Membership of Irish golf clubs has increased by more than 10%

Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir January 8, 2021 07:35

Membership of golf clubs in Ireland rose by more than 10 per cent in 2020, making up for nearly a decade of losses, according to the CEO of Golf Ireland.

Mark Kennelly, who took over as Golf Ireland’s first chief executive on January 1, has said that while he doesn’t yet have a definitive figure, “it’s certainly north of 10 per cent”.

The last time Ireland had more than 200,000 members of golf clubs was in 2012, and since then the figure has dropped to around 175,000 about a year ago.

“The figure is closer to 200,000 now,” he said. “Club membership was already ticking up slightly even before Covid which is already bucking the trend of our neighbouring nations.”

Mark Kennelly. Image from Facebook

Speaking to the Irish Independent following the creation of a single governing body for Irish golf, combining the strengths of the Golfing Union of Ireland (GUI), the Irish Ladies Golf Union (ILGU) and the Confederation of Golf in Ireland (CGI), Kennelly talked about the year ahead against the backdrop of Covid-19.

“A small number of clubs obviously did close [in 2020]. Two clubs in Kerry have managed to amalgamate and survive, which is really good. Lots of clubs have managed to increase their membership, which is very important in terms of the viability of clubs. Membership income is the primary income of the vast majority. We had a substantial increase in membership this year and how that is sustained is going to be a big priority for next year,” he said.

“We were all disappointed that golf had to close [at the end of December], but that was the decision the government made. We have always highlighted the safety of golf. We did it during the first lockdown, and we’ve continued to make that point,” he said.

“I think there is a very strong recognition in government and public authorities of how well golf was conducted when it was open. I just think it was an overall government decision to encourage as many people as possible to stay at home to try and suppress the virus. I don’t think it was a decision targeted at golf at all.

“The R&A Covid fund was welcome. We acknowledge it was small, but it has made a difference to a number of clubs. But it was always a limited response. We have secured a bigger tranche of funding under the government’s resilience fund for sport of €2.7 million. We will be launching an application scheme to allocate that funding.”

 

Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir January 8, 2021 07:35
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