Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Ballyneety - 'Phoenix' Golf Club of the Year

The 2nd hole - a par three (taken 2008)
 A couple of months back I posted two photos of Ballyneety Golf Club. They were before and after shots, showing how the club had looked in its prime (when it was called Limerick County GC), and how it looked last year. The difference was startling: the immaculate fairways of 2010 had given way to three foot high grass and weeds in 2013. Bunkers were invisible, ponds besieged and fairway definition a distant memory. Photos are here

And yet, in the here and now, that same club has just collected the GUI award for Munster Golf Club of the Year.

The GUI award
That’s some turnaround, and that comes down to the local community – 300* of whom signed up for membership of the new club in 2013, when the course wasn’t even ready for play – and the three men who decided to resurrect one of the more exciting and fun golfing layouts in the region… take a bow Liam Lawlor, Minie O’Brien and PGA professional Donal McSweeney.

Initially, there was deep scepticism about the resurrection of Ballyneety as a viable golfing facility, so there was a remarkable leap of faith from those who supported the venture,” said Liam Lawlor. “What looked like a wilderness in 2012 has now been developed into an excellent golf course. Some say it’s even better now because it got a rest for a few years and it’s more mature. The transformation is due to the dedication of all the staff, in particular Head Greenkeeper, John McMahon and Administrator, Sinéad O’Donnell—both of whom returned to their former posts—and a host of members who volunteered their time.

But even as the club makes a phoenix-like return, there is potential for bigger things: alongside the dedicated on-site driving range and golf school, there are plans to build a recreational park on part of the 183 acre site. This will include a walking & nature trail, archery, mini-golf, Astroturf pitches, handball alleys, camping facilities, a crèche and a playground.

What lightning does to a green 
The redeveloped project will eventually be owned and operated by the members. The Ballyneety Golf Club facility currently employs 36 people and the recreational park project has the capability of increasing this figure to over 50 positions. Not all of the large site is being used for golf so we want to really maximise it for the benefit of both the immediate and the extended community,” Liam concludes.

The 12th hole as it looks today.
‘Ambitious’ doesn’t begin to describe it, but then who would have thought a course so lost to nature could be turned around so quickly!

Then again, it is one course definitely worth the time and everyone involved deserves to be applauded. Plan a visit to Ballyneety GC next year and see for yourself. Green fees range from €15 to €30 at peak times.

* currently the number of members stands at 600.

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