Els to make a E200m Point

Declan Colley

The South African superstar's company has come on board to design the 6,966 metre Hangman's Point layout, which will be a PGA designated course and managed by PGA Golf Management. The Hyatt hotel chain will operate a 200 room five-star hotel as well as a separate resort facility and an international indoor and outdoor equestrian complex, all of which will be located on the 650 acre site.

The project has been brought together by Cork-based XCES Projects and its main shareholder, Sean Rainey, who said yesterday it was hoped the project would initially create 350 full-time positions directly involved in the running of the resort, with an estimated 450 more created indirectly. A further 300 jobs will be involved in the three-year construction phase which is estimated to cost 160m.

Rainey leads a group of Cork shareholders in XCES Projects, who have already invested some 7m in the development. Speaking at the unveiling of Els as course designer yesterday, Rainey said that provided there were no problems with planning, he hoped to have all aspects of the resort up and running within 36 months.

Projected figures for the resort estimate having 82,000 visitors a year, with 15-20% of these being dedicated golfers. While no green fee costs have yet been decided, it is predicted that the course will not be at the top level in this regard, being at "the bottom end of the premiership scale."

According to PGA Golf Management's operations director, Keith Haslam, the intention is to use different rates in different seasons and he said the venture was a unique opportunity for them to market the resort aggressively."

Jeremy Slessor, managing director of European Golf Design, who are adding their experience to the project, said they had already been involved in three courses in Ireland, including the Portmarnock Links and the O'Meara and Montgomerie courses at Carton House, described the Kinsale development as being built on "an extraordinary piece of land" which had incredible potential and which may actually have been one of the first places golf was ever played in Ireland.

Mike Kenny of Ernie Els Design, promised that the South African himself would be "very visible on the project" and would be taking an active interest in all phases of development.

"The fact he spends lives most of the year in Wentworth means that access to Ireland will not be a problem," he said.

PGA Chief Executive, Sandy Jones, predicted that the awarding of the PGA name to the proposed course also marked a major step forward in the expansion and development of the PGA brand into Ireland, enabling the organisation "to add to its traditional heritage and expertise to fulfil the vision of being at the forefront of the game in Ireland."

He also revealed that as part of their involvement, they were going to develop a Golf Academy which would, in conjunction with third level institutions, help to educate greenkeepers, agronomists, course designers and environment experts.

The Academy would also incorporate a national centre of excellence for golf and would "provide the facilities and services for the training of PGA professionals and elite players in addition to the development of the game for the local and regional community."

Although planning for the complex has not yet been approved, a spokesman said that the developers were "positively engaged" with Cork County Council in terms of all aspects of the development and infrastructure.

Sports Minister John O'Donoghue, who attended the launch, commented that the combination Ernie Els and the PGA contributing to the venture was "a great boon for the tourism industry in Ireland."

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