Golf courses and driving ranges in Antrim and Newtwonabbey open
Golf courses and driving ranges at Ballyearl in Newtownabbey and Allen Park, in Antrim will reopen on Thursday (May 28).
Repairs and maintenance have been carried out ahead of easing of Covid lockdown restrictions over play.
It is proposed that just courses and driving ranges will be open for the remainder of the financial year. Buildings and toilets will remain shut.
Contactless ball dispensers are in place at both driving ranges.
It has been recommended that just members at Allen Park will be permitted to play at the golf course which is affiliated to the Golfing Union of Ireland.
Speaking at a remote meeting of Antrim and Newtownabbey Council on Tuesday evening, Glengormley Ulster Unionist Alderman Mark Cosgrove said it has been a “frustrating period” for customers and a case of “striking a balance between minimal service and allowing them to play”.
The council heard that during the last financial year, the nett cost of operating the golf and driving ranges at Allen Park was £250,000 and £150,000 at Ballyearl.
Ald Cosgrove said he hoped the cost to council could be reduced further.
Sinn Fein Glengormley Councillor Michael Goodman commented: “Every ratepayer in the borough is subsidising these facilities.
“Businesses run with that level of deficit, I would suggest, would not last long.
“Subsidising these courses is cold comfort to constituents in Antrim and Newtownabbey. They are still subsidising people simply to play a sport.”
“People can get exercise for free. I’m not sure this is good use of council resources.
“Ratepayers are entitled to see some return from council for rates being paid but I’m not aware that providing subsidised golf for those people who want it is a function of this council.
“Given the financial situation, we should be ceasing any loss of revenue.”
Antrim Alliance Councillor Neil Kelly said that he had been contacted by a number of people who play regularly asking for a proposed reopening date for the golf course.
“They are anxious to get back out there,” he commented.
Glengormley DUP Alderman Phillip Brett noted that every council service is losing money, from leisure centres to golf courses.
“We are a public service. We do not try to recuperate all our costs but to give ratepayers the chance to do things at a reduced rate that they would not be able to do in the private sector,” he commented.
However, he suggested that, given the council’s financial position, the body should charge a higher rate than a lower rate.
Ald Cosgrove said: “I view all ratepayers as customers for services we provide.
“If we do not open open golf courses we have customers for, we would have to close them.”
Ald Cosgrove pointed out that the broough council spent £4m on Allen Park within the last few years.
Cllr Kelly said that it would be “good to get people back out there playing golf on Thursday and get money coming back in” instead of waiting for a report.
Ald Brett remarked that the course could still open on Thursday if a higher price was to be introduced.
It was agreed that the current charges will remain and opening hours from 9.00 am until 9.00 pm daily are retained for the driving ranges although both golf courses will close at 6.00 pm.
Bookings will be required to “manage demand and traffic”.