland’s world-class golf offer goes beyond this. With such a high-profile opening and the interest of international media, we are in a fortunate position in that the Golf Course at Adare Manor is already being spoken of in the same breath as many of the world’s finest courses.

This is hugely important and we will continue to engage golf’s opinion formers as we progress, making sure they are aware of  Adare Manor and what makes us special.

However, word of mouth is also an invaluable tool and we have to make sure that whenever we welcome guests, whether golfing or non-golfing, that the experience is beyond anything you are likely to find anywhere in the world.

How do you communicate with existing members?

One of my most pleasant experiences since I joined the team here was walking around the course with the members to discuss the changes, listening to the feedback and seeing the members’ reactions, which was an experience that will stay with me for a long time. We are involved in daily discussions with our members and are in touch with them directly via email communications.

What is the club’s approach to customer service? 

We are very proactive. We are very fortunate that we have a gated resort, and guest recognition is very important to us. Whether it is a member who plays with us weekly or a first-time guest, we are able meet and greet them by name, ensure that the guest is aware of all the facilities on offer to them and, in a friendly but professional manner, look after from arrival to departure. It is something we pride ourselves on and certainly recognise the importance of.

What is the club doing to enhance profitability of its food and beverage operation?

The golf pro shop and locker rooms are located in The Carriage House, which also houses our all-day dining destination for both guests and golfers. This is a stunning addition to the Adare Manor estate, where diners will discover an exceptional grill restaurant showcasing the finest in local artisan produce, fresh seafood, and prime Irish dry aged beef; a glamorous cocktail bar and lounge; as well as a spacious glazed terrace and covered outdoor cigar lounge. During the day The Carriage House is the perfect place to take a break from a busy schedule of golf or other estate activities and enjoy a spot of light lunch. In the evening it becomes a glittering meeting place where guests can linger over a remarkable meal in a warm and welcoming atmosphere and then sip a nightcap on the terrace as dusk falls over the estate.

What are your views on some contentious issues in the industry: dress codes; men-only golf clubs; footgolf; adventure golf; and selling or converting land for housing?  

I think the key factor is to encourage people to be involved with golf. The dress code of golf is modernising but, in my eyes, is doing so without being disrespectful to the traditions of the game. I think with any rule it must serve a purpose and we should be open to change without forcing it on golf as a whole.

Same-sex golf clubs have been a large part of golf’s past and probably a smaller part of golf’s future, as more and more families share golf as an experience.

Footgolf and adventure golf are a great way of getting families to play together. A toddler can be excited about going to play golf with dinosaurs and brightly-coloured balls, while spending time together with their families allows them to learn the basic concepts of golf and so introduces them to the game.

The selling and converting of land has been a last resort for many clubs or used as a way to give finances a boost. I think it is important to look at all these situations on a case-by-case basis as this decision shouldn’t and wouldn’t be taken lightly.


The multi-million-euro redevelopment of Adare Manor

Adare Manor’s multi-million-euro redevelopment included the design of new buildings as well as the restoration and refurbishment of existing properties, with the repair and enhancement of the surrounding 840-acre estate.

The grand scale and formal character of the gardens have been safeguarded and enhanced with new parkland, garden areas and additional planting to achieve a unified character consistent with the historic setting. The manor house itself was originally built in the mid-19th Century at the height of the Gothic revival and romantic notions about a chivalric past. Inside, the lobby with its soaring volume and vaulted arches has an ecclesiastical air. On the first floor, The Gallery, said to be the second longest room in Ireland at 132 feet and originally inspired by Versailles’ Hall of Mirrors, is uniquely furnished with Flemish choir stalls, its restored stained-glass windows casting multi-coloured glances of light across the space.

New buildings include the spa, halfway house, clubhouse, a purpose-built services facility and an energy centre.

The clubhouse restaurant, The Carriage House, has a new architectural character based on that of a green oak and glass conservatory. A fully glazed extension over the terrace is lightweight in appearance, replacing the previously rather austere façade with a transparent ‘pavilion’ treatment in keeping with the use and context of the clubhouse.

James Twomey, director of ReardonSmith Architects, said: “The redevelopment of Adare Manor into one of the finest golf resorts in Europe was a very special responsibility. A new chapter is emerging for the estate as a destination that is contemporary, unique and world-class, while honouring its rich legacy.”

Adare Manor named Ireland’s ‘Golf Resort of the Year’

21st National Golf Tourism Conference & 2018 Gala Irish Golf Awards, Galgorm Spa & Golf Resort:
– Adare Manor Golf Club, Co. Limerick.
Presented by IGTOA Member Garreth Cooke(L), Links Golf Ireland & Martin Donnelly(R), Fáilte Ireland
Accepted by CEO Colm Hannon, Director of Golf Operations Andy McMahon, and Golf Sales Executive, Ben Dickens

Adare Manor has been named IGTOA’s (Irish Golf Tour Operators Association) ‘Golf Resort of the Year’.

Adare Manor CEO, Colm Hannon, commented: “We are thrilled to be recognised as ‘The Golf Resort of the Year’ by experts in the industry.

“Achieving this award is a testament to the entire team here who are fully committed to providing a first-class service to all of our guests. Our goal is to offer a complete golf experience for every guest, that will leave them with long lasting memories and a desire to return again.”

The Golf Course at Adare Manor named ‘World’s Best New Golf Course 2018’ at the World Golf Awards

Success continues for Adare Manor following its two-year renovation after it was named ‘World’s Best New Golf Course 2018’ at the World Golf Awards.

Colm Hannon, CEO of Adare Manor, commented: “We are delighted with the response we have received from all golfers that have played the course since the renovation here. The new Tom Fazio design showcases the natural beauty of the setting here at Adare Manor by matching this with a golf course with an extremely high level of conditioning and presentation. Our vision from the outset was to create a golf course that was so special and enjoyable that entices each golfer to want come back and play it again and again. Each member of our team is so committed to attention to detail and continuous improvement which will ensure the golf course and our overall facility continues to improve in every way.”


Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir November 20, 2018 12:26
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