Monday, 19 March 2018

2018 Season on Final Approach

As St. Patrick's Day has come and gone, the Grand Slam is secured and Rory McIlroy (as well as Tiger) is back, it is time now to focus on the season ahead for visiting golfers.  As was the case in 2017 record numbers of visitors, both golfing and non-golfing are expected and time sheets are very full, especially during the peak month of September, at all of the main visitor courses.

The usual frustrations have surfaced during the booking season.  Green fees have increased across the board yet again, between 5% and 10% is most cases despite the headline inflation rates for Ireland being less than 1%.  Especially disappointing is the continued rise in less visited courses although his may well be to the increase  in the volume of visitors travelling the "Wild Atlantic Way".

Of more concern is the increasingly draconian booking conditions imposed by some of the golf clubs.  From 100% payment to secure times without being able to provisionally hold times  to  balance payments 90 days prior to play ("or your booking will automatically be cancelled") to increased stress on non-refundable payments and non-changeable dates,  golf clubs, and again I stress "some", make it increasingly difficult to plan itineraries in optimal circumstances. 

Accommodation prices continue to rise slightly, save for Dublin and Belfast. If decent rooms can be found, especially when there are concerts or other events,  they are available at exorbitant rates with 3*** hotels charging what recently were 5***** prices.  The lack of forward thinking astounds.

Our long relationship with Dan Dooley Rentals ended with their takeover by Enterprise Car Rentals.  This happened without warning at the start of 2017 so we would like to thank the employees of Dan Dooley who were so helpful and  courteous during the 15 years we rented cars for our clients.   Dan Dooley remains a trading arm of Enterprise and we may see some of you again.  The bulk of our rentals will be with Enterprise and look forward to a similar experience with them.

All of the frustrations above are countered on the golfing front by the prospect of playing some courses again that we have not played in a while.  Top of the list are Castlerock and Adare, both of which will open in early Spring. 

Castlerock has undergone major redevelopment by the Hawtree/SOL Construction partnership that has seen so many of Ireland's courses updated.  This one is special however as Castlerock was a very good links that had the potential to be a great links and the project is overseen by new Secretary/Manager Bert Mackay who has many years experience on Scottish links.

Adare has been 2½ years in the making and promises to be very special indeed.  Millions of Euro has been invested by J.P. McManus in making the course a truly great championship course with the stated aim of hosting the 2026 Ryder Cup.  The course will open with the highest green fee of any golf course in Ireland which is a very bold statement - all we can report is that viewing the course from adjacent Adare Manor golf course last autumn left us hankering to play it.  Another top quality team has been assembled at Adare across all operations and the golf manager told us that "Adare will be as close to Augusta as you'll ever get".  We can't wait!

Rosapenna and Portsalon are two further venues that are on the list as we have entered our own team in the Mulroy Links tournament in October.  Practice round on Sandy Hills Links - reportedly a little 'fairer' than the previous times we have played it in 2003 and 2009 - and then 3 competitive rounds on Old Tom Morris, Portsalon and Sandy Hills links.  At €460 for all golf, 4 nights accommodation at Rosapenna Hotel and 2 dinners included it really is good value.

We will pay a visit to Donegal and Narin & Portnoo on the way up north and play Slieve Russell returning home.  Concra Wood is a course that has not yet been played and we will hopefully have done so before October.

Some further wrongs will be righted during 2018.  Portmarnock Links, improved for a number of years now will be played as soon as warmth returns to our shores.  Royal Dublin is another course not played for far too long and our good friend Jeff Fallon has recently been appointed general manager there, moving from the reservations office at Portmarnock.

And a major reconnaissance of the southeast is planned with first time visits to Bunclody, Waterford Castle and Gowran Park and long overdue returns to Tramore, Carlow and Rosslare.

Of course this blog and a new website, in gestation since 2006, will also keep us busy until the end of the year.  If you are coming to Ireland we look forward to welcoming you, if not we wish you a great golf season wherever you are.

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