East Cork’s Water Rock Golf Course has long flown in the face of accepted golfing industry wisdom.
Like Hollystown Golf Club in Dublin before it, Water Rock has since 1994 placed an emphasis on affordable golf, eschewing memberships in favour of a green fees-only model that has proven successful for 20 years.
The course near Midleton is extremely popular with societies, tourists, and individual golfers, casual or otherwise, who would rather not be burdened with expensive joining and annual fees and can handle dropping in for a midweek round that will only set them back €25.00, €30 at weekends.
That is set to continue but changes are afoot at Water Rock with the golf course set to be ratified by the Golfing Union of Ireland and offering memberships it believes will be in keeping with its ethos of affordability.
“We’ve an awful lot of regular customers and they play a lot here and then decide they want a handicap and play competitions,” Water Rock owner Claire Healy told the Golf Column.
“So they’re asking us can we do anything and we haven’t been doing anything and the upshot is that we lose them.
“So now we’re going to give them something, a membership that gives them a handicap and half-price green fees after that. We will charge €350 for membership and our Monday to Friday green fee will be €12.50 after that. From what I’m seeing there’s a lot of people out there who don’t want to spend the big money on membership. They’re complaining that every game costs them €100 because they don’t play that many times, so we’re giving them the handicap, they can play competitions but then they’re in charge of what they spend thereafter.”
Healy is also keen to stress that Water Rock’s intention is to remain popular with those golfers who still don’t want to take up membership.
“We’re not going to have allotted times for members. We don’t want to lose our existing customers. What has made us different over the years is that we can accommodate a lot of people and societies and we don’t want to lose that. But if we could charge for every enquiry we’ve had about membership we’d have made fortunes. When we started this 20 years ago we were mavericks and everybody thought what we were doing wouldn’t work. But it did, and now we’re just listening to our customers and offering them something we feel is different again and we feel there is a demand for it.”
With a low annual charge that Water Rock believe will be an easier sell for golfers in households where time and money can be in short supply, Healy even suspects that their memberships may find their way into Christmas stockings in a few weeks.
“When memberships are costing people €1000 or more at an expensive time of year anyway, golfers are finding it a difficult selling point. For €350, though, they might even get one as a Christmas present.
If there’s a downside to the Water Rock model, it is beyond the Golf Column.
For in an age when the game is losing participants we are in favour of any means that keep golfers playing and maybe encourages more to take up the sport. Who knows, it might even get this columnist back on the golf course more regularly.
Top award for Dublin East Coast Alliance
Awards season is in full flight as the end of the year draws near and it is gratifying to hear of a prestigious accolade finding its way to Ireland.
So congratulations then to the six clubs which form the Dublin East Coast Golf Alliance (DECGA) after it was named ‘2015 European Golf Destination of the Year’ at the International Association of Golf Tour Operators’ annual golf industry “Oscars”, the IAGTO Awards.
DECGA comprises Carton House, Druid’s Glen, The Island, The K Club, Mount Juliet and Powerscourt and it is a portfolio which won hearts and minds among the 540 golf tour operators in 62 countries who are IAGTO Awards voters.
Winning the award was no mean feat for Dublin East Coast with the accolade recognising “the greatest achievements of golf destinations and golf resorts in terms of the experience they deliver to travelling golfers and the professionalism with which the destination and local industry work with golf tour operators”.
Can Rory complete the set in 2015?
If Rory McIlroy’s double major-winning success in 2014 did not whet the appetite for 2015, nothing will.
After a slow start to the campaign, McIlroy swept all before him during the summer months with his victories at The Open and PGA Championships the highlights that took him to the top of both the European Tour and PGA Tour money lists and confirmed his status as the best golfer in the world.
It also sets up an intriguing 2015 when the Irishman will attempt to secure a career Grand Slam of major championships by completing the set at the Masters before attempting to win the others all over again.
And with the 144th Open Championship being staged on the Old Course at St Andrews, McIlroy’s defence of the Claret Jug he won by two shots from Sergio Garcia at Royal Liverpool last July will be taking place at a course the Holywood star came close at in 2010, finishing tied third after an opening 63 was undone by a second-round 80.
Can McIlroy join the likes of Bobby Jones, Jack Nicklaus, Seve Ballesteros, Tiger Woods and Nick Faldo by winning at the Home of Golf? Those sufficiently curious can buy tickets for St Andrews from today for the July 12-19, 2015 championship
Tickets are on sale at www.TheOpen.com with an adult daily ticket costing £70 (€89.50) if purchased before May 31, £80 (€102) thereafter. A weekly ticket from Sunday to Sunday inclusive costs £240 (€307).
Offers galore at Golf Ireland’s Time to Play
Just a final reminder that if you’re in Dublin this evening, you could do worse than pop along to the Ballsbridge Hotel and visit Golf Ireland’s Time to Play, in association with Fáilte Ireland.
The free annual golf event runs between 5pm and 9pm and offers golfers information and offers for the best golfing deals for the year ahead, with representatives of Ireland’s top golf clubs and resorts gathered together under one roof.
The Golf Ireland night also promises a chance to win numerous golf prizes, as well as free expert tuition.
For more information on the event visit www.discoverireland.ie/golf
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