After a near five month hiatus, the fairways of Clare’s ten golf courses are busy once more this week as the latest easing of Covid-19 restrictions allowed for the game to return at a non competitive level.
Whether it will be the fairways or the rough that sees the most action while the rust is being cleared is another matter, but there has been a positive reaction from the members of the clubs across the county and beyond to being allowed back out onto the courses.
Guidelines set down mean that only players from a maximum of two households may tee off together, while a strict member only policy has also been implemented in a bid to keep numbers controlled. Some clubs have opted to limit their 18-hole courses to just nine holes at certain times in order to allow as many members as possible to get on the timesheet, while 8-10 minute intervals have been adopted between tee times.
For Spanish Point Golf Club, the break since January allowed the club to continue getting ready for the celebrations of their 125th anniversary, with plans to be unveiled once more clarity is known on Covid-19 restrictions later this summer. It has already been a successful week for the club, who were chosen as the ‘Best Hidden Gem in 2021’ by The Golfer Guide.
At the moment, the focus is on the returning members with a schedule of works having been carried out on the course over the last few months. A practice area for chipping and putting is also nearing completion, and Public Relations Officer with the club, Mervin Hehir, outlined that Spanish Point is in a positive place.
“The new practice area will give members the option of just coming to work on their short game or they can go to the new driving nets, which means that they can still work on their game without having to get out on the course. Our greenkeepers have done a brilliant job in having the course ready for the return of members, and one thing we have focused on is trying to ensure there is more definition between the fairways and the rough. We also did work on edging all the bunkers on the course which have turned out really well” he explained.
Spanish Point has enjoyed great success in recent years, and has seen a vibrant junior section starting to come through the club. There are currently over 100 junior members as part of the club’s near 650 overall membership. Hehir, a former captain of the club, feels that the offering Spanish Point has is unique while it’s location along the Wild Atlantic Way is something they are hopeful will continue to be of benefit.
“When travel restrictions ease, we are hoping that we can tap into the tour operator market because there is great interest there from the North American and Canadian scene. We are ideally located between two world class courses in Lahinch and Doonbeg, and the fact that we are a 9-hole course means that it is something which could be easily slotted into a schedule if there was a day free. Visitors can come and enjoy the links golf that we have to offer them and the views they will get across Spanish Point and out to the Atlantic Ocean are always incredibly popular” he said.
The local element of the membership is also a key element according to Hehir, who recalled a successful recruitment drive from a networking event in recent years.
“We took a stand at the Bank of Ireland Enterprise Town event at the hall in Miltown a few years ago, thinking that we could maybe get 10-15 new members. We left that night with 80 new members so that was a huge shot in the arm for the club. We have also seen a great retention rate from our Get into Golf programme for the ladies at the club, and that has been really positive to see also. Having that local element is great because we see people all the time putting their hands up for any works that need to be done, and when it is on your doorstep you do feel more invested in it” he noted.