The downturn was tough for big resorts such as spectacular Mount Juliet in Co Kilkenny but things are changing at the Jack Nicklaus designed track which has taken on Waterford native Kevin Phelan as its touring professional.
Not only that, new owners Tetrarch Capital have invested €1.1m in Toro maintenance equipment for a course that looks likely to become an Irish Open venue again before the end of the decade.
The fact that the European Tour today announced that Mount Juliet Estate has become the 16th member of what it described as the "exclusive European Tour Properties network", is another sign that the powers at Wentworth have no forgotten about the club that hosted three consecutive Irish Opens from 1993 as well as two WGC American Express Championships, won by Tiger Woods and Ernie Els in 2002 and 2004 respectively.
Located just 20 minutes from Kilkenny City and a little over an hour from Dublin, Mount Juliet boasts an extensive range of world class amenities and facilities, including Ireland’s only Jack Nicklaus Signature Golf Course, a state of the art equestrian centre, the Michelin starred Lady Helen Restaurant, river and coarse fishing, extensive walking, jogging and cycling trails and a relaxing spa and leisure centre.
Keith Pelley, Chief Executive of The European Tour, said: “The calibre of champions who have won at Mount Juliet underlines the quality of this magnificent venue. The European Tour’s relationship with Mount Juliet stretches back more than two decades and we now enter into an exciting new phase with this collaboration within the European Tour Properties network.”
Michael McElligott, chief executive of Tetrarch which also owns Challenge Tour venue Mount Wolseley, Killashee House in Kildare and Clonmel Park in Tipperary among other investments, said in a statement that the deal strengthened Mount Juliet's "growing relationship with The European Tour," which is a clear sign that the venue will return to the Irish Open sooner rather than later.
“Our membership endorses Mount Juliet’s position with the European Tour’s stamp of a tournament-quality golf venue that presents a level of on and off-course facilities guaranteed to provide a memorable experience for our Club members and all visiting golfers.
"We look forward to a long and fruitful relationship with both European Tour Properties and The European Tour. Tetrarch Capital is equally proud to be supporting the European Challenge Tour, which we are hosting this week at Mount Wolseley Hotel, Spa & Golf Resort.”
Mount Juliet plans to revamp the current clubhouse, increase the number of clubhouse rooms and extend Kendals Brasserie to make it suitable for wedding receptions and other functions. A new, members' clubhouse will also be built next to the current clubhouse, adding to the facilities at the venue.
According to the European Tour:
The European Tour Properties’ portfolio, which includes exceptional facilities such as Jumeirah Golf Estates in Dubai, London Golf Club in England, Terre Blanche Hotel Spa Golf Resort on the French Riviera and Golf Club St. Leon-Rot, recent host venue of The 2015 Solheim Cup.
"Mount Juliet joins Saujana Golf and Country Club in Malaysia and Black Mountain Golf Club and Resort in Thailand as additions to the European Tour Properties portfolio in 2015.
Waterford born Phelan, 24, has been playing as Mount Juliet's touring professional all season though the official announcement was not made until yesterday, co-inciding with the news that Tetrarch has invested more than €1 million in Toro maintenance equipment which will be used by the more than 30 management and staff who tend the signature golf course.
"Following a competitive tendering process Tetrarch chose the Toro Company, the largest manufacturer of golf course and grounds equipment in the world, to provide the latest advances in golf equipment.
"Dedicated rolling has been re-introduced to increase green speeds providing constant tournament standard presentation.
"The fleet consists of more than 20 individual pieces of equipment including the latest fairway, trim and rough mowers, sprayer, sand-dressers, tractors and utility vehicles. Specific training has been provided by Toro to the golf course and grounds personnel on the state of the art fleet with each operator receiving a certificate of competence in its use.
"Along with the equipment fleet the course operational budget was increased to buy the most advanced fertilisers and plant protection products. Everris turf-grass products are now being used to grow."