MEMBERS of a Kildare golf club were shocked last Wednesday night to receive a text informing them that the club had gone into receivership.
However, the management of Woodlands Golf Club at Coill Dubh, Naas, has since stressed that while the receiver has a charge over the property and land, the club as such will remain operational.
“We are in negotiation with the receiver in order to continue operating the club,” secretary Orla Winder told the ***Kildare Nationalist*** yesterday (Monday). She added that the club was still open to members and for green fees, while competitions would go ahead as planned.
Ultimately, the course and properties attached will be sold but it’s understood there is still considerable optimism that the club membership will be in a position to actually purchase the entire facility.
Woodlands Golf Club was very much a Celtic Tiger success story, having begun life as a 9-hole course owned by a local businessman, Peter Daly. In 1993, the members were given the opportunity to purchase the club, after which the course was redesigned. Following the purchase of an additional 60 acres of adjoining land in 1996, it was upgraded to an 18-hole course, which was officially opened by the then finance minister Charlie McCreevy in June 2000.
Facilities continued to expand, with a new clubhouse opened in 2006 and extensive catering and dining services offered.
Despite the sale of some land for development purposes midway through the last decade, understood to have brought in around €1m to the club, it appears that debts mounted and were recently said to total around €2.5m, with the club involved in negotiations with Ulster Bank in a bid strike a deal and write down some of the debt.
It’s also believed some club members were proposing to contribute funding as part of this process but clearly no agreement could be reached, culminating in last week’s revelation that the receiver had been called in.
The announcement reflects the position of golf clubs up and down the country which are struggling to balance their books. The average cost of operating a golf club in Ireland in 2009 was estimated at almost a million euro annually a massive jump from an average of €266,000 a decade earlier, in 1999.
In that period, many clubs engaged in major investment, upgrading courses and providing new facilities, generally incurring significant borrowings. While club membership fees and initial joining fees also rose considerably, the dramatic downturn of recent years has left large numbers of people struggling and frequently failing to keep up club membership.
The resultant loss of revenue, coupled with pressure from the banks, has led to difficulties for several golf clubs around the country.
While the future for Woodlands is to some extent uncertain at this point, Ms Winder emphasised that the club would remain operational.”Woodlands Golf Club is still here, unfortunately including the debt,” she commented, adding that a committee meeting was planned for last night (Monday 27 May) to fully discuss the situation.