There are still three years to go before the Limerick venue hosts the tournament, but preparations are already underway

Brendan O’Connor is musing on the conventional wisdom that surrounds the commercial benefits of the Ryder Cup, which will take place at the Limerick resort in 2027.

“It’s always said that you get the gains in the run-up to the event. People want to be able to say they’ve played the course while they’re attending the tournament in person, or watching it on TV,” O’Connor, the manor’s general manager, says.

“We started seeing that a few years ago. It made us much more visible to that cohort of golfers who have bucket lists, or who follow certain course designers. Tom Fazio, who designed the course here, has a whole group of fans who will travel to play his courses wherever they are in the world.”

The result of all this attention is that unless you’re planning to check into Adare Manor for an overnight stay this year, you won’t be able to play golf there – the course’s non-resident slots are fully booked for 2024. For O’Connor, however, the potential benefits of the tournament go way beyond 2027.

“The Irish experience is going to be really key. I don’t mean this in any way disrespectfully, but with some sports tournaments, you could be anywhere – you don’t have a sense of place,” he says.

“We want people to really know that they have been in Adare, in Limerick and in Ireland. That’s how we will make the most of the legacy, both for the region and the country. We would never describe this as the Adare Manor Ryder Cup; you need the venue, the region and the country on board, and we really have that.”

A plan brewing

While the first tangible signs of the event on the site will be enabling works that will be rolled out over the next three years, in reality the idea of a Ryder Cup at Adare has been in the ether since JP McManus bought the manor in 2015.

“When the owners purchased the manor, they were already very familiar with the golf course. It wasn’t that they said on day one ‘we want a Ryder Cup’, but when the renovations were happening, the idea was always that they would turn the golf course into one that was capable of hosting a major event,” O’Connor says.

“Over time, as things were being done, the ambition grew organically, and we began to draw the attention of the European Tour. Ireland is one of their favourite places for hosting events – they love the way the country really embraces golf – and it had been 20 years since the country had hosted the tournament.”

The course, which had been originally designed by Robert Trent Jones Senior in 1995, was bulldozed, though the holes remained in the same place. Fazio’s redesign, which took two years to complete, included space to accommodate the grandstands and the large number of spectators that a major tournament would require.

In truth, the word ‘large’ doesn’t come anywhere near accurately describing the numbers who will pass through the gates of Adare Manor over the course of the Ryder Cup.

On each of the three official competition days in September 2027 – the exact dates have yet to be announced by the European Tour – O’Connor expects 55,000 people on site, not including any of the staff who will be manning concession stands and corporate hospitality areas.

The European Tour alone will require 2,000 bed nights per night for the week leading up to the event, according to O’Connor, taking into account the needs of officials, caddies, physios and more. The players themselves will be staying in the manor, according to O’Connor.

“In recent years they haven’t been able to stay directly on the course – in Rome last year, for example, they had around a 45-minute drive. So the idea is that the manor becomes their hub, a kind of bubble around them and their families,” he says.

“They will very much be getting the Adare Manor offering, but we’ll tweak it to give them that sense of community and togetherness. The other local hotels, the Dunraven Arms and the Woodlands, will be very much in that bubble too in terms of welcoming the tournament.”

Nervous excitement

I ask if he’s nervous about the prospect of hosting such a high-profile event.

“Nervous excitement is the best way to describe it. I was in Italy with some of my team last year, and I got great comfort from seeing first-hand just how the tour operates this event. It’s an incredible operation, and nothing is left to chance,” O’Connor says.

“The competition for this event is huge. You are competing with the British Isles, including Scotland, the home of golf, not to mention continental Europe. The Italian Golfing Federation had been campaigning for years to get a Ryder Cup before it went to Rome in 2023. So to have this one coming here, it’s fantastic.”

Tournament preparations aside, O’Connor is confident about Ireland’s continuing ability to compete for high-spending tourists.

“We thought 2022 would have turned out to be the bumper year for us, because it was the post-Covid recovery year. But actually 2023 was really good as well,” he says.

“Ireland has absolutely moved onto the radar of the luxury traveller. We fit in well for people who want to do a European holiday, maybe tie in Paris or Italy with a trip to Ireland. The currency is the same, and the luxury experience they are looking for is here.”

Growing Irish market

Pre-Covid, Adare Manor’s customer base was 60 per cent American and 20 per cent Irish, with the remaining 20 per cent split between Europe and Britain. Now, it’s 40 per cent US, 40 per cent Irish, and 20 per cent Europe and Britain.

“We’ve really built up a relationship with the Irish consumer over the past few years, and we are seeing people coming for multiple stays,” O’Connor says.

“We are not cheap, but I do believe we offer value – if you try to book a luxury room on the Amalfi Coast in summer, for example, you will pay 50 to 60 per cent more than you will at Adare Manor. We are gaining a reputation, both in Adare in particular and in Ireland in general, for over-delivering in terms of luxury travel.”

Even so, he does not expect to see significant movement in terms of room rates this year.

“I think you will probably see some prices rises this year in areas like food, because input costs are still going up, but they won’t be drastic,” he says.

“I’m confident for 2024 in terms of our business. Will it be a year of double-digit growth? No, but there will be growth. And what’s even more encouraging is that the enquiries for 2025 are already looking really strong.”

  • From the Business Post by GILLIAN NELIS JANUARY 26, 2024
  • Picture: Brendan O’Connor, general manager of Adare Manor. Picture: By Brian Arthur

 

 

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