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September 2002

Leopardstown Golf Centre

Michael Hoey is in the enviable position of being completely surrounded by women every day. And he loves it.

A few years ago ? Michael encouraged a few of the ladies playing on the 9-hole course at Leopardstown to join up and play together.

They liked the idea and it went from strength to strength. Today, there are 25 ladies golf societies, all with about 100 members each playing at Leopardstown six days a week (Monday to Saturday). Every morning four societies book the tee for one and a half hours and play 9 holes. After 1.30 the inward and outward nines are available to the general public - even men can play, however it is only on Sunday mornings that mens societies can play. What a delightful change this is to the male dominated stuffiness of courses like Muirfield!

Leopardstown Golf Centre is about five miles south of Dublin city centre, part of the Leopardstown racecourse complex. The 30 bay range and about 25 outside grass bays are surrounded by two loops of nine holes, whilst a racetrack rings the entire golf complex. The racecourse holds around 22 meetings a year, during which the golf centre has to close.
Dating back to 1963, the centre was originally set up and run by John Jacobs. Multi-million pound homes are common in this extremely affluent area with house prices more expensive than anywhere else in the whole of Ireland. When Michael Hoey originally took charge, there was one 9-hole course and an 18-hole par 3 course. As the ladies golf took off, he converted the par 3 course to another 9-hole course. Michael explains:

Our lady golfers only wish to play nine holes as that fits in very well with the rest of their days activities. By having a second 9-hole course, we were able to offer our 2,500 ladies greater capacity and some variation. The M50 motorway is cutting across the edge of the racetrack, which means that both the racetrack and the golf centre are going through some major changes. When this was initially proposed, questions were asked in the Dail (our parliament) as the ladies thought that their special golfing arrangements might be threatened. Golf at Leopardstown for our ladies is a complete way of life. Single mums, divorcees, spinsters, widows and married ladies across a very side age group play here. Some had no thought that they would ever play golf until they started, and now they play several times a week.

The range lies within a clay soil saucer and is quite prone to flooding. Handpicking is required during the wetter months off the year. The redesign of the racecourse, golf course and range will create a major upheaval of the smooth running of the operation. However, much sand and topsoil will be redistributed for the M50 roadworks, and some of the more freely draining aggregates will be available to provide a better-drained range surface. Michael Hoey said:

We will have to completely re-lay the range and we are also taking advantage of this disruption to increase our covered bays from 40 to 60. This will allow us to offer the very finest practice facilities to our customers and we will also have a much better drained range surface. We are very fortunate to have sufficient funds from our range and courses, which are already busy, and also from additional funding from the road disruption. But it is going to be a slightly fraught period while the work is carried out. Michael Allan is the head PGA professional and last year finished second in the Irish Order of Merit. He and three other PGA professionals run the teaching at Leopardstown with a major programme for junior golf. Other PGA professionals are welcome to teach at Leopardstown, providing that they pay for their balls and bring their clients with them rather than touting for lessons on site.

Leopardstown is always going to be a wonderful golf centre. Well-managed and in a great location with its unique ladies power base, it is a fascinating place. What is Michael Hoey most looking forward to with the redevelopment of the centre? I think our customers deserve the best possible facilities. We have been open for nearly forty years and everything is just a little dated. I am als


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