LIKE many Cork clubs, Castlemartyr has had a busy few weeks since the golf course reopened a few weeks ago.
The Ron Kirby designed has been a popular spot for members and guests over the past 12 years and it’s set for another busy season.
With members, guests and open competitions now permitted, there’s a element of normality back on the course.
Rakes are still missing, flags remain in the hole, but importantly golfers are back on the fairways enjoying the sport.
After a few years of membership growth, including growth in their ladies and junior clubs, Castlemartyr had a great year in 2020.
Although their strong international market didn’t travel, the resort made the most of the increased interest in the sport, adding new members and seeing huge demand for green fees and open competitions.
Castlemartyr was one of the local clubs to benefit from the closure of Waterrock, but there were many other new in the club as the saw a surge in membership.
Overall, membership numbers soared last year in many clubs, and the GUI and ILGU recorded over 10,000 new membership applications after golf reopened in June 2020.
Many clubs were hopeful that they could keep and renew the new members in 2021, and that was definitely the case for Castlemartyr as Director of Golf Breffne as McKenna explained.
“Renewals were excellent for 2021, they were ahead on 2020 the end of February 2021 and we had 98% of our members renew.
"This was a huge support to us from the members and we are so grateful for their loyalty and understanding re challenges in a Covid-19 lockdown and keeping the club and course operating.”
As the majority of golfers understand, the golf course can’t be switched off or put into hibernation.
With every course just six weeks away from going back to farmland, the maintenance has to keep going and Course Superintendent Paudie O’Sullivan and his team did a great to have the course in excellent condition for the reopening less than a month ago.
Demand saw membership in Castlemartyr increase by over 35 % last year and there are still some limited spaced available.
“Currently we are inviting all enquiries to contact the golf office, some categories are now full however we are open to accepting more members in our juvenile and ladies categories.”
Developed by the Supple family 2006 as part of the €70m hotel development, the golf course was designed by Ron Kirby.
Kirby had worked with Jack Nicklaus Design for many years before going out on his own.
The inland links design was an immediate hit with golfers.
The fast and firm fairways were framed by gorse and were appreciated by many, and the quality of the greens helped the course to develop it’s reputation as a superior golf destination.
Kirby of course had a hand in the Old Head as well as Dromoland and Mount Julliet among others.
One of the real success stories from Castlemartyr has been the ladies club.
It was founded only a few years ago and had grown steadily in that time.
“The ladies club in Castlemartyr has boomed over the past 2 years,” added Breffne.
"The committee are and have done trojan work with the new members and have integrated the different playing requirements from our diverse range of lady members.
" We offer 9 hole competitions as well as 18 holes competitions and also the club run a Mixed 9 hole competition every Wednesday evening in June July and August.
"The ladies enjoy their allocated tee times on Mondays, Saturday and Sundays so there a wide range of open days to enjoy golf at the Club.”
With very limited international travel for the next few months, the focus will be on the Irish market and Breffne is expecting demand to remain high.
As well as prioritising members access to the course, there will also be plenty of chances for green fees and residents to play, as well as open competitions for members of other clubs.
“Domestic demand is starting to reignite with the phones now getting busier, as well as residents booking in to stay and play for casual golf.
"As well we have the return of our infamous ‘Wednesday Whites’ Open (Gents) every Wednesday starting again in June and the Ladies Club will be hosting 3 Open Days in June, August and September, full details to be advised soon through our social media.
"Our traditional Scratch Cup weekend will also be running this year and this open is pencilled in for the August bank holiday weekend.”
With golf limited to members only for the first few weeks, there was a gradual return to normality.
One member of staff delighted to get back was PGA Professional Alan Gleeson.
He too is looking forward to a busy summer of golf.
“Everyone was delighted to be back including myself, it was an awfully long winter,” said Alan, who has been based in Castlemartyr for over six years.
“Due to the restrictions only allowing members in the first few weeks, getting on the timesheet was not a problem, where a large number of members played three or four times a week.
"Everyone was thrilled with the condition of the course and that is a testament to Paudie O’Sullivan and his team for all their hard work and commitment.
"I have just started back coaching, with ladies group classes due to start at the end of the month, I envisage having a very busy season of teaching ahead.”