Cashen on course for €4.2m upgrade

MAJOR changes to the Cashen Course are proposed in a plan that the Ballybunion Golf Club council will present to its members at a special general meeting to be held in the town on Friday week, July 4th.

The council is proposing the adoption of design plans as outlined by the English golf course architect Martin Hawtree and the appointment of his company to implement them at a cost not exceeding €4.2m. The project will be financed by a combination of bank borrowing, membership levy and new memberships. If approval is forthcoming, the work is expected to take place over a three year span beginning next October. A subcommittee was set up at the 2003 AGM and has come to the conclusion that the ranking of the Cashen course should be significantly enhanced.

The hope is that the redevelopment will generate additional green fee income and reduce dependence on the famed Old course.

The use of buggies and the safety of golfers in several areas are also part of the reasoning behind the proposed alterations.

Debate has raged about the Cashen since it first opened for play in 1985. The late, highly respected English journalist, Peter Dobereiner, claimed “it is nothing less than the finest links course on earth”, and its designer, the renowned Robert Trent Jones, stated that “I am thrilled beyond words. It is the finest piece of linksland I have ever seen and perhaps the finest in the world.”

Many failed to see the merit in those views, their scepticism no doubt motivated to some extent by the problems experienced with the construction of the course and in its maintenance in the face of havoc wreaked by some savage winter gales. As in all these cases, however, it gradually settled and while modifications had to be made (with the great American golfer and former Ballybunion captain Tom Watson to the fore in this respect), the Cashen certainly played a key role in progressing the club’s reputation as one of the finest links complexes on the planet.

There is no doubting the fact that the magnificent duneland compares at least favourably with that to be found on its esteemed neighbour and the rolling fairways and the natural green sites and bunker areas are as good as will be found anywhere. But shortcomings of a serious nature have also been clearly identified, hence the belief that a considerable amount of money needs to be spent to bring the links up to the required standard.

Martin Hawtree has gained a hugely favourable reputation in this country for his revamping of the links at Lahinch and Royal Dublin and won the contract ahead of a number of other esteemed architects.

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