MONKSTOWN Golf Club has been a busy place since golf reopened in April, and while the number of golfers on the course might have dropped off over the past month or two, the work continues.
With membership close to full, the club is investing in a number of developments that will see the practice facilities upgraded and improved. General Manager Maurice O’Meara is now well into his second year in Monkstown he outlined the plans for the developments.
“We’re concentrating on the short game practice facilities in phase one and that’s nearly completed.
"We have two new chipping greens with seven artificial teeing areas around them, strategically placed for practice during the winter.
"We also have two new eco bunkers built into the design and we have two USGA spec sand-based greens.
"Ken Kearney was involved in the design and DAR Golf managed the construction, and they both did a great job.
"The area is now seeded and bedded in and we hope to open them in mid-April if not sooner.”
The new practice area is an extension of the area where the original putting green was, and the club have moved the path to the first tee to maximise the space available for the additional chipping green.
The new area will be protected by a fence and some tree planting, providing a natural barrier between the first hole and the new greens. The area has already been cut three times and the mild weather in October and November has given the ground an extra few weeks to grow in during the Autumn.
This will be a real boost in March once the growth season starts and should allow Monkstown members to access the new facility sooner than originally planned.
The club isn’t stopping with just the construction of the new chipping area. Next will see the club start on the upgrading of the range.
Planning has been secured for 12 new covered bays with dedicated teaching bays, and the range will be upgraded with several new target greens and distance markers.
The enhancement of the practice facilities will be a real boost for the membership which is back up to maximum levels given the new-found interest in the sport over the past 18 months.
Course architect Ken Kearney has been involved in both the range and the short game area, the Roscommon man has developed a reputation as the go-to architect for many Cork clubs.
He’s has completed several projects in Cork including Kinsale, Bandon and Kanturk and in consulting with several more as clubs look to upgrade on-course elements while also developing practice facilities.
As well as the developments taking place in the practice areas there is also a plan to ensure the course remains in top condition as Maurice explained:
“We also have a programme of work planned for the course as well.
"That includes tee boxes, a bunkering programme and we’re also building a new buggy bay next to the clubhouse.
"While it’s really important to develop the short game area and the range, we’re also going to get the course right as well.”
2021 brought plenty of challenges. Golf courses were closed for the first three months of the year and demand was huge once the sport reopened. That meant a huge amount of traffic over the courses, and Monkstown’s superintendent Martin Travers and his team worked hard to ensure the course was presented in great condition every day.
“Martin and his team have been fantastic, they’ve worked their socks off. The traffic through the course has been phenomenal.
"I’ve worked in busy clubs but this is different, we haven’t had a quiet day since we reopened in April.
"Our 2021 season was condensed into five months from May to September, and we’re hoping that that will extend out in 2022.
O’Meara, who has worked in Killarney, Dooks and the Island is delighted with the way the Monkstown proposition has developed over the past two years.
“We have a really positive message here in Monkstown. Between Martin, Cian, Gillian Shane and all the team we a building a really positive experience for members and guests.”
The club exceeded their target for membership in 2021, and that means there’s only a limited number of memberships available going into 2022. With very strong retention numbers, the available places are not expected to increase and Maurice expects that vacancies will be filled very early in 2022.
With around 20 places available anyone who is interested in joining the club should contact Maurice now, given the current interest in golf both locally and nationally it's highly likely the spaces will be filled quickly.
With other members clubs like Cork and Douglas effectively full, the options to join a members club so close to the city are limited.
Golf membership saw a huge increase in mid-2020 when golf was one of the first sports to reopen. Like many other clubs, Monkstown benefitted from that initial surge, and they saw that continue right through 2021.
Although the majority of new members were male, there were many women joiners and most importantly the juvenile section continues to grow. The club now has over 100 junior golfers, and the enhancement of the practice facilities along with structured coaching programmes and fun and competitive events means that the next generation of golfers is being nurtured by the club.
A number of Monkstown juniors featured in provincial and national events in 2021.
On the national stage, Monkstown features on Golf Ireland’s draft calendar for 2022, the club is set to host the Irish Senior Men's Open in May. Outside of the Irish Seniors, it looks like Monkstown will be a busy place for all of 2022.