Conference to discuss future of industry


A LARGE research report into the golf industry in Ireland has found there is a significant amount of debt in clubs, especially among newer clubs which made large capital investments during the height of the Celtic Tiger, and that there has been a 10 per cent decline in membership numbers in the past year as the recession has hit home.

The findings of the comprehensive research will be presented to delegates at the “Road to Recovery – Golf Business Conference” which takes place at the National Convention Centre in Dublin today.

Speakers will seek to offer direction for the industry here by providing “ideas, initiatives and solutions”, supported by practical insights on how to manage and grow a golf business.

The research undertaken over the summer by FGS and Carr Golf Services, in conjunction with the Golfing Union of Ireland and the Irish Ladies Golf Union, has produced a report which focuses on efficiency, overcapacity, sustainability and marketing.

The data collected in the nationwide research indicated that course maintenance (40 per cent) is the largest cost factor for clubs and suggests significant scope for savings by clubs moving towards a group purchasing or outsourcing model.

The survey found a significant amount of debt, especially among newer clubs who would have made large capital investments in the last 10-15 years. Almost 75 per cent of clubs made capital investment over the past three years, with the highest rate in Dublin where almost 93 per cent of clubs incurred capital expenditure.

The report found a clear need for strategic planning, and suggests many clubs require help in “developing a business turnaround plan that addresses strategic deficiencies and operational ineffectiveness”.

Fewer than two in every three clubs had a strategic plan in place for 2010, but, of those that did, 64 per cent saw their membership numbers increase despite the general trend.

The Irish industry has the capacity to support over 23 million rounds of golf in a given year; however, the analysis shows that, at most, 14.7 million rounds were played in 2009, which indicates a level of under-utilisation over 30 per cent.

As a result, stakeholders from across the industry need to work together to consider innovative approaches, including a programme of amalgamation.

Among the speakers at the conference are: Dermot Desmond, chairman of IIU; Declan Taite and Ian Duffy of FGS; Buddy Darby, chief executive of Kiawah Partners/Doonbeg Golf Club; Marty Carr of Carr Golf Group; Frank Bowen of the GUI; Sinead Heraty of the ILGU; Keith McCormack of Fáilte Ireland; and Roddy Carr, chief executive of Solheim Cup 2011.

Meanwhile, in a major fillip for the industry here, the North and West Coast Links Golf (NWCL) has been named “European Golf Destination of the Year 2011” at the International Association of Golf Tour Operators annual ceremony in Valencia, Spain.

The NWCL emerged as the winners from a short-list which included Fife in Scotland, the Czech Republic, Tenerife and Murcia in Spain and Lisbon in Portugal.

Established as a small cooperative over 20 years ago, NWCL has grown from just four clubs to being considered one of the premier golf marketing organisations in Ireland representing 12 clubs: Ardglass, Royal Portrush, Portstewart, Ballyliffin, Portsalon, Rosapenna, Narin Portnoo, Donegal (Murvagh), Co Sligo, Enniscrone, Carne and Connemara.