New report warns Ireland’s golf clubs under-utilised by 30%

THEY spring up like mushrooms in the boom years but delegates at a high-powered seminar today won’t be surprised to hear that the country’s golf clubs are now under-utilised by up to 30%.

The findings of the first comprehensive research report into the Irish golf industry will be presented at a conference today entitled ‘Road to Recovery – Golf Business Conference’ at Dublin’s National Convention Centre.

The research undertaken in summer 2010 by FGS and Carr Golf Services, in conjunction with the ILGU, creates a clear picture of the current status of the golf industry in Ireland and identifies growth and survival opportunities.

The industry has the capacity to support more than 23 million rounds of golf in a given year, but analysis shows that a maximum of 14.7 million rounds were played in 2009 suggesting that the level of under-utilisation is close to 30%.

As a result, stakeholders from across the golf industry need to work together to consider new approaches and possibly consider a programme of amalgamation. Capacity has increased 40% in the past 15 years while the number of members has increased by only 30%, the report shows.

There are more than 430 golf clubs across the 32 counties alongside a cumulative membership of approximately 240,000 persons – that’s one in every 25 people who is a golf club member.

Golf in Ireland gives rise to employment of approximately 8,000 persons (full and part-time) as well as significant indirect employment in associated industries such as machinery sales and rental, horticulture and construction.

The report states: “It is clear that golf in Ireland has been a significant growth industry over the past 15 years, driven through substantial investment resulting in a world class national sporting infrastructure. However, the industry does face major challenges given the 10% decline in membership numbers, reduction in rounds been played by members and visitors together with a decline in the number of golfing tourists visiting Irish golf courses.”

The research focuses on the key areas of efficiency, overcapacity, sustainability and marketing. Data collected indicates that course maintenance (40%) is the largest cost centre facing Irish clubs. This suggests that there is a significant scope to attain future savings by moving towards a group purchasing or outsourcing model. Outsourced course maintenance can provide significant savings to golf clubs.

The research findings show that there is a significant amount of debt in the Irish golf industry especially amongst newer clubs who would have made large capital investments in the last 10-15 years. Almost three out of every four golf clubs in Ireland made capital investments over the past three years. The highest number of these was in Dublin, where almost 93% of all golf clubs incurred capital expenditure. This additional debt burden means that golf courses require increasing demand for golf rather than the decline which is currently being experienced.

Speakers at the conference include Dermot Desmond, chairman IIU, Kiawan and Doonbeg chief Buddy Darby, Marty Carr, chief executive Carr Golf Group & GCMS and Mark Nolan, chief executive Dromoland Castle Golf and Castlemartyr Hotel & Golf Club. The conference is sold out with over 280 industry stakeholders attending. Details are available on www.golfconference.ie

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