One of the country’s best-known golf courses, Lahinch Golf Club, recorded a “manageable” operating loss of €303,199 last year.
In a report presented to members at a virtual annual general meeting on Friday via Zoom, club chairman Martin O’Sullivan said “the overwhelming dominant feature of 2020 was the advent of Covid-19 and the consequent challenges it presented”.
Lahinch staged the 2019 Dubai Duty Free Irish Open and counts former Ireland rugby captain Paul O'Connell as one of its members.
“While any loss is unwelcome, the outturn is acceptable when compared with our peer group, and is manageable once some normality returns, hopefully later this year,” Mr O’Sullivan said.
Golf courses across the country have been closed under Government Level 5 Covid-19 restrictions and Lahinch, along with other clubs, is preparing to reopen on April 26th.
The Co Clare club recorded the operating loss against the background of a collapse in overseas visitors for 2020 contributing to a 90 per cent drop in green fee and golf club shop income.
Green fees reduced by 88 per cent to €226,025, while shop income reduced by 90 per cent to €45,532.
A high-season round of golf for visitors between May and September costs €240 on the club’s celebrated ‘old course’.
Mr O’Sullivan stated the absence of overseas visitors in 2020 “was a big blow”.
Overall club income last year declined by 61.5 per cent to €1.33 million and he said the club offset most of this reduction “by implementing an extensive cost-management programme”.
Its expenditure reduced by 34 per cent to €2.66 million. When non-cash depreciation costs of €938,542 are taken into account, the club loss for the year was €1.2 million.
The club received €292,805 from Government wage-subsidy schemes.
Mr O’Sullivan said the club “continues to manage its cost base and while the prospect of overseas visitors returning towards the back end of the season is diminishing daily, the club is confident it will trade through what is left of this pandemic and will be in a strong position to build its reserves when some form of normality returns”.
At the end of December 2020, the club had total funds of €7.4 million.
At the club’s deferred 2019 AGM held last November, members voted to increase subscriptions by 7.5 per cent from January of this year.
In his report, Mr O’Sullivan said the increase “will help to close the wide gap between members’ and visitors’ contributions somewhat, though continued increases in subscriptions need to be an important part of our future financial planning”.
Commenting on the challenges facing golf clubs here reliant on international visitors, Mark Kennelly, chief executive of Golf Ireland, said clubs had lost up to €20 million in revenue from this business in 2020.
“The Covid-19 pandemic has had, and continues to have, a severe financial impact on golf clubs which have been closed for significant periods in the last 12 months. Golf Ireland is supporting its member clubs in every way we can and we are delighted to have secured a total of €3.4million for clubs in the Republic of Ireland and £4.2million for clubs in Northern Ireland,” he said.