Gerry McInerney, managing partner at McInerney Saunders, speaking with Dermot Desmond, the keynote speaker at the golf conference held on Friday at the National Convention Centre organised by Carr Golf.

Mr. Desmond delivered an incisive speech that spelled out the state of the industry and the changes that were required at national level to create the climate in which tourism and related leisure industries of which golf is one, can recover and grow. He was especially critical of elements with the civil service. He advocated the disposal of the Irish banks to external owners to prevent them from becoming ineffective due to political interference and the absence of commercial strategic direction.

Gerry McInerney stressed the need for government and airport authorities to act to reduce landing costs for airlines in return for their commitment to grow tourist traffic into Ireland. Golf related business would be an element of such growth. Mr Desmond agreed with him that any growth in the tourism and leisure industries could, in the short-term, only come from abroad.

Overcapacity due to excessive development and depressed demand on the home market arising from the current uncertainty and reduced spending capacity were cited as the main reasons for the industry’s current woes. Domestic demand is forecast to reduce even further over the next four years if the government is to achieve its budgetary objectives

Turning his attention to the challenges faced by golf clubs Gerry McInerney stated during a question and answer session that whilst commercial golf concerns generally did not have the same degree of member loyalty as private member clubs they were often more adaptable in their ability to respond to change given that they were not managed by committee and their plans were not subject to member ratification in AGM.

He concurred with others who spoke of the need for all golf businesses to have clear strategic business plans and to adopt best management practice and procedures including the use of yield management techniques and outsourcing to maximise returns from assets according to demand.

He also advocated that clubs bring in facilitators to assist in formulating their plans as often there is resistance to such planning when it is led internally – “a prophet is never honoured in his own country” he said.

The conference heard valuable contributions from Charles ‘Buddy’ Darby (Kiawah Partners/Doonbeg Golf Club) and from Mark Nolan (Dromoland Castle) both of whom stressed that despite the economic downturn; their businesses would not compromise on the quality of their offerings to users of their facilities.

Gerry believes there is a lesson there for the private member clubs and for businesses generally. The conference was well attended and the organisers undertook to follow up with a summary of the proposals emerging from all of the contributions that might see a new representative body set up for all in the sector.

McInerney Saunders, through three of its partners, Gerry McInerney, Cathal Saunders and Donagh Waters, are specialists in the golf sector and provide compliance and strategic planning advisory services to private member clubs, commercial golf ventures and to businesses servicing the sector.