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The first fairway at Doonbeg Golf Club. Photograph by John Kelly.

Doonbeg expansion dependent on coastal works

UNLESS rock armour protection is put in front of the sand dunes in Doughmore Beach, the Doonbeg golf course will eventually be rendered unusable. That’s the stark message from the golf resort general manager, Joe Russell.
He was speaking following a two-day consultation, held in Doonbeg community hall this week, on a proposed coastal protection scheme. The golf course was extensively flooded in 2014 and some holes were closed for long periods.
“The golf course needs to be protected. Over the last number of years, the dune face has retreated approximately a yard per year. People have seen a huge retreat in these dunes. If we don’t do it, eventually the golf course will go and there is an over-riding question; what generation is going to do it? If it breaches the dunes, a lot of agricultural land behind the club is going to get flooded,” Joe Russell predicted.
Up to 10 metres of sand dune front along the entire beach was taken by the sea in 2013-2014.
The proposed coastal protection would be formed with limestone boulders placed along the existing dune face. The armour will be put in place over an eight-month period and located in the existing cobble ridge zone. The limestone boulders will be transported from a number of quarries directly via the main resort entrance to the central compound and beach.
According to Doonbeg Golf Resort, “safe public access to the beach will be maintained during the construction period and full access will be restored upon project completion”.
The resort proposes to seek planning permission from Clare County Council to place the rock armour protection at the toe of the dunes. Mr Russell acknowledged that some people have questions regarding the proposals.
“There were a lot of questions from people, trying to understand the overall project. People had questions in relation to what was going to happen with the sand and were they going to be blocked going onto the beach. All existing agreements that are there will remain. I had people that were party to those agreements asking that question. Overall, I would say that the process was hugely positive. The general view was that the authorities don’t have the money to do it, so isn’t it good that Trump is going to do it,” he stated.
While there is no definite figure available, it is estimated that work could cost several million euro.
The resort employs 220 people at the height of the season and plans are being put in place to add to the facilities.
However, in a statement, the golf resort suggests that if the coastal protection plans are not given the go-ahead, further expansion is unlikely.
“Expansion of the facilities to include additional accommodation, leisure facilities and banquet hall at the resort are being considered. This will further increase visitor numbers to West Clare and underpin the future economic health of the resort. The realisation of these plans, however, is dependent on the provision of adequate protection from coastal erosion,” the statement read.
Mr Russell is confident that the plans have the support of people living in Doonbeg and neighbouring parishes.
“The overall feedback we got, particularly from local people, was that the land must be protected. It was a history lesson for me insofar as people from the locality were telling me where the beach started 40 or 50 years ago. People even had ordnance survey maps they were showing me as to where the beach was,” he said.

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