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It’s a ticket to Ryde

Golf clubs all over the country may be feeling the pain of the recession, with falling membership and joining fees now largely a thing of the past.

And increasingly golf societies are finding clubs falling over themselves to offer them invitations.

And that is putting many of Ireland’s top golfing destinations within range of the average high handicapper.

The K Club in County Kildare is a very good case in point.

Famous throughout the world after hosting the European Ryder Cup victory in 2006, green fees for the Palmer course at their peak were €300.

Now though societies are being offered deals to play both courses for half that amount.

Belfast man Bill Donald is the K Club’s director of golf and he reckons the Northern Ireland market is becoming increasingly important to the resort.

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“At their peak prices simply wouldn’t have attracted players from Northern Ireland in any great number,” he says.

“But times have changed and from last year when we were looking increasingly to a domestic market, there was obviously increased competition and therefore prices started to come down dramatically.

“And as the importance of the domestic market grew, Northern Ireland became increasingly important as well.”

Donald says the K Club now relies on societies for 15 per cent of its total income from green fees.

“Last year we did a deal for €150 for both courses so they could play the Palmer course in April and then come back and play the Smurfit in September,” he explains.

“And I think that is something that societies in Northern Ireland would be very interested in. We’re only a couple of hours down the road from Belfast and playing the K Club will always be a badge of honour for golfers.”

The K Club will forever be synonymous with one of Europe’s greatest ever Ryder Cup victories — they trounced the Americans by nine points — and remembered as the scene of Darren Clarke’s great personal triumph.

“What happened during the Ryder Cup with the emotion from Darren and the excitement of the Americans being here can never really be replicated,” says Donald.

“The Ryder Cup was watched by 1.4 billion people around the world so of course that is going to put you on the map.

“At any club in America they will be aware of us and that’s the legacy of the Ryder Cup.

“It’s made us part of an elite club and we have put together packages with the Belfry, Gleneagles and Celtic Manor so you can play all the courses.

“The Ryder Cup stamp will never leave us, it’s something we all have in common.”

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