After a 16-month closure and an ambitious restoration project, iconic Co. Wicklow property Druid’s Glen Golf Course is back open for business
It’s so exciting to see a beloved property taken to another level, particularly when it’s done sympathetically and with care to retain its original magic. Hotel & Restaurant Times was delighted to meet Druid’s Glen Hotel & Golf Resort General Manager Aidan Ryan to chat about the iconic Golf Course June 1 reopening to visitors following a 16-month closure during a “no stone unturned, no expense spared” €10 million investment.
Druid’s Glen, in the heart of Co. Wicklow, is a five-star resort with a 145-bedroom hotel, restaurants and bars, spa, conference and banqueting, and two golf courses: Druid’s Glen and Druid’s Heath. It’s surrounded by 360 acres of beautiful countryside, belying it’s 30-minute proximity to Dublin City. The Resort is one of four properties owned by Neville Hotels, whose portfolio also includes the Royal Marine Hotel in Dún Laoghaire, River Court Hotel in Kilkenny and the Tower Hotel & Leisure Centre in Waterford City, all hotels Aidan tells us have been significantly invested in. The group are also set to launch a new luxury property in Curracloe, Co. Wexford in 2023, which will be a new deluxe hotel, holiday lodge resort with an 18-hole golf course following in the second development phase in 2024.
“It’s so exciting,” Aidan tells us. “We’re a smaller independent family-owned hotel group, but very ambitious. Our owners want to continue investing in the properties and our people. With the Druid’s Glen Golf Course restoration and addition of a new clubhouse for example, owner Seamus Neville has been instrumental in every single element, from design to fit out, right through to colour schemes and lighting fixtures.”
It’s immediately clear Aidan has a real love for Druid’s Glen. He previously worked as General Manager for 10 years in the Royal Marine Hotel for Neville Hotels, and in 2019 left to take some time off and travel. During that time, he was asked by Neville Hotels to temporarily step in as GM of Druid’s Glen. “I was supposed to be here for a few months only and ended up staying!” he tells us. “I just loved the property. It’s a beautiful place to be, and it’s fantastic to be part of the investment project. It’s only the beginning for Druid’s Glen; the owners have great ambitions for the Resort and I’m excited to be part of that.”
The €10 million investment spans the golf offering, as well as a refurbishment of 17th century Woodstock House, home to the Clubhouse at Druids Glen golf course, which is still ongoing and set to be completed later in the year. Aidan tells us the restoration of Druid’s Glen golf course was carried out to bring it up to championship event standard. The course is steeped in golfing history; it held the Irish Open from 1995-1999 and over the years hosted golfing legends like Faldo, Montgomery, Westwood and Seve.
“It was all about upgrading and enhancing,” says Aidan. “We did market research prior to the planning stage and that ‘grá’ in the golf world came through for the course, so the most important thing was to protect the much-loved magic of the course. The designers, Peter McEvoy and Jeff Lynch were so creative. Technical-wise, the course needed extra length, and they found that in very clever ways in different locations. Our contractors were DAR Golf and they did a superb job in terms of the physical work. Our own team, led by Jonathan Bradshaw, also did a wonderful job on the presentation; aesthetic enhancements were made in the form of spectacular colour and planting around the site.” Our Director of Golf, Marcus Doyle has been instrumental in bringing the project to this point also. Our project team also included world renowned agronomy consultants, Turfgrass and this highlights the world class team that have collaborated on the restoration and enhancement of this special place.
We’ll get technical here for a second, if only to highlight the incredible scale of the restoration. The project involved stripping over 90,000m2 of topsoil and replacing it. Additionally, the greens required 7,000 tonnes of rootzone, 2,000 tonnes of gravel and 5,000m of drainage. The resort also invested €1.3 million in a modern irrigation system, wall to wall, and upgraded pathways, covering a total of 26,000m2. Following the investment, the Druid’s Glen golf course is now a 7,222-yard par-72 course built to USGA standards.
Complementing the course and indeed the Resort as a whole, is the refurbishment of Woodstock House, which is currently being redeveloped as boutique accommodation with nine luxury suites, including a Presidential-type suite with a private balcony overlooking the golf course. A bar and restaurant will be downstairs, with private dining also available.
“It will be a stunning space,” says Aidan. “The idea is to have it for small or larger groups, for playing golf or corporate events, and a variety of dining arrangements and exclusive meeting room facilities. It’s another departure for us and so exciting. It’ll be a huge addition to the overall resort product. We’re expecting more overseas golfers this year and next year which is great for our business to be able to fully attracts this type of business again and Woodstock House will play a large part in securing that.”
Druid Glen’s golf courses and hotel facilities, as well as its considered layout has strongly positioned itself as a destination resort, not just for golfers, but families too. “All the elements of our offering complement each other,” he says. “Weddings are hugely important to us and the hotel is very family orientated in the summer – most of our leisure business from June to August is families holidaying from around Ireland. We organise a lot of kids’ activities, and part of the resort experience is a walking trail around the venue, which is fantastic for relaxing or having a picnic, and the trail also passes by the Clubhouse, so people can choose to stop in for lunch. What’s fantastic too is the walking trail circumvents the golf course, and while they’re separated, you can see action on the golf course at different points along the walk, so again, everything has been carefully considered for that synergy at every point of the Resort experience.”
Aidan tells us he can’t finish our chat without singing the praises of the Resort’s 240-strong staff. “We’ve a superb, committed team here at the resort that strives to provide a high level of service to our guests. Having a beautiful product is important of course, but our people are crucial to the sustainability of our business. We want to retain the personal feel, so the management team is hands-on too. Throughout each day we touch base with guests and let them know who we are and that we are there for their every need. I’ve a term for it – active management presence. I love to see that. That’s the philosophy we have in all our properties and it’s maybe the difference between an experience here and elsewhere.”