|Dunmurry Springs, par three 15th, green to tee|
An unfair comment on three fronts:
- Green fee prices have fallen dramatically in the past four years (frequently by 40-50%)
- There has ALWAYS been value in Irish golf... if you knew where to look
- GB green fees are not exactly 'bargains'
So, what next?
|Mount Wolseley's 2nd hole, green to tee|
Crazy GolfI won't deny that things got a bit crazy in the early 2000s as it became evident that everyone had so much money that no price was too high. I played with seven builders at Mount Wolseley in 2006... and they'd all thrown €500 into the pot, giving the lucky winner €3,500. The K Club was charging €380 a round at its peak; the Old Head famously charged €1,000 for a line, whether it was for 1 golfer or 4. Even my humble home course charged a green fee that was out of kilter with the golf experience on offer.
And then it turned out that we didn't have that much money after all and Ireland (and much of the world) came crashing down. For a while, our golf courses didn't take on board the severity of the situation. To be honest, plenty of them still haven't which is why we hear that so many clubs are in financial trouble. I think it's fair to say that many of our golf clubs aren't forward thinkers, they're not innovative and they're unwilling to think outside the box.
|The par three 5th at Greystones|
[* Dunmurry Springs currently have a 'complementary green fee offer']
Finding ValueAgain, this slightly misses the argument about Celtic Tiger green fees... but the truth is that even during the boom times you could find great value in Irish golf if you knew where to look and when to play. You could play Carne, for instance, one of the greatest links on the planet, for €35, while Royal County Down, another of the world's top courses, could be played for £50 in February (and still can). There were Early Bird rates, Open competitions, a round plus breakfast all offering exceptional value. There were 'Passports' to three or more clubs, and then there were the golf 'Challenges'. All of these still exist and are better value than ever.
|The par three 4th at Royal County Down|
Flip of the CoinAnd then there's the flip side of the coin - the price of playing golf in GB is not exactly cheap. Here are five trophy courses:
Wentworth is £360 at peak season, Woburn is £169, Carnoustie is £147, Gleneagles is £175, as is Royal St Georges.
But, as for Ireland, do a little digging, plan carefully and you can play good and great courses for a fraction of those prices. Silloth-on-Solway charges £56 at weekends in peak season and is a links beauty (my review here), while the excellent and renowned Royal Porthcawl (review) can be played for £60 off-season. I haven't played widely enough in GB to comment on that £20-£30 bracket, but it is undoubtedly there.
|Silloth on Solway - view back down the 1st to the clubhouse|