Twenty-five years might not appear to be a long time in the life of a golf club but north Dublin gem Hollywood Lakes is probably the perfect example of how a modern Irish club can thrive in difficult times.
Founded in 1992 when John Kelly, the famous Irish Wolfhound breeder, asked Mel Flanagan to build a course on his lands during the height of the golfing boom, this pristine par-72 test has finally come of age.
Situated just outside the village of Ballyboughal in north Dublin, the club celebrates it silver jubilee this year with a host of innovative incentives designed to bring its membership back to the heights of the boom times.
In 2008, just 16 years after it opened its doors, the club built a stunning new clubhouse at a cost of just over €3m.
But while the club membership is now less than 500, dozens of societies and casual golfers are quickly discovering that there's a stunning parkland course on their doorstep.
North County Dublin conjures images of flat farming terrain but quite apart from the lakes that come into play on ten holes, giving the course its name, Hollywood Lakes enjoys stunning elevated views of Dublin Bay, the city and the Wicklow Mountains beyond.
Situated just off the M1, you can see the Sugar Loaf quite clearly as you tackle a challenging but fair course that wends its way over 6,707 yards from the back tees (or 5,602 yards for ladies).
The members hail from Dublin, Meath and Louth and given that it's just minutes from the M1, you are as likely to meet a resident of Beaumont, Clontarf, Howth, Santry or Malahide as someone from Balbriggan, Skerries, Ashbourne or even Drogheda.
It's hugely attractive to golfers living on the northside of Dublin or even as far afield in Drogheda (20 minutes away) with the course now reaping the benefits of a 2002 upgrade that saw the addition of judicious bunkering and the planting of some 50,000 trees.
The construction in 2008 of the state-of-the-art clubhouse, complete with first class changing rooms, bar and restaurant and top quality facilities enjoyed by resident PGA professional Alan Staunton means Hollywood Lakes offers everything the modern club golfer needs, including a driving range, academy and short game area.
Spending over €3m on a clubhouse just before the economic crash was unfortunate timing, but the club has met the challenge head on and with the help of the landlord, an astute plan has been put in place to ensure the club's good health for years to come.
Like all Irish clubs, they are keen to attract new members and with innovative membership rates, there's something for everyone.
"It's a big challenge but one that we are meeting," said club spokesman, Richie Culhane. "People who come to the club for the first time are wowed by it really.
"Only last week we hosted qualifying for the Pierce Purcell Shield and people were surprised it was such a good course. We were delighted with the feedback we got.
"Our club professional Alan Staunton took over from Krishna Krishna Padayachee, and he's excited about his role here and has lots of great ideas about how we can attract more societies, more green fees and more new members.
"We get a lot of society business but our goal is to increase our membership and we have attractive packages for ladies (€599) and a Sports Club membership (€350) which is designed to attract the under 35s who are members of another sports club, whether it be soccer or Gaelic or rugby.
"That would entitle them to seven-day playing rights the only stipulation that while they can play the course at weekends, the can't play in competitions at that time.
"Full membership costs up to €1,200, but we have tailor-made offers for the over 65s as well as five-day members, intermediates and juniors. So we can facilitate every age group."
Corporate golf is another growth area and businesses who take on a €3,000 corporate package will enjoy significant fringe benefits including two full memberships, 40 green fees, a corporate day and even use of the boardroom.
"It's a facility whereby they can entertain their clients or their staff for €3,000 a year," Mr Culhane explained. "They get optimal tee times too and we will arrange a reduced fee for any subsequent corporate days they might like to take up."
As for the course, is a very worthy test, boasting what was until a few years ago the longest par-five in Ireland in the 641-yard 14th, which contrasts beautifully with the 136-yard, par-three fourth with its tricky, two-tiered green.
An oasis of tranquillity that's within ease reach of the capital — Dublin airport is little more than 15 minutes away by car — the only noise you are likely to hear is the occasional hum from aircraft coming into land.
Flora and fauna abound, and a gardening club has been formed by the club with volunteers taking time out to look after the thousands of plants and shrubs that make this more than just a pleasant round of golf.
In short, it's a little-known gem on the capital's doorstep and should the next 25 years prove as fruitful as the first, a golden future awaits.
Hollywood Lakes Factfile
- Club: Hollywood Lakes Golf Club
- Address: Ballyboughal, Co.Dublin
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Tel: 01-8433406/7
- Website: www.hollywoodlakesgolfclub.com
- Green Fees: Midweek from €20; Weekend from €25
- Society Rates: From €20 weekday (Discount available for 20 or more golfers). From €30 weekends (discount for available for 20 or more golfers)
- Buggy Hire: €25 midweek / €30 weekends
- Electric trollies: €15
- Club hire €20
4th, Par 3, 136 yards — A testing uphill, par-three with a two-tier green guarded at the front by a lake and bunkers.
While it measures only 136 yards, this gem can play anything from a gap wedge to a six-iron depending on the wind and pin placement. If the pin is in the front portion of the green, you must play a club that will hit the middle of the green, past the pin. If the pin is in the back, take two extra clubs and play a knockdown shot to reduce backspin. Be careful not to overshoot the green or a near impossible Augusta-style up-and-down awaits you.
€350 for Sports Club Membership; 5 Day from €700 (Mens)/ €599 (Ladies); 7 Day from €995 (Mens)/ €700 (Ladies).
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