Killarney golf club rapidly losing members

Membership at one of the country’s leading golf clubs is dropping at such “an alarming rate” that older members are being asked to forgo their 50% discount to shore up younger members.

The age profile at Killarney Golf and Fishing Club is growing because younger members are deserting it. For the first time in a decade, green fees have overtaken membership fees at the largely Fáilte Ireland-owned resort.

Over 240 junior members — those between the ages of 23 and 33 — have left in the past five years, according to an information document circulated by management to members in advance of a special general meeting this week.

Approximately 10% of Killarney’s 1,700 members are over 66 and, with 30 years’ club membership, these 170 golfers enjoy half fees. However, 40% of members are over 50 and 27% are over 60, so the over-66 category is set “to grow substantially over the coming years,” management warn.

A separate category applies to the over-80s, who will pay €20 again next year, an increase from €10 last year. The plan is to slash the over-66 discount to “an approximate 25% discount” on the annual membership fee, which looks set to be €861 in 2016, a rise of €50 on 2015.

The change requires an amendment to the constitution of Killarney Golf and Fishing Club, which safeguards the over-66 privilege.

A special general meeting will be held on Thursday to consider the proposal by the management council, backed by the men’s and ladies’ club committees. Sanctioning of the amendment to the constitution would allow the new discount proposal to be brought before the November AGM.

Members have been told: “In the past nine years, annual income derived from membership has dropped by €600,000 — but even in the past two years, since we took over as a members’ club, our membership income has dropped by €270,000 — 22%.

“While we continue to maximise green-fee revenues in 2016, the fact is our membership is trending downward at an alarming rate,” the document circulated by general manager, Cormac Flannery, says.

However, a head of steam is building, with some older members saying they stood by the club, which hosted the Irish Open in 2010 and 2011, in the tough times and now it is turning the corner. The move, if successful, could see cuts in older people’s discounts in other clubs, said one member, who did not wish to be named. “It’s the principle of the thing. That, and a precedent will be set.”

The club, which was in the financial rough for a number of years, sold off its third course to its neighbour, Liebherr Ireland, for €6m in 2012 to clear its debts.

The club was handed over to members in 2013 and a management council of local businessmen put in place. They oversaw tough financial decisions, including the halving of staff numbers. The Fáilte Ireland-owned facilities are now leased by the club. The club is now in profit and facilities have improved.

Separately, 600 members got letters in late September, from management, informing them that the €1,000 interest-free loan they gave the club in 2005/6 would not be repaid this year, as expected.

“Our current situation is that we do not have the €595,000 needed to repay the outstanding loans — most of which fall due later this year,” the letter of September 28 said. Instead, repayments will be over five years, as club subscriptions fall due.


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