Golf clubs set to rebound from lockdown’s financial hit

Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir July 26, 2020 07:39

The chief executive of Golf Ireland has said golf clubs have much to be optimistic about – just four months after many feared for their future due to the coronavirus lockdown.

Mark Kennelly, who was named the organisation’s first-ever full-time CEO just as the pandemic was starting right at the end of 2019, said financial support, the boom in members and predictions for a strong domestic tourism performance for the rest of this year, are all positives.

His comments come as a golf club that was created during the lockdown has said it already has more than 350 members.

“When we were looking ahead in March it was quite a bleak outlook and many thought there would be no chance of having championships or inter-club events this year and now they are going to have them, all going well, with the public health situation,” Kennelly told the Irish Examiner.

“We do acknowledge there is a financial hit. Shortly we hope to provide some help through some funding we’re going to be getting from The R&A.

“We’re very conscious that some clubs have been very badly hit by no international visitors but then you have clubs who are quite dependent on green fees and societies and so on and have been very badly hit, so we’re very conscious of that.

“On the other hand, there does seem to be some evidence of an uptake in membership so we’ll certainly be helping clubs to hold onto the additional members. So it’s not all bad news.

Mark Kennelly. Image from Facebook

“We’d have feedback that younger people who would normally play field sports during the summer have opted to join golf clubs. One of the restrictions we included in our protocol for the first two phases was that it was members only, largely to ensure we had proper contact tracing but also to help showcase the benefit of golf club membership.

“There certainly seems to be some evidence that has worked and new people have been attracted while people who may have become lapsed golfers are coming back to the sport.

“We’re going to be encouraging and helping clubs to hold onto those new members and we have some visitor income coming back now and golf is now playing a big part in the reboot of domestic tourism.

“Lots of clubs are improving their offerings for the domestic golfer and even when we get into the autumn when typically, large numbers of Irish golfers would go to Portugal and Spain on breaks, I think there’s going to be a lot less of that this year so there’s an opportunity for golf courses around the country to cater for that market.

“We’ll have a lot more domestic tourism and I think golf is responding to that.”

His comments come as a golf club that was established during the lockdown has said it is thriving.

Maine Valley Members Golf Club was set up after members from two of the four golf clubs in Ireland that closed permanently during the lockdown created a new club, which opened for play in May.

“We’ve reopened now and we’re going from strength to strength,” said the new club’s founding chairman, Dermot Kelly. “We’re up and running, we’ve now more than 350 members, we’ve had societies play and we’re going from strength to strength.”

Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir July 26, 2020 07:39
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1 Comment

  1. Donny July 26, 20:53

    What’s next for golf?

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