Saturday, July 30, 2011

Irish Indo Article on Green Fees north and south

There was an article in Wednesday's Irish Independent by Aideen Sheehan:

Getting teed off by playing a round

It claimed that Northern Irish golf courses offered better value than their southern counterparts... hmmm, still?

[Ballybunion Cashen par 3 16th]

I would dispute this. Two years ago, yes, I would agree wholeheartedly, but last year, while ROI green fees fell (by up to 70% in some places), NI green fees rose and remain at or marginally above 2008 rates.

True, it doesn't help when you compare the North's most expensive club, Royal County Down (RCD), to the south's K Club, which is 40% dearer (€285 vs. €202).

The following extract regarding the K Club is taken from the article, and it still makes me laugh:

"It's totally unreasonable to expect people to pay nearly €300 for a round of golf if you want to get people into the country spending money - and to get Irish people out there playing as well you have to charge realistic rates," said Consumer Association of Ireland (CAI) chairman Michael Kilcoyne. However, The K Club claims their green fees are comparable with other top courses worldwide and reflect the fact the course was designed by Arnold Palmer.

"Because of his name and the fact that the Ryder Cup was held there also helped in establishing the prices," a K Club spokesman said.

It is time - in fact it is well overdue - that the K Club got its collective head out of its ass. Someone should point out that the K Club is not competing with 'other top courses worldwide'. We're in a recession, the number of golfers visiting Ireland has fallen by over 50% since the peak, and your corporate market in Ireland has also evaporated. Your audience now should be people like me - regular golfers who want to play a top quality course, revel in the experience and who will walk away at the end of the day without feeling robbed. I really enjoy the K Club Palmer course, but €285 is insane. Is the club worried about too many golfers playing the course, too many hackers churning up fairways (plenty of golfing tourists and corporate invitees are hackers, believe me), or is the club so determined to hold onto its 'premium' positioning that its happy to see large blank spaces on its timesheets?

Moving on, once you take the K Club out of the equation there's more parity. Comparing like with like: RCD's €202 exceeds Portmarnock's €175, and while Ballybunion's €180 may exceed Royal Portrush's €168, you have access to both of Ballybunion's magnificent links courses for that price.

[Royal Portrush - 5th hole]

No, today the green fees are more aligned and you can find good value on both sides of the border... you just have to know where to look and when to play.

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