Limerick Leader golf columnist Ivan Morris
THE Irish Open is not The (British) Open, nevertheless an eye-watering report that The Open Championship at Carnoustie last year generated a £120 million sterling benefit to Scotland, makes one wonder how much cash will be flowing into County Clare coffers this summer?
Commissioned by the R&A, Visit Scotland and Angus Council, the study also discovered that the Angus area alone received a £21m injection of new money. Such impressive figures demonstrate the economic benefit of hosting major events that, it has to be said, are also good for morale and with a bit of luck create a 'legacy'.
The value of golf to Ireland's economy is significant and can be gauged in that approximately €10 is spent elsewhere for every €1 a visitor spends on green fees. The ripple effect is felt far and wide in shops, hotels, restaurants and other tourism attractions.
Paul McGinley (Tournament Host) and European Tour officials were at Lahinch before Christmas reviewing the complicated processes involved in a plethora of planning issues ahead of this year's Dubai Duty Free Irish Open from July 4-7.
First of all, an Event Licence has to be obtained. While not required by law, the European Tour insists on having this license because it brings together a spirit of cooperation necessary to ensure a successful and safe tournament including all of the Government agencies (Clare County Council, Garda Siochana, HSE, Irish Water, Fire Service and other various stakeholders)
The most interesting section in the Event Licence Application (which can be viewed by members of the public through the normal planning process) is the Traffic Management Plan because getting to Lahinch on busy days has always had the potential to become involved in a headache inducing gridlock at Bottleneck (Blake's) corner in Ennistymon.
1. It is proposed to close the Liscannor Road during tournament week from early morning to late evening time.
2. Majority of golf traffic will be diverted at Inagh & Ennis towards Miltown Malbay to access public car park south of Lahinch (Moy) with Park and Ride facilities in place.
3. North Clare traffic will access public car park north of Lahinch (Ballyellery) with Park & Ride facilities in place.
4. Traffic through Ennistymon & Blake's Corner will be kept to a minimum with members, volunteers, guests and local traffic allowed access along this route.
5. Shuttle Bus services will operate between Lahinch and Ennistymon and Liscannor.
A Traffic Management Committee comprising of European Tour personnel and subcontractors; Garda Siochana, Clare County Council and Lahinch Golf Club has been convened and will meet on a regular basis to review all traffic related issues.
A Business Briefing Meeting with the local business community was held at The Falls Hotel on Tuesday, December 11 to coincide with the Event Licence Application.
Approximately 150 people were in attendance and while some issues were raised during the evening, the general feedback was positive. The importance of community interaction to ensure a successful event cannot be underestimated.
The local business community were specifically asked for their support in ensuring that the cost of food, drink, accommodation (including private accommodation) and all other products & services are not increased for the week of the tournament. It has been provisionally agreed that the tented village will be located on the Castle Course (2nd/3rd fairways); corporate hospitality facilities and media centre located within the short game academy while the player's lounge and members marquee will be positioned left of the 2nd fairway.
The location of grandstands and how spectators enter the tournament from both the south and north side of the golf course has yet to be decided.
In spite of some 'wild' rumours, the integrity of the golf course will be respected with no plans to change the order of holes. Play will commence from the 1st tee only (no two tee start for safety reasons) and finish on No 18.
Par will be reduced to 70 and could still be in for a hammering, if the weather is warm and calm (a big if!) However, if the wind blows all bets on low scoring are off and 'anything could happen'.
Volunteers are very important to the smooth running of an event as big as the Irish Open. Chief Marshal, Martin O'Sullivan, is busy developing a masterplan which will identify the number of volunteers required (probably in the region of 600) recruited from (it is hoped) all of the Golf Clubs within County Clare and the entire Midwest region.
Clare County Council has already commenced upgrading infrastructure around Lahinch.
Lahinch Golf Club has commissioned a promotional video, which is a must view online.
No stones are being left unturned to ensure the 'massive success' of the DDF Irish Open which takes place on July 4th to 7th .
Words of the Wise
Even the best of golfers have a habit of forgetting what made them good. It all comes back to basics - grip, stance, aim.