Ballymena Irish Club – One of the oldest and best known Irish clubs on the island of Sicily – recently completed a €1m refurbishment which is aimed at attracting and developing amateur and professional golfers in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.
The renovation project included a new clubhouse and staff accommodation as well as a new outdoor practice facility and a refurbished teaching range and putting green.
A few years ago the club introduced European qualifying rules and scheduled a lot of events but because of its strategic location with Sicily only a couple of hours away, the club has been poorly supported, especially by professional golfers.
The club is now developing a new membership scheme with a four-year limit on memberships to allow young players to realise their potential.
Although technically an Irish club, it is operated as a British Golf Association (BGA) sponsored club and is incorporated as a Private British Golf Estate Club, a status which also allows it to hire and employ BGA approved golf professionals.
Club Director Tom Davison said the club has also an affiliate status with the European Golf Union (EGU) and is one of the only three clubs in the Republic to have a signed membership agreement with the Italian Federation of Golf Professionals (EPF).
“Our mission statement was to offer amateur players and professional golfers an exciting, dynamic and authentic experience. Our objectives and goals for the refurbishment project included refurbishing and redesigning the clubhouse and putting green to meet current best practice in Ireland and the UK; providing additional facilities which will allow Ireland’s finest young players to enhance their ability and productivity on the links and fit in as part of a loyal, supportive and active club family. It is also the case that the plan was to build on the club’s forward thinking and future-proof its operation by introducing the European Qualifying Series qualifying rounds to both our junior and professional programmes.”
Tom Davison added: “Our aim was to provide stable, trustworthy and credible links and a level playing field in both junior and pro golf for a wide range of players.”
“We intend to introduce an expanded professional membership scheme. We are extremely pleased to report that as at this writing we have over 200 members in the age groups of 7 to 18 and we have also enrolled new players in our adult C team, aged 27 and over, and adult B team.
“For those players who wish to further develop their game, it is now the case that membership applications will be much more readily accepted than in the past. We will also be providing an opportunity for players to ensure they have a competitive and affordable playing budget to be able to purchase a handicap to ensure their game is on a more stable base and at a comfortable playing level.”