Luttrellstown course to close at end of 2009


GOLF: LUTTRELLSTOWN CASTLE has become the latest high-profile casualty of the economic downturn as the five-star golf resort in Dublin, owned by leading Irish businessmen JP McManus, John Magnier and Aidan Brooks, will close at the end of 2009 because the business is "no longer sustainable going forward".

"It is true, Luttrellstown is closing and we advised the committee and our members yesterday," said Luttrellstown chief executive Colm Hannon last night.

"There has been a significant shortfall and losses have been incurred since we opened. Going forward we do not see the situation changing. It is very regrettable but running a golf course at Luttrellstown is no longer sustainable."

The 560-acre estate, formerly owned by the Guinness family, was sold to the Primwest Group in 1983 before it was more recently bought over by McManus, Magnier and Brooks in 2006.

Last year major redevelopment work costing over € 20 million was completed at Luttrellstown including major upgrade work to the championship golf course plus a complete redesign of the alpine style clubhouse took place.

Luttrellstown's demise has come about because of the inability to drive membership numbers up and increase green fee revenue at the Steel and Mackenzie-designed course.

"The whole business of membership has dried up and the problem we have at Luttrellstown is we don't have a critical mass of members," added Hannon, who returned home in 2005 to take up the role at Luttrelltown after running the Sandy Lane Resort in Barbados, also owned my McManus and Magnier.

"We have fewer than 400 members. A lot of the problem is linked to the current financial situation in a wider context. And basically there's not a sufficient number of people out there seeking to buy golf membership

"The amount people are prepared to pay for golf is very different from what it was before. We changed the structure over to an annual membership because we believed the days of people paying € 40-50,000 entrance fees are long gone."

Hannon confirmed they will be running the business until the end of next year as "there is an obligation to the members to give them 12 months notice".

David Holden, Luttrellstown's club secretary, said: "The news came as an absolute shock; the membership is extremely angry and disappointed at the decision."

"The club has gone through a lot of changes, we went through a period of uncertainty at one stage, but were promised great facilities and given numerous assurances that it would be a golf club for a long time. We stayed with the club for this reason, only to be told that it is closing."

After last week's news that Mount Juliet would not be staging next year's Irish Open, Luttrellstown was mentioned as a possible venue alternative but Hannon categorically stated that was "pure speculation".

He also said the current owners have no plans to sell the estate.