Excitement is building among golfers as the sport is re-opening on Monday next. And that’s certainly true in East Cork where the club members and everyone involved is looking forward to hitting the fairways. Since the start of March the club and the owners have worked together to get through the current crisis. Initially it was social distancing, then it was temporary closure, and more recently it has all been about the re-opening of the course. East Cork owner Clare Moloney has been driving the plans, and she too is happy to see the course re-open. “Fortunately, the greens staff fall under the category of essential workers, and our greenkeepers have been working tirelessly to make sure the course is in top condition when some of our members can return on May 18th. In the interest of health and safety, a rota was introduced for our greenkeepers to work on alternating days to mitigate the chance of infection” explained Clare.
“We cannot thank our members enough for their continued support during this time. Many members have paid their annual membership fee despite this being a time of economic uncertainty for all of us. This is a testament to the ethos of the members of East Cork Golf Club. We can always count on them to have our back when times are tough.”
Golf is one of the few sports where there’s a very high fixed cost even when there’s no play. Courses need a team of greenkeepers to maintain the course. And it’s not only the labour cost that needs to be factored in. Most work requires expensive machinery, meaning there are capital and maintenance costs as well as fuel. Beyond that golf courses require many inputs like fertiliser, seed, sand and water which adds another layer of expense for owners. Those costs led to some speculation that many courses would struggle to generate enough income to survive through the crisis. While green fees and competitions are not included in the first phase for golf, it does mean that members can play and get value from their annual subscriptions.
Clare Moloney is aware of the financial commitment from members and she’s planning to look after the loyal East Cork members. “My focus now is to make sure that they receive full value for their fee. To do this I am looking into modifying their annual subs when the golfing year finally gets under way. I see this as the only fair solution as very little golf has been played this year. It has been disappointing to see some speculation about our course on social media over the past few days – East Cork Golf Club is reopening on Monday. There is no truth to speculation that this may not be the case and we are looking forward to welcoming back our members.”
Club captains Mick Dorgan and Ruth Evans have led the liaison between members and the owners and they are looking forward to getting on with the golfing year. “The closure of the course for such an unexpected and extended period has had a severe impact on the running of the club” explained the Captain. “The loss of club competitions has reduced our major income stream and the social distancing restrictions has made it a challenge for the various committees to communicate and keep the club ticking over. We have fantastic and resourceful people on our committees and they were able to find various ways to overcome these difficulties, so we are currently in a very healthy position to reopen the club on Monday next. From listening to members, they cannot wait to get back playing, and even though many members don’t live within 5K of the course, the first step of the process, beginning on May 18th marks the first positive step towards life as we knew it, returning to normal. The green staff John O’Keeffe and John Andrews, under Clare’s guidance have the course in magnificent condition. People are looking forward to the easing of current restrictions and everything getting back to normal. For our members, this of course means getting back out on the golf course hitting golf balls”.
Of course East Cork is more than just a business for the Moloney family, the course was founded in 1969 when Eamonn and Peg Moloney built a nine hole course on their dairy farm. It’s very much a family business, Eamonn’s son Maurice and his wife Clare took over the running of the course and drove a number of course developments and improvements that ensured it remained one of the most popular courses in East Cork. Clare now leads the family team that runs the business and she’s very proud of the Moloney legacy in East Cork. “I have had the pleasure of calling East Cork Golf Club my home for the past 30 years; a business that just celebrated its fiftieth anniversary in 2019. Throughout this time, we have faced many challenges. From recessions to course redevelopments, to the loss of my husband Maurice, who many know was the heart and soul of East Cork Golf Club. Today, we face yet another challenge. When the restrictions due to Covid-19 came into place in early March, we closed the Clubhouse Bar and catering facilities to comply with government guidelines. This has resulted in a temporary loss of employment for some of our staff.” Although the clubhouse won’t re-open for another few weeks, Monday’s first stage will be welcomed by everyone as the start of that journey.
The Wait for Golf is Nearly Over
East Cork President Brian Barnes summed up the thoughts of most golfers on the unprecedented six weeks that all courses in Ireland closed. “We all really miss our golf, the social interaction, meeting friends and of course the lively competition” said the President. “East Cork Golf Club is such a wonderful club to be a member, not only because of the quality of the course and the Clubhouse but also the fantastic atmosphere and friendly banter among all the members. All sections of the Club are thriving, Men’s Club, Ladies Club, Seniors sections and Juveniles.”
Now that the return to the course is just a few days away, excitement is building among members. The GUI and ILGU guidelines will see over 100 members a day permitted under strict new protocols on social distancing and proper etiquette around the course the minimise the risk of picking up or spreading coronavirus. Competitions and guests will be permitted at later stages with clubhouses opening up in the final phase.
“We are all very much looking forward to the first phase of getting back golfing” added Barnes. “The course closure affected all members, but it was great to see how everyone kept in touch with each other, and how the proprietor Clare and the two committees kept us all up to date on matters concerning the course and the Golf. The Men’s and Ladies Committees through the Parent Club Committee keep in regular contact with Proprietor Clare to maintain a two-way flow of communication going, and therefore address any areas requiring attention while we are closed and in preparation for re-opening. We are working with Clare and Golf Ireland to ensure all recommendations are in place to facilitate a safe return to Golf. We urge all our Members to continue to follow all guidelines in general and we look forward to welcoming everyone back from next Monday.”
Men’s Captain Mick Dorgan is also looking forward to the reopening, and he’s very aware of the challenges facing sports and business across the county. “These are challenging times for all sports clubs, especially for golf clubs as witnessed by the recent announcement that our near neighbour, Waterrock GC will not reopen after the Covid-19 crisis” said Dorgan. “I am very sorry to hear, and I’d like to wish all their members the best and let them know that East Cork GC is open for business and would welcome any Waterrock members to join our club. We celebrated 50 years in 2019 and thanks to the work, commitment and vision shown over the years by Peg & Eamonn Moloney, then Maurice, and now Clare and her family, I’m confident we will continue to grow and thrive, well into the future.”