The one word that comes to mind when driving up to the Galway Bay Golf Resort is stunning. The setting in Renville, overlooking Galway Bay, is truly amazing and one wonders if a view like it could be found anywhere else in Ireland.
It was of course a major coup to have Christy O’Connor Jnr design the course. He cleverly managed to blend the rugged curves of the Atlantic coastline with mature trees, water hazards, concealed bunkers and highly acclaimed putting surfaces. With variable wind speed and directions, this 18 hole championship golf course is well known for playing differently each day, and posing a considerable challenge to even the lowest handicap golfers.
Director Ronan Killeen says the diversity is something that keeps the course interesting for golfers. "We have the best of both worlds. It is a links style course, with the best of a parkland course, which means we have fantastic putting surfaces - they are absolutely top class. Along with the setting, it is the variation of games you get here is what really sets us apart. It is certainly not boring; no two days will ever be the same. You could play one hole one day and you might use a pitching wedge, and you could come out the next day and play the exact same shot and you might have to use a five iron because the wind coming in off the bay is completely different. It is a true and fair test of golf and a real challenge but it can also be set up to allow players of all standards to enjoy their game.
"It has been a massive help to have Christy there from the very beginning. He came back in 2008 and did a huge re-design on a major part of the course, which really brought us to the next level. We went from being a really good golf course to a top class golf course. We have more than 7,000 yards of the back sticks which is European Tour standard."
The golf club won a prestigious accolade back in October when it was awarded Ireland Golf Tour Operator Association Parkland Golf Course of the Year title. Galway Bay Golf Resort was recognised for its standards of excellence within the golf industry and the key role it plays in promoting Irish golf tourism. The club was certainly in esteemed company as other awards on the night went to The K Club (Golf Resort of The Year ), Old Head (Links Course of The Year ) and Killarney Park Hotel (Golf Hotel of The Year ).
"The award is in recognition of the quality of our course and it is a massive boost to get. We have a lot of visitors from the UK and America over the summer who have raved about the quality of the greens and the course overall, and these are the type of visitors who would be visiting those headline names mentioned above" says Mr Killeen.
The sky is certainly the limit for the Galway Bay Golf Resort as Ronan Killeen outlines his aspiration to host the Irish Open at the venue within the next five to 10 years. "We held a European Tour event here in 1998 so we have proved we can do it. I often meet Christy O'Connor here for coffee and we walk around the course and say to each other we could host an Irish Open. It would be fabulous to have it in Galway, and it would be a brilliant boost for the western region. The economic spin-off would be massive. We have had some tentative conversations and there is a big waiting list. There is also the need for a lot of money to be raised by the local business community but Galway always rises to the occasion. It has become well known as a place that is capable of holding major events."
The 11,000 sq foot clubhouse, which encompasses a golf shop, changing room facilities, restaurants, bars, and function room reopened in May after undergoing extensive refurbishment. The clubhouse is now open to the public seven days a week serving breakfast, lunch, and a full a la carte dinner menu. The Renville Point Restaurant and Function Room is situated on the upper floor and seats up to 220 guests for corporate events and functions such as communions, and weddings. The panoramic views certainly make it the perfect backdrop for a wedding. Indeed, a wedding fair will take place at the venue on February 28.
Mr Killeen says there has been a lot of interest from brides since the venue re-opened. And he can certainly attest to its calibre as a wedding venue. "Myself and my wife Lillian were the first couple to ever get married here when we had our wedding back in 1995. Brides are always looking for something a little bit different and the view really sells the place."
Galway Bay Golf Resort is of the biggest employers in the area with a staff of more than 30 people, all predominately living in the Oranmore / Galway area. The club has more than 300 members and membership has been increasing year-on-year for the last three years. This is in contrast to the majority of golf courses nationwide which have been haemorrhaging members in recent years due to the economic downturn. The club has installed an online tee time reservation system which allows members and visitors to book tee times through the club web site 24/7. Annual membership is €950 and there are special student and corporate memberships available. If you are a member of a golf course anywhere in Ireland you can play a round for a reduced green fee.
In what is a major plus for the venue, it has linked up with two other Christy O'Connor designed golf clubs; Palmerstown Stud in Co Kildare, and Concra Wood in Co Monaghan. Membership at any of these facilities entitles you to play at any of the three clubs. "This is a massive development for the club that seriously enhances the membership of Galway Bay Golf Resort as it allows our members to play two other courses of similar standard for free," says Mr Killeen.