Ballyneety Golf Club awarded Munster Golf Club of the Year 2014

Ballyneety Golf Club, formerly Limerick County Golf & Country Club, was awarded the prestigious honour of Munster Golf Club of the Year for 2014 by the Golfing Union of Ireland (GUI) on Tuesday last, 25th November. This is a far cry from only 4 years ago when the club went into liquidation and seemed doomed for permanent closure. One of the new club’s founders, Liam Lawlor commented recently on the award:

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Everyone is delighted. It was unexpected really because 2014 was our first year open with the full course in operation. We are all absolutely thrilled that the course has returned back better than ever. The former members were despondent when it closed and now that we have reopened it is a dream come true. The response from the community and members has been magnificent.”

Ballyneety Golf Club is based on the former site of the Limerick County Golf & Country Club and also boasts an excellent driving range facility to go along with its 18-hole golf course and clubhouse bar & restaurant. It is testament to work of previous members of Limerick County who, led by Liam Lawlor, Minie O’Brien & PGA Professional Donal McSweeney (all pictured right), garnered the support of the local community and also sought outside investment to establish the new golf club in 2012. Even though the golf course was only partially open at that stage, they had 300 members paying fees for 2013. Now they have over 600 members which is a fantastic achievement in the face of an industry that is struggling to maintain members on a national level.

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There are also ambitious plans to build on the revival of the facility by using part of the 183 acre site for a recreational park to include a walking & nature trail, archery, mini-golf, Astroturf pitches, handball alleys, camping facilities, a crèche and a playground. The Ballyneety Members Golf Club Project is now working with local Philanthropist and former CEO of Kentz Corporation, Hugh O’Donnell, and Limerick City & County Council to make this expansion a reality. The plan is that the “redeveloped project will eventually be owned and operated by the members. The Ballyneety Golf Club facility currently employs 36 people and the recreational park project has the capability of increasing this figure to over 50 positions” which is great news for the local economy.

The 18-hole course was designed by 2014 Ryder Cup Vice-Captain, Des Smyth, and Irish Amateur International, Declan Brannigan. It was opened back in 1994 and went into liquidation in 2010, having re-opened in 2012 it has enjoyed great development culminating in their recent award as Munster Golf Club of the Year 2014. Fair play and congrats to all at Ballyneety Golf Club!

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15 months in Ghana

On Tuesday 7th May 2013 I arrived in Kotoka Airport in Accra, Ghana, to take up the role as National Director of Golf. I would be involved with what was due to be a 3 year contract as part of a project funded by The R&A and supported by other partners – Paul McGinley Golf Design (Africa), Tullow Oil and the Ghana Golf Association. The 4 bodies made up the Ghana Golf Development Board (GGDB) to whom I reported to directly, via Joe Bedford who was Paul McGinley’s trusted Project Co-ordinator.

The first few months in Ghana were very much spent getting the know my surroundings (read about my first 6 months in Ghana more here), the golf clubs through visiting them and attending events, the various members of the Ghana Golf Association (GGA) and preparing a report pretty much on the state of golf in Ghana. This report was delivered to The R&A, Paul McGinley, Tullow and the GGA on Thursday 13th June in Accra as all GGDB stakeholders were present in Ghana to meet up and officially launch the board which would look to develop the game of Golf in the country. That weekend, when all was done and dusted thankfully, I got my first of not too many bouts of food poisoning (not from my cooking I must add!).

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A big part of my role was to help Achimota GC & Academy develop in terms of creating revenue, sales & marketing, golf operations and also finalising the preparations for the upcoming course re-opening – the project having been funded by Tullow Oil and undertaken by the McGinley Design Team. We had some decent success with increasing revenues at the Golf Academy, which was also part of the Tullow investment, by promoting Team Building days to the many corporates in Accra and also by offering Membership for the Academy as well. We also ran a Skills Challenge through November and December, sponsored by Johnnie Walker & Diageo, which was fairly well patronised and again provided further revenue possibilities. Advertising at the Academy also brought more revenue in as it seemed there was much scope for further development.

As the end of 2013 approached we had successfully increased revenues at the Academy and also had a decent database of golfers to promote future offers to in the future, hopefully this is still being used! Much was done over the final months of 2013 on putting together Golf Club Membership packages for Achimota as the course neared completion although there was still much work to do here due to a combination of some torrential rain showers, electricity problems and other issues. The first ever Golf Management Seminar was staged in late November at the African Regent Hotel with the majority of golf clubs in attendance including the other golfing bodies around Ghana, it was highly successful and resulted in a clamour to make it at least an annual seminar if not something that could be done on a quarterly basis covering different topics pertaining to golf clubs and golf club management.

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There was, of course, the hours to fill outside of work and with a few Irish lads around this was generally looked at to be done in the pub! Paul Kelly, Grow-In Manager for McGinley Golf Design, became the regular drinking buddy, along with his cousin Ciarán, and we also were usually the sounding boards for the “cribbing” that did happen from time to time! Smollensky’s, a rooftop bar that was usually not frequented by mosquitos after dark, was the usual watering hole on a Friday where many bottles of Heineken and bowls of chicken wings were had – the staff were very good but we gave them an awful time with our Irish banter, luckily for them they usually didn’t have a clue what we were on about! Most weekends were downtime so, apart from the rare enough round of golf (yes, I did not play that much golf in Ghana!), filling the hours on Saturdays and Sundays could prove difficult especially when I was not driving. Fortunately we all had Super Sport in the apartments which showed even more Football than back home so we always had the Premiership to keep us company along with Heineken Cup and 6 Nations Rugby; all the PGA Tour and European Tour – I even managed to get the odd episode of Love/Hate online but never quite found somewhere showing Fair City in all the time I was in Ghana!

Trips home came ever 2/3 months and my first trip back came at the end of July 2013 which was 13 weeks into my tenure, with most Ex-Pats doing 8 weeks on and a week to 10 days off this was a fair stretch but did set me up for the long periods of time away from home in Ireland. My first trip coincided with the wedding of 2 very close friends but the jet lag very much hit me in Carcassonne on the night of the wedding and I think I ended up being first to bed, a first in my book but it was in the offing having flown from Accra to Shannon via London, then a drive to Cork and off to Carcassonne within 24 hours – that’s my excuse anyway and at least it got me a mention in the father of the bride’s speech! Golf was always on the menu when I got back to Ireland and it was great of my Golf Industry buddies for taking care of me here, you know who you all are!! As much as I missed home, as you do when you are away, being in Ghana in 35 degree heat in January and February made the home sickness a little easier to deal with.

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A trip to St Andrews in early February 2014 materialised with my attendance at the Tournament Administrators & Referees School which was staged at the Fairmont Hotel St Andrews over 3 days. I learnt a lot there and definitely have a greater understanding of The Rules of Golf now, it was also very beneficial to me to be able to chat to other golfing nations about their setup and the problems they encountered in their own countries. It was a great experience and much thanks has to go to The R&A for putting together such seminars like this, it wasn’t too shabby to spend nearly a week at The Home of Golf either – even managed a few wee drams down at the Jigger Inn but the highlight of the week for me was definitely sitting in Peter Dawson’s chair in The R&A Clubhouse after a delicious delegate dinner there.

The early months of 2014 took in a lot of work with Achimota Golf Club & Academy as a number of issues needed attention – especially getting the setup right for the Golf Club itself with the impending Re-Opening of the course soon approaching. The Academy continued to do well in terms of revenue and it was my responsibility to continue to push this forward. Good success in other areas included securing sponsorships for the Ghana Open 2014 and the following 2 years with Airtel Ghana – this was played from Saturday 20th – Monday 22nd September at the Royal Golf Club Kumasi recently.

Other developments during the early part of 2014 included the decision to send a Junior to represent the country in The Junior Open Championship at West Lancashire GC during the week of The Open but unfortunately the visa for Davidson Atila was not approved in time for him to travel to the UK, in better news Daniel List continued his development into a fine amateur player representing Ghana in international junior events while a second junior event was put together to add to the calendar, this time the Asantehemaa National Youth Tournament at the Royal Golf Club in Kumasi which was sponsored by Ecobank.

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The Partial Re-Opening of Achimota Golf Club took place in late May 2014 and I was delighted to be involved with this in conjunction with Paul Kelly and the Achimota GC Committee, plenty work was done (the vast majority by Paul and the McGinley Design Team) and it was a huge experience for me to see what goes into building a golf course from scratch. The Asantehene Gold Cup took place in Kumasi during May as well and it was great to attend the tournament although the only highlight for me on the course was an eagle 3 on the par-5 13th! The visit of Master PGA Professional, Alasdair Barr, was one of the big highlights for me as he spent the best part of a week imparting his considerable knowledge to the Ghana PGA Golf Professionals and also the best and brightest Juniors as well – many thanks for The R&A for arranging for Alasdair to visit Ghana once more and hopefully it will now be an annual event!

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As June and July arrived the Airtel sponsorship of the Ghana Open was finalised and I also managed to secure $20,000 from Ecobank to send the Ghana Amateur Team to take part in their first ever World Team Amateur Championship, which would be held in Japan in September. It was during early July that I came to a difficult decision, for personal reasons I decided to end my time in Ghana as National Director of Golf as I handed in my resignation – I would finish up in the country in late July.

Prior to me finishing up in Ghana I had the small matter of attending The Junior Open, unfortunately without our Junior golfer due to problems getting his visa! It was still a very beneficial experience and hopefully the GGA will be able to send a Junior Boy and Girl when 2016 comes around. A big handover was completed over the course of July, including a few farewell drinks with the Irish lads and of course a few other buddies in Accra.

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Being National Director of Golf was a phenomenal experience for me and I hope whoever takes up the position in the future will help the development of Golf in Ghana. There was a lot of success including the developments in Junior Golf (the new youth tournament in Kumasi to go along with The Ghana Junior Open, the securing of $20,000 from Ecobank to send the Amateur team to Japan for the World Amateur Team Championship); the visit of Alasdair Barr; a longer term sponsor for the Ghana Open; the staging of the first ever Golf Management Seminar in Ghana and the GGDB involvement with the re-opening of 13 holes on the redeveloped Achimota GC by Paul McGinley. At the time of writing the Grand Re-Opening was just over a month ago, it looked like Paul remembered to bring along The Ryder Cup with him in his luggage to Ghana! It was an absolute pleasure working alongside Paul McGinley and The R&A on the Ghana Golf Development Project – it is a fantastic departure and will hopefully provide a template to further develop golf in West Africa in the future! Many thanks to all GGDB stakeholders and the friends I made during my time in Ghana for many most memorable months as National Director of Golf Ghana!

Irish Women’s Elite Panel to train at Heritage Golf School

The Irish Ladies Golf Union (ILGU) is delighted to announce plans to base its winter High Performance Training Programme at the elite golf facilities at The Heritage Golf & Spa Resort in Killenard, Co. Laois.

The programme will see Ireland’s top female amateurs avail of the world class facilities on offer at the Seve Ballesteros ‘Natural’ Golf School. Under the guidance of High Performance Manager David Kearney, a host of expert service providers in the areas of swing and short game analysis, strength and conditioning, nutrition and sports psychology will deliver a robust training regime to the ILGU’s elite panel of players.

The squad members will stay on site at the 5 star hotel and avail of the extensive gym and spa facilities. Their holistic programme is designed to cover all aspects of the game. Weekend training sessions will take place from November through March next year with a week long session planned for the mid-term break in February.

ILGU High Performance Panel
Ciara Casey (Hermitage)
Valerie Clancy (Killarney)
Jessica Carty (Holywood)
Mary Doyle (The Heath)
Maria Dunne (Skerries)
Paula Grant (Lisburn)
Leona Maguire (Slieve Russell)
Lisa Maguire (Slieve Russell)
Mairead Martin (Killarney)
Julie McCarthy (Forrest Little)
Niamh McSherry (Lurgan)
Olivia Mehaffey (RCD Ladies)
Chloe Ryan (Castletroy)
Chloe Weir (Shandon Park)
Anabel Wilson (Lurgan)

Any queries to Denise McCarthy at the ILGU, / +353-1-2934833

Is JP McManus the new Lord of the Manor?

Reports emanating from around Limerick, and particularly from the Limerick Leader, have pointed to the fact that JP McManus has indeed completed the purchase of Adare Manor for a figure in the region of €30 million. The awesome Adare Manor Hotel & Golf Resort has been up for sale since September, bidding closed on Friday last with a price tag of €25m for the County Limerick luxury resort.

JP ProAm

I happened to be playing golf that very day and saw JP on site, he was actually playing golf that day too, and while there were always rumours down the years that he may indeed purchase “the Manor” it is fantastic news for Limerick and definitely for the golfing public as well. There are definitely going to be ambitious plans for Adare Manor in the future – the return of the JP McManus Pro-Am is very likely and there was always the possibility of a second golf course as there is ample land on the estate. Refurbishments and improvements to the current awesome accommodation offerings at Adare Manor could well be on the cards as well.

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Could a Ryder Cup be headed for Limerick in 2022 or 2026? I think the bid process for 2022 has already come and gone but a course that is good enough to stage 2 Irish Opens, the JP Pro-Am and many other events down the years will definitely be well able to host the best team event in sport! The on-site accommodation and the best parkland course in Ireland along with the village of Adare itself would create an ideal venue and it would fittingly mark the 20-year anniversary of the Ryder Cup first coming to Ireland as well.

The hotel was bought back in the 1980s by American Tom Kane who invested heavily in the Resort over the years including the building of the 18-hole Championship course, the last ever designed by the legendary designer Robert Trent Jones Senior, and also the addition of many new hotel rooms, the Townhouses and the Clubhouse, which include extensive bar & restaurant facilities as well. It is great to see Adare in Irish hands now, and even better in the hands of a Limerickman!

I’m very much looking forward to the developments out in Adare over the coming months, and years – good luck JP!


The Social Media Open 2015

After 2 successful tournaments in Ireland the Social Media Open returns in April of 2015 for its 3rd Annual Tournament. The event has taken in some of the finest golf courses in the Emerald Isle over the first 2 stagings of the tournament and next year will be no different. The dates for next year’s event are Tuesday 14th – Friday 17th April 2015 which is the week after The Masters.

ballybunion-cashen-7thDay 1 of the 2015 Social Media Open will take place at the Cashen Course at Ballybunion Golf Club on Tuesday 14th April. The Cashen Course, opened in 1982 and designed by renowned golf architect Robert Trent Jones Senior, requires acute precision especially off the tee as fairways frequently disappear around corners. The careless tee shots can easily run out of fairway and find their golf ball buried in the marram grass, hopefully there won’t be many of them next April! The BallyB website puts it well in that “if the Cashen Course at Ballybunion Golf Club was anywhere else it would attract far more attention and plaudits than it does. It’s hard on a girl if her older sister is Sophia Loren!”

ballybunion-old-10-and-11-lateThe 2nd Day of the 2015 Social Media Open will be played at the World famous Old Course at Ballybunion Golf Club on Wednesday 15th April! The famous English golf writer, Peter Dobereiner said of BallyB’s Old Course: “If sheer pleasure is the yardstick, then Ballybunion’s Old Course gets my vote as the No. 1 in the world”. According to Ivan Morris’ editorial on the Ballybunion GC website, “by the mid-1970s, there was a growing trickle of well-read, international visitors that overnight turned into a flood in 1982 when Tom Watson made his famous off the cuff eulogy after accepting the Claret Jug at Royal Troon: ‘Nobody can call himself a golfer until he has played at Ballybunion; you would think the game originated there!’ Ever since, the North Kerry links has been one of the most lucrative and recognizable brands in world golf. Knowledgeable golfers realize that if they haven’t played golf at Ballybunion their golfing education is gravely incomplete”.

Adare_Golf_Club_Signature_HolesAdare Golf Club will once again be one of the venues for the Social Media Open, hosting Day 3 on Thursday 16th April 2015. Adare GC is the last design by the legendary Robert Trent Jones Senior (also designer of Ballybunion’s Cashen course) and it has consistently ranked as the top parkland course in Ireland over the years. Opened in 1995, this exquisite parkland is set amongst magnificent mature trees and incorporates many water hazard including the River Maigue itself on quite a few occasions! An evening in Collins Bar in Adare village is very likely after golf with hopefully a few good golfing tales to tell at one of the bars in Ireland.

2014-04-15 09.27.23The Final Round of the Social Media Open will take place at the Old Head Golf Links once more, next year on Friday 17th April 2015! The Old Head Golf Links is built on a 220-acre diamond of land, jutting out over two miles into the Atlantic Ocean. The promontory is almost an island with numerous caves running beneath your feet as you play the course. The links and practice area occupy 180 acres and the remaining 40 acres of unspoilt cliff (rising in places to over 300 feet) frame the course. Old Head, par 72, comprises five Par-5s, five Par-3s & eight Par-4s – stretching to over 7,200 yards from the tips, with a minimum of six tees per hole. Nine holes play along the cliff tops, and all eighteen holes provide stunning ocean views. With the ever-changing sea breezes, the course provides a stern test to the touring pro and the high handicapper alike and will definitely do so during the Final Round of the 2015 Social Media Open – we can’t wait!!

The Tournament Packages for the 2015 Social Media Open are Golf only – €578 per Team of 2 (€289 per person) – or Play & Stay with 4 nights’ accommodation – €998 per Team of 2 (€499 per person sharing). There are just a few team spots left so if you are interested in taking part in the #SMOpen2015 drop us a line on, Tweet us on @SMOpen or check us out on Facebook!

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