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Ryan Fox plays from a bunker on the 13th during the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open at Lahinch. Photograph by John Kelly.

Lahinch Golf Club reports ‘manageable’ operating losses last year

ONE of the country’s best known golf clubs, Lahinch Golf Club recorded a “manageable” operating loss of €303,199 last year, reports Gordon Deegan.
In a report presented to members at the club’s virtual Annual General Meeting (AGM) on Friday via Zoom, chairperson of Lahinch GC Council, Martin O’Sullivan stated that “the overwhelming dominant feature of 2020 was the advent of Covid-19 and the consequent challenges it presented”.
Lahinch staged the 2019 Dubai Duty Free Irish Open and counts former Ireland rugby captain, Paul O’Connell as one of its members.
Commenting on the 2020 operating loss in the report, Mr O’Sullivan said, “While any loss is unwelcome, the outturn is acceptable, when compared with our peer group, and is manageable once some normality returns, hopefully later this year.”
Mr O’Sullivan said Lahinch GC’s financial performance has been substantially impacted as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic “which resulted in the closure of the club and its facilities to members and guests for long periods of time”.
Golf courses across the country have been closed under Government Level 5 Covid-19 restrictions and Lahinch GC, in common with other clubs, is preparing to re-open on April 26.
The club recorded the operating loss against the background of a collapse in overseas visitors for 2020 contributing to a 90pc drop in green fee and golf club shop income.
The club’s green income reduced by 88pc from €1.88m to €226,025 while golf club shop income reduced by 90pc  from €477,063 to €45,532.
A ‘high season’ round of golf for visitors between May and September costs €240 on the club’s celebrated ‘Old Course’.
Mr O’Sullivan said that the absence of overseas visitors in 2020 “was a big blow”.
Overall club income last year declined by 61.5pc from €3.45m to €1.33m and Mr O’Sullivan stated that the Club offset most of this reduction “by implementing an extensive cost management programme”.
The club’s expenditure last year reduced by 34pc from €4m to €2.66m. When non-cash depreciation costs of €938,542 is taken into account, the club loss for the year was €1.2m.
The annual report confirms that the club received €292,805 in Government Wage Subsidy Schemes.
Mr O’Sullivan said, “The Club continues to manage its cost base and while the prospect of overseas visitors returning towards the back end of the season is diminishing daily, the Club is confident it will trade through what is left of this pandemic and will be in a strong position to build its reserves when some form of normality returns.”
Mr O’Sullivan pointed out that the club has ample reserves built up over a period of time and has no debt.
At the end of December 2020, the Cluh had total funds of €7.4m.
At the club’s deferred 2019 AGM held last November, members overwhelmingly voted to increase subscriptions by 7.5pc from January of this year.
Mr O’Sullivan said that the increase from January 2021 “will help to close the wide gap between members’ and visitors’ contributions somewhat, though continued increases in subscriptions need to be an important part of our future financial planning”.
Mr O’Sullivan stated that despite the need to temporarily curtail capital investment programmes, “the Old Course improved its world ranking to 29th position while retaining its Top 4 position in Ireland”.
He said, “These rankings are reflected in the pent-up demand the Club has experienced from overseas golfers both for this season and into 2022.”Commenting on the challenges facing golf clubs here reliant on international green fee income, chief executive of Golf Ireland, Mark Kennelly stated on Friday that Golf Ireland estimates golf clubs in this sector lost up to €20 million in revenue from this business in 2020.

He said, “We expect that many of these clubs will soon be allocated funds from the Failte Ireland Business Continuity Scheme.”

He said: “Given the continuing severe restrictions on international travel, 2021 will be another challenging season for this sector and we are actively engaging with the relevant government agencies for further support for the golf clubs , including those in the tourism sector.”

Mr Kennelly said: “The Covid-19 pandemic has had, and continues to have, a severe financial impact on golf clubs which have been closed for significant periods in the last 12 months. Golf Ireland is supporting its member clubs in every way we can and we are delighted to have secured a total of €3.4million for clubs in the Republic of Ireland and £4.2million for clubs in Northern Ireland.”

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