Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Them’s The Oaks… at Moyvalley

The 2nd hole at Moyvalley
All in all, it has been a positive year for Irish golf. The professional and amateur ranks have delivered impressive performances, golf tourism is up, course maintenance is returning to its best and struggling golf courses have found light at the end of the tunnel. Beaufort Golf Club is back from the brink, St Margaret’s is thriving under new management, Rathfarnham opened its three new holes (to make it 18) and Castlemartyr was acquired by a British businessman… something that will benefit the entire Cork
region and the golf courses especially. British golfers may not spend as much or stay as long as the cherished American links enthusiasts, but they come in greater numbers and prefer to play parkland golf. Yes, courses big and small in the Cork region will be buzzing at the news.
And then there’s Moyvalley Golf Club, undoubtedly the burning symbol of our Celtic Tiger’s excess. Designed by Darren Clarke, it cost €75,000 to join the ‘Champions Club’ when it first opened in 2006. Depending on who you believe, it got either no members or just one member at that price. Within a couple of years the hotel and golf course were knee deep in NAMA, and the annual golf sub was a mere €800.

The resort was acquired in April 2014, for between three and five million euro, and the new owners have been investing heavily to get the course back to its best. It is now entering a new phase of its evolution as Christy O’Connor Junior has been hired to upgrade and redevelop the course. Work has already started.

One of Christy’s first steps is to plant two Irish Oak trees on the opening holes as a signature feature… and rename the course accordingly. From now on the course will be known as Twin Oaks Championship Course at Moyvalley Hotel & Golf Resort.

An oak tree!
As someone who has worked in marketing/branding for many years I find this a bizarre thing to do. Why on earth would you plant two trees and then change the course’s name based on those two trees? It undermines the soul of what was there before and while the course hardly set the world alight when it first opened it had a beautiful rhythm and excellent greens. If the purpose of the renaming is to sidestep any negativity associated with the Moyvalley name, then ‘Moyvalley’ should not appear anywhere in the name… which clearly it does.

Consider me confused.

Perhaps it’s an indication of what O’Connor and the new owners have in mind for the place. Reading between the lines in the two press releases issued to date it is apparent from Christy’s comments that he will be making significant changes.

The golf course has the making of a very fine golf course and it will be a pleasant task for me to bring the course in line with the top golf courses in Ireland.

Now, whether those changes will be merely cosmetic in nature or far more comprehensive remains to be seen. But the twin oaks are just the start, both on the course and in the name.

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