Behind the scenes at Douglas course as golf clubs adjust to the new normal

Behind the scenes at Douglas course as golf clubs adjust to the new normal
Club members Bart Cremin, Ger Donovan and James Doolan putting on the second green during a round of golf at Douglas Golf Club last month. Picture: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

IT’S an exciting time for Douglas Golf Club, despite the short-term restrictions, the southside club is finishing the latest of its recent developments with the completion of the clubhouse refurbishment due soon.

Douglas has completed several projects in recent years including the upgrading of the practice facilities as well as a new five-hole short game facility.

With golfers back on the fairways for almost three weeks, and phase two set to start next week, the season is finally underway following the Covid delay.

Like all other golf clubs, Douglas faced several challenges following the government recommendation to close.

While the catering and bar staff didn’t have an opportunity to continue working the course and admin staff worked through using new ways of work to keep everything going.

The Clubhouse at Douglas Golf Club which is nearing the end of an extensive refurbishment project. Picture: Niall O'Shea
The Clubhouse at Douglas Golf Club which is nearing the end of an extensive refurbishment project. Picture: Niall O'Shea

Douglas General Manager John McHenry has worked in the industry for over 20 years, but like everyone else this was a new experience for him.

He explained the process they have used from the shutdown in late March.

“Once the golf course was designated as a zone that needed to be maintained, the course staff (six) broke into two working pods, working split shifts of mornings and afternoons,” explained McHenry.

“Each were designated their own working equipment, which they took responsibility for and cleaned down each day.

“Staff members were designated different times for the use of the canteen and there were strict protocols around the use of toilets and sanitary stations.

“Work buggies were restricted to one person only and where possible all activities were reduced to one-person operations.

“The admin office (of three) stayed open with some of the staff working remotely from home.

“Unfortunately, our restaurant and bar have remained closed during the Covid-19 period but we would hope to offer a staged opening of these over the coming weeks.”

John McHenry at Douglas Golf Club. Picture: Dan Linehan
John McHenry at Douglas Golf Club. Picture: Dan Linehan

With a unique opportunity to work on the course without members, the team in Douglas set about a programme of work that took advantage of the lockdown.

“As you can imagine with no one on the course, this was an ideal time to take a look at the course from a health & safety perspective.

“We raised the canopy of some trees to allow more light and air into areas that were historically wet and slippery.

“We removed and made safe trees that had already fallen and we also ground out stumps that we felt posed a risk to golfers.

“We have also reshaped many of our fairways by way of promoting a better course strategy and have continued our plan to grow in tall fescue grass around the course.”

Douglas juniors with Robin Dawson, James Sugrue and Peter O'Keeffe at the exhibition match in March. Picture: Niall O'Shea
Douglas juniors with Robin Dawson, James Sugrue and Peter O'Keeffe at the exhibition match in March. Picture: Niall O'Shea

And the response from members was great as McHenry continued. “We have had tremendously positive feedback on the condition and presentation of the course.

“Our greens are running true and fast and the membership are making most of the fine weather.”

The limited reopening of golf courses almost three weeks ago led to the predicted high demand for tee times for members. Douglas decided to limit members to nine holes to maximise tee times and this has worked out well for those members inside the 5km travel restriction.

“We have resumed with social golf for the membership only; nine holes per day and three rounds per week at 15-minute intervals.

“We have installed significant Covid-19 signage around the course and have emphasised the need for the membership to adhere to the government guidelines around the 5km rule.

“We have found that members are thrilled to be back playing. By and large, they are playing car golf – arriving 15 minutes before their tee time and observing the 15-minute intervals.

“They are happy that there is no congestion on the course and 9 holes have brought more members out playing.”

In addition to the course, Douglas also has a top-class range, short game areas, and a new five-hole short game course that opened last year.

While it’s a members area, the new five-hole course was put to good use earlier this year.

McHenry along with Junior Officer JP Hughes and Peter O’Keeffe arranged an exhibition match in March where the junior members took on Robin Dawson, James Sugrue and Peter O’Keeffe.

The event attracted over 100 junior members and many more members and parents as the next generation took on Ireland’s top golfers.

“The club has been working tirelessly to promote more social engagement in the club. We see the short game area, as well as the completion of renovation, works to our clubhouse as the next stage towards the club offering greater value and opportunity for our entire membership.”

Although there has been a delay, the finish line is clearly in sight.

“Covid-19 has meant a delay in the completion of the clubhouse renovations but I am hopeful that we will be back in our Clubhouse by August.

“We want to continue offering greater value to its members and guests.

“We have more of less explored every golf course opportunity and now the completion of the clubhouse offers us the opportunity to match those standards with multiple fine dining options that can take advantage of our panoramic city views, as well as Corporate and Membership meeting packages that allow for a welcome break away from the office.”

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