It turns out that the tail end of Hurricane Christine that lashed the west coast earlier this month wasn't the biggest threat to Doonbeg. The spectacular Co Clare resort went into receivership on Monday.
While the Greg Norman design has never met with the approval of golfing purists and the venue has built an image as a favourite for American high rollers looking for a base on their golfing tours of Ireland, the news is a blow to Irish golf.
According to RTE News:
"A statement from receivers, EY Ireland said it will continue to trade as normal and all employment will be maintained. It added that interest has already been expressed in the property and it is hopeful that the business can be sold as a going concern... Luke Charleton of EY Ireland said "There will be no disruption to services as a result of the appointment, events booked will go ahead as scheduled, and all deposits and gift vouchers will be honoured."
The news comes just six months after Charlotte real estate investment firm South Street Partners acquired Kiawah Partners, developers of resorts such as Kiawah Island and Doonbeg, which opened in 2006 with an exhibition match between Norman and Pádraig Harrington.
The Charlotte Observer reported last June that the deal gave South Street Partners control of "the remaining developable residential inventory on Kiawah, as well as the members-only Kiawah Island Club, a real estate company, a utility company, a shopping center and resort properties in Ireland [Doonbeg] and the Caribbean.
"The Kiawah Island Club, described by developers as the anchor of the island, includes restaurants, a spa, a beach club and two golf courses: the River Course and the Cassique Course.
"Excluded from the deal was the Kiawah Island Golf Resort, home of the Ocean Course – site of the 2012 PGA Championship and the 1991 Ryder Cup matches – and four other golf courses. Also excluded: the Five-Star/Five-Diamond hotel, The Sanctuary."
The Observer went on to report:
"The sale comes a year after a messy family feud between two cousins behind Kiawah Partners burst into public view. The dispute centred on Leonard Long, a former Kiawah Partners executive vice president, and his first cousin, Charles “Buddy” Darby, CEO of the firm.
"The two were part of a group that bought most of Kiawah Island from the Kuwaiti Investment Corp. in 1988 for $105 million.
"They built it into one of the more prestigious resorts in the Carolinas, if not the East Coast. U.S. Census Bureau estimates show more than 500 owner-occupied housing units on the island were valued at more than $1 million between 2007 and 2011.
"According to the Post and Courier, investors filed a lawsuit last June alleging that Darby tried to squeeze the smaller partners out of their ownership stakes.
"The minority partners also expressed concerns about projects Darby was pursuing beyond Kiawah. Kiawah Partners owned the Lodge at Doonbeg, a resort in Ireland, and the proposed Christophe Harbour resort on the Caribbean island of St. Kitts.
"Both resorts were included in the sale to South Street Partners."
Like many other courses on the west coast, Doonbeg suffered erosion damage in the high storms that lashed the west coast of Ireland in early January.
Designer Norman was on the phone to the resort on January 6 for an update.
According to the club, the back tee at the 18th was lost as well as all fencing and a path behind the fifth green. There was also damage to the resort's feature hole, the short 14th.