The sun gave way to a soft day in Donegal as Ballyliffin Golf Club re-opened to members but general manager John Farren is hoping a wider Irish clientele can bring brighter conditions once more following a financially “devastating” lockdown.
Ballyliffin was riding high after hosting a spectacularly successful 2018 Irish Open, the global exposure of a European Tour bringing the Glashedy Links to a new audience of international golfers.
Alas, the Covid-19 pandemic has all but wiped out the club’s green-fee revenue for 2020.
Monday’s lifting of restrictions in Phase 1 of the Government’s Roadmap out of lockdown meant Farren could welcome back members to the Inishowen Peninsula course under strict conditions, even if the good weather of the past month or so was replaced by drizzle.
“People were saying it will be Sod’s Law that the sun will be turned off as soon as the golf is permitted again,” Farren said.
“So far so good, people seem to be respecting the protocol we put in place.
"We’re in a rural setting so we’re not particularly close to many of our members and that has limited the number of members that can legitimately qualify to come here presently.”
Curiously, those who also qualify are members from across the border in Northern Ireland.
The five-kilometre restriction does not apply to people from outside the Republic due to a loophole in the emergency Covid-19-related laws.
“Apparently not,” Farren said. “We are asking them to respect the laws of this jurisdiction but we’re not an enforcement agency so it’s at their discretion but as far as I understand they can’t be turned around.”
When, if everything goes to plan, July 20 and Phase 4 arrives, Ballyliffin will greet all comers with open arms as visitors are permitted to play Irish golf courses and provide a much-needed revenue stream.
The emphasis will have to be on staycationers, Farren believes.
“That’s probably going to be the only market for Irish golf this year.
"Until the airlines sort out a way in which people can be comfortable travelling internationally, there’s not going to be a lot of international tourism for the sector golf or otherwise for the foreseeable.
"So the domestic market is going to be very important for golf and for hoteliers and everyone in the tourism industry.
“On the other side of that, Irish people are going to be reluctant to travel abroad this year and hopefully if we can get a decent summer weather-wise it will go some way to alleviate the pain of what will be a very tough year.”