Thursday, April 8, 2021

Sportswashing in Saudi Arabia - and shame for the sport of golf

 I think it's a shame...

... actually, scratch that, I think it's a disgrace that on the day the Masters tees off in 2021 there's an announcement that the nine-time Major champion, Gary Player, has joined Golf Saudi as its latest and most influential ambassador. Player will work with Golf Saudi "to help implement a shared vision for golf and its future development within the Kingdom". 

Alternatively, you could also read that as 'helping to implement a sportswashing campaign that has seen Saudi Arabia spend $1.5 Billion to paint themselves as a global sports player... while expecting the world to ignore their human rights abuses." 

It sticks in my craw that the announcement was made shortly before Player took up his traditional role as the honorary Masters starter, alongside Jack Nicklaus and Lee Elder. On a day when the world welcomes its first Major of 2021, and Irish golfers get to enjoy Major golf on TV as we wait to get back to the fairways, I'm now forced to think about Saudi Arabia and the crap that country is pulling. Maybe this is of no interest to you but it shames the sport to play any tournaments in this country. In my opinion, it also shames Gary Player, one of the all time greats.

I wrote an article about Saudi Arabia's sportswashing back in November 2020, ahead of the first Aramco Saudi Ladies International (LET) and, this past March, The Guardian produced another outlining the money involved. 


Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Carton House Set to Re-Open After Major Refurbishment

There has been a lot going on at Carton House in the past couple of years and a new chapter is set to begin this summer as a multimillion-euro refurbishment will be unveiled. This covers a magnificent refurbishment of the original house, the surrounding hotel and the grounds. Carton House itself is a Georgian estate dating back 250 years but it will soon reopen its doors as a Fairmont Hotels & Resorts property.

 

Carton House O'Meara's famous 16th par-3

The refurbishment has renewed the beauty of the estate, sensitively blending past and present. It has been carried out under the creative guidance of McCauley Daye OConnell Architects, with exquisite attention to every aspect of the design. 

 

The resort will now trade under the name Carton House, a Fairmont Managed Hotel. 

 

18 stunning bedrooms and suites occupy the upper floors of The House, with a further 151 rooms in The Garden Wing which curves around the formal gardens, offering elegant spaces which have been enhanced in both design and facilities as part of the estate’s transformation. 

 

Bunkers are best avoided on the Montgomerie course

Set within 1,100 private acres of sweeping parkland, ancient woodlands, lakes and the meandering River Rye, the walled estate has Special Area of Conservation status. It is home to a herd of red deer, as well as a rich diversity of animal wildlife, and rare species of birds and plants. Historic architecture is dotted throughout the estate, from the oldest building on the grounds, Tyrconnell Tower, dating back 500 years, to the romantic and curious Shell Cottage or the evocative Boat House on the water’s edge. Golfers lucky enough to play here experience all three when they play the two courses. The boat house is particularly impressive on the drive in, and as you play the Montgomerie 18th hole. Tyrconnell Tower stands high above the O’Meara course, visible from many places especially holes 3, 9, 10 and 17.  The Shell Cottage rests on the banks of the River Rye and beside the famous par-3 16th. It’s an enchanting spot.

 

The Boat House with the hotel in the distance
And the Montgomerie 18th green

As the summer rolls around and we hope for a return to golf and staying in the lap of luxury, the resort has created a number of bespoke experience packages. Explore the grounds on foot or by bike with a picnic hamper, follow the cycle and walking trails, or enjoy the outdoors with tennis, fishing, archery and clay pigeon shooting. And golf. 


Or, at the other end of the scale, Carton House Spa & Wellness has been completely reimagined too with a new treatment menu and thermal relaxation experience. 

The Carriage House Gastropub (in the clubhouse)

Now toss in four restaurants and bars… and a fully refurbished clubhouse which opened two years ago, and you can see the ‘colour’ and breadth of what the resort has to offer.

 

John Mullen, owner of Carton House with his family, is very much looking forward to the reopening this summer. This has been a labour of love for myself and my family, and the extended teams of specialists and experts who have worked on every detail of this large and complex project. We could not be more proud and delighted to share the magnificent refurbishment of Carton House with our first guests this summer. It has been a challenging time for hospitality businesses everywhere, so we are happy to be able to offer a positive, good news story, writing a new chapter in the story of this splendid and historic estate.”

 

Carton House reopens after an extensive refurbishment in summer 2021 as a luxurious Fairmont Managed Hotel, joining the more than 80 Fairmont hotels around the globe as the oldest property in the collection.


For more visit www.cartonhouse.com

 

Sunday, April 4, 2021

A Seed of an Idea for Golf Investment

Here’s an idea with a difference. An Irish golf company is offering a chance to get in on the ground floor… so to speak. You can now buy a share in the success of Seed Golf. If you haven’t heard of Seed, then, to put it simply, they produce golf balls … and they are very very good. 

Seed has launched a unique crowdfunding campaign as part of its ongoing expansion plans. The campaign offers its key audiences and its customers an opportunity to invest a total of €250,000, which will be matched by Seed’s planned €1 Million seed investor round. This will be managed via crowdfunding platform TheStartUp Crowd, with Seed giving its customers the first chance to register early to secure investment. 


How much can you invest, you ask… you might as well know upfront that the minimum is €1,000. It’s not small change… but, again, it’s an investment in a young golf brand that is going places. 

 

You can register your interest via the company’s dedicated site seedgolf.club

Pre-registration started on March 25th, and the campaign itself will go live on April 15.

 

Even if you’re not interested in investing, read on.

 

We’ve grown so quickly and it’s all been because golfers have really bought into the ideals behind the brand. Without that support, we’d have never come this far, so this is a great way to strengthen that relationship. Beyond public traded golf companies, it’s difficult for golfers to invest directly in a golf brand and it’s more unusual to have a say in how that company is run. We wanted our customers to own Seed from the very beginning and join us for the entire ride.” Founder and CEO Dean Klatt 



Who is Seed Golf?

Founded by ex-Cleveland/Srixon and Ogio staffer Dean Klatt, Seed is a new digital native golf brand promising to make equipment more affordable and more accessible for regular golfers. 

Dean, who helped guide Cleveland’s growth in Australia and OGIO’s digital expansion into Europe, said the company’s first goal was to establish a foothold in the golf ball market, and develop further products that fit the company’s ‘same performance, half the price’ mantra. The company says its mission is ‘to make the game more affordable and more enjoyable for more people.’

The brand currently sells very popular tour performance golf balls direct to golfers via their online D2C (direct to consumer) subscription-based www.seedgolf.com website. The balls offer regular golfers a great performing product at a value for money price. If you want to know just how good the ball is… they were developed in Ireland, in conjunction with Seed, DesignCORE, and the Department of Aerospace Engineering at the Institute of Technology Carlow. Seed balls are regulated and approved by golf’s governing bodies, the RandA and USGA. They’ve been designed to maximise performance right on the USGA/RandA limits. In short, they perform just about as well as anything else out there. The company boasts customers in 36 countries and has been named the Official Ball of the PGA EuroPro Tour.

Seed has been fairly secretive about what it plans to do in the future, but so far its plans are working. The company has grown steadily, mainly off the back of word-of-mouth referrals and positive performance reviews. Here’s one from Peter Finch, three years ago. 

 

The Investment 

 

Investors will have access to Seed’s private community which entitles them to exclusive benefits and insights into the company and its plans.

 

“ We want our community to be part of our journey and play an active role in it. We want to know what our customers think and what they’d like to see from Seed. This is a great way of giving everyone a chance to have that input,” said Klatt. 

 

Seed’s mission is to change the way golfers think about their equipment, how they buy it and how they play. It is certainly doing that and there is more to follow.

 

You’ll find more information at seedgolf.club (It's an eligible EIS investment, for one.)



Thursday, March 25, 2021

The St Anne’s Centenary Challenge 2021

St Anne’s Golf Club are celebrating their Centenary Year this year, having first played over the linksland of Bull Island in 1921. As part of their celebrations they will be staging a Centenary Challenge, taking in four days of great links golf. Running from Tuesday 7 – Friday 10 September there will be two rounds played at St Anne’s Golf Club, and one round each at Portmarnock Links and County Louth Golf Club. 

Killarney based Tour Operator, Experience Ireland Golf & Travel, will be Event Managers for the Tournament. The event will be welcoming golf clubs from home and abroad which are also celebrating their Centenary Year in 2021. The event is open to all golfers, with interest already received from Irish and International teams alike since the launch in December 2020. 

The low, weaving rhythm of St Anne's

- Day 1 of the St Anne’s Centenary Challenge will take place at Portmarnock Links on Tuesday 7th September. Designed by Bernhard Langer, the course has played host to GUI, PGA and Ladies European Tour events over the years and is a superb venue for the Opening Round. 

 

- The second round will be at St Anne’s Golf Club, the following day. Situated on North Bull Island, the only Biopshere located entirely in a Capital City, St Anne’s is a low-running crafty links that plays around a remarkable clubhouse. A recent bunker upgrade programme has given a relatively short links some real bite and you can always expect wind to influence strategy.

 

County Louth 8th green with views down the 12th


- Day 3 will see golfers heading to County Louth Golf Club on Thursday 9th September. The Baltray links has been the long-time annual host to the East of Ireland Amateur Championship and also hosted the 2009 Irish Open, won by amateur Shane Lowry. It’s a big links and renowned for its ‘second shot’ qualities. It is also one of Ireland’s great natural links, with Tom Simpson and Molly Gourlay designing beautiful holes that have remained relatively untouched for decades. 

 

- The fourth and final round returns to St Anne’s, on Friday 10th September where the Champions will be crowned. 

Approach to the 15th at Portmarnock Links

The first 100 years of St Anne’s Golf Club have been steeped in history, from the early days of Marmaduke Devitt & Tussy Murray to the exploits of Golf Professional Paddy Skerritt. The club developments in the 1960s including a new clubhouse and focus on an 18-hole course which became a reality in 1989. The recent years have been headlined by the unfortunate burning down of that clubhouse, in 2000, which was replaced by a new and superbly designed building with views over Dublin Bay. It was opened in 2003, along with the redesigned course that golfers enjoy today.  

 

The Tournament Format will be a team of 4 with two scores to count on each hole. Event Packages are as follows (all Packages include Final Day Dinner): 


               • Golf Only – €469 per person 

               • 3 nights’ Play & Stay – €755 per person sharing B&B 

               • 4 nights’ Play & Stay – €845 per person sharing B&B 

               • 5 nights’ Play & Stay – €935 per person sharing B&B 

               • Accommodation will be at the Grand Hotel Malahide 

 

Full Event Details are available on the Experience Ireland website with Online Entries available: https://experienceirelandgolfandtravel.com/stannes-centenarychallenge/ 

 

Monday, March 22, 2021

Homeward Bound - An Irish Golf Summer

There is still no confirmed date for when our golf courses will re-open but at least there’s some optimism that it will happen in the near future. Golf clubs and the hospitality businesses which thrive around them have had a torrid 12 months, while golf tour operators have been right in the firing line and have had to adapt to the world we now find ourselves in. 

Here is a 10-question Q&A with Joe O’Carroll, Director of Fairways and FunDays, outlining how the winner of Europe’s Best Golf Tour Operator 2020 (and a five-time winner of Best Ireland Inbound Operator) at the World Golf Awards has been adapting and preparing for the future. Irish golfers are the key beneficiaries.

 

Q1. In February 2020, did Irish golf look like it would be enjoying a bumper year with international golfers?

Joe O’Carroll (JO’C). Golf in Ireland was on the crest of a wave in terms of its appeal to the international market.  Golfers are keen to return to Ireland as soon as possible and we are confident that the Irish Golf Tourism industry will prosper when it is safe for people to travel again.  

 

Q2. What has happened to your bookings over the past year? 

JO’C. We are extremely fortunate to work with superb suppliers in Ireland in terms of golf courses, hotels, restaurants, coach companies and tourist attractions. From an early stage of this pandemic we decided that we would discourage visitors travelling to Ireland until it was absolutely safe to do so. We therefore liaised with clients who had 2020 tours booked and made suitable arrangements for these tours to be postponed without charge to 2021. Unfortunately, we now have to start moving these tours further back to 2022.  
In 2020, we introduced a unique Pandemic Money Back Guarantee meaning that clients could avail of a full money back refund if Covid-19 interfered with their travel plans.  
Fairways and FunDays has traditionally focused entirely on the international market.  In July 2020, our company introduced an attractive range of Ireland Golf Staycations specifically for the domestic market.  Feedback in relation to these tours has been exceptional.

 

Q.3 What are your causes for optimism?

JO’C. In a word “Ireland” is our cause for optimism. Fairways and FunDays is a very proud Irish company and Ireland is the only destination that we sell. We passionately believe that Ireland is the premier golfing destination in the world. There is no other that offers what we offer – great golf courses, amazing accommodation, spectacular scenery, exhilarating evening entertainment and the warmest of welcomes. The overall experience is unmatched and the appeal has so much to do with Irish people.
We know that the demand for high quality golf tours to Ireland will return when the world recovers from Covid-19 and when it is safe to travel again.  

 

Q4. How have you maintained relationships with your suppliers (golf clubs, hotels)?

JO’C. Our suppliers are key to our business and the past 12 months has been very difficult on every business that relies on tourism.  Our team has liaised closely with suppliers over the past year to rearrange tours and to see how we can develop stronger and mutually beneficial relationships into the future.  
Every single one of our suppliers has been outstanding to deal with during the pandemic and all have recognised that it is essential to be as flexible as possible with client reservations.  We are very fortunate in Ireland to have so many wonderful people employed in the golf and hospitality industries.  

 

Strandhill's startling par-4 15th


Q5. How have you redirected your efforts?

JO’C. We have used the past 12 months to continue to enhance the quality of our product.  While winning Europe’s Best Golf Tour Operator award at the World Golf Awards 2020 was a great accolade for our company, we always examine how we can make our product even better.  We have committed a considerable investment in the IT part of our business including launching an innovative App that will make client tours even more enjoyable.

In July 2020 we launched a superb range of Ireland Golf Staycation packages exclusively for the domestic market.  The feedback in relation to these packages has been excellent and these packages have helped many golf courses and hotels in Ireland who suffered greatly as a result of cancellations from international visitors.  We have just started to relaunch these Golf Staycations for the 2021 season.  

 

Q6. And with what success? 

JO’C. Our Staycations are perfect for all group sizes – from individuals to large society groups. The concept behind these tours is simple – to offer an unforgettable golfing getaway at an extremely attractive price.
Our two most popular tours in 2020 were our “Sensational Sligo Tour” featuring the three spectacular links courses at County Sligo, Enniscrone and Strandhill, and our “World Top 100 Tour” featuring the iconic courses of Ballybunion Old, Tralee & Waterville.  
In essence, every golf staycation that we offer is fully customised to meet the specific needs and budgets of our clients.  Attention to detail is really important to us, and as golfers our team understands what makes a golfing getaway special.  In addition to golf and hotel reservations, we include a four course meal, a Prize Pack and even a welcome drink within our staycation packages. It’s about making tours special and memorable. 
The fact that we offer a unique full money refund in the event of forced cancellations due to local or national travel restrictions offers clients great peace of mind.   

 

Q7. What are your plans for the domestic market at this time? 

JO’C. In early February, we began to launch our 2021 Ireland Golf Staycation tours.  We hope to have a full complement of 20 tour options released by mid-March.  These tours take in all parts of the Republic of Ireland and feature world-famous golf courses and many of our hidden gems.  
The tours range in duration from two to four nights but can all be customised to best meet specific client requirements.  
This initiative is about helping as many businesses within the golf and hospitality sectors as possible while also offering high quality golf tours to the domestic market at unbeatable prices.

Q8. Are Ireland’s golf clubs aware of and adapting to the new ‘normal’ when it comes to attracting green fees? 

JO’C. Golf clubs have experienced an extremely turbulent 12 months.  Periodic closures and implementing protocols to minimise the risk of Covid-19 transmission has made things very difficult. There is now light at the end of the tunnel, however, with an enormous pent-up demand for golf.  
I believe that golf courses will experience a bumper period as soon as restrictions are eased sufficiently and courses reopen.  I am certain that many people who have “retired” from golf will again take up the game we love, recognising the enormous social, health and wellbeing benefits that golf offers.  
In my opinion, golf clubs need to start promoting the “experience” that their course and club offers to help attract more visitors (and indeed to attract new members).  Clubs should showcase the social element, their golf professional, onsite dining options and the club proshop. The welcome that clubs extend to visitors counts for so much in terms of generating repeat business – and if this is not right there can be problems.  
Many great Irish golf clubs do very little to promote just how good their course is. Investing a little in a good image/video rich website and a social media presence would pay huge dividends in terms of attracting more visitors.  


Golfers enjoying late evening light last June, at Co Louth

Q9. In your experience, what is the attitude of overseas golfers to the enforced postponements/cancellations? 

JO’C. The vast majority of people realise that there are some circumstances that are beyond everyone’s control – this pandemic is certainly one of these.  
We have given a very clear message to our clients that playing great golf courses and enjoying the best overall golfing experience in the world will be possible when it is safe to travel to Ireland.  


Q10. Will this damage Irish golf as a destination in the future?
JO’C. I have absolutely no fear that this pandemic will damage Ireland as a golf destination.  Covid-19 will pass, the world will return to normal, and Ireland will again prosper as a golfing destination.  I have no doubt that when this happens, we will all have a far better appreciation of the small things in life that we take for granted – playing golf with family, spending time with loved ones, or having a pint with friends.
The future is very bright for Ireland as a golfing destination and the team at Fairways and FunDays very much looks forward to showcasing our spectacular country again to international visitors. 

 


Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Brendan Lawlor Walks the Walk - raising funds for Crumlin Hospital

 I looked back at this blog a few weeks ago and realised there weren’t enough good news stories. At a time when good news is important during lockdowns and restrictions it was reassuring to come across so many – both on golf courses (club investments) and in the game itself. The ‘human’ stories are so important as we can relate to them and feel a part of them. Over the past year one human story has been front and centre: Brendan Lawlor. If you haven’t heard of him then you are missing out on a part of the sport which embraces and supports all golfers. Brendan, from Dundalk, is one of the world’s top disability golfers and he's embarking on a challenge... starting today.

Ireland’s Brendan Lawlor will walk 10k a day for 10 days March
3rd to 13th
 to raise funds for Children's Health Ireland
at Crumlin Hospital from 
(Photo: Modest! Golf)

Brendan invites you to join him virtually in walking 10 kilometres a day for 10 days to raise funds for Children's Health Ireland at Crumlin Hospital.

 

The Modest! Golf professional, who was born with Ellis-van Creveld syndrome, a bone growth disorder that leads to shorter limbs, spent much of his early years on the wards at Crumlin Hospital and now wants to give back to those who gave him his chance at a life in golf.

 

“I want to celebrate my 24th birthday on the 13th of March by giving something back,” says Lawlor, who is the fourth ranked disability golfer in the world.

 

“I’ve had an incredible journey over the last year few years in golf but if it wasn’t for the amazing staff at Crumlin Hospital, I wouldn’t be here at all. It’s obviously a charity particularly close to my heart and all my family are going to get involved but hopefully it will give other people something to aim at during lockdown, too.

 

“I’m aware that it’s a tough time financially for a lot of people and although we’re trying to raise funds, even if people just take part in it, that’s all I really want. People are at home, many are struggling mentally, a lot of young people don’t have much to do. I just want to give people a reason to get out and get active and if it can help a charity like Crumlin along the way, then all the better.”

 

Brendan has set a target of raising €5,000 through the challenge. His 10k a day for 10 days will be supported by Modest! Golf, adidas, TaylorMade, ISPS HANDA and American Golf.

 

To get involved in Brendan’s 10k a day for 10 days challenge, visit his JustGiving page HERE

 

You can follow his progress on social media, on Twitter @BrendanLawlor97  and on Instagram @brendan_lawlor1997

 



 

About Children's Health Ireland at Crumlin

Children's Health Ireland at Crumlin is an acute paediatric teaching hospital employing approximately 1900 staff. It is Ireland's largest paediatric hospital.  Research is a fundamental component of all paediatric disciplines and the provision of a specialised research facility is recognised as an integral part of a modern comprehensive children's hospital. The National Children's Research Centre at this hospital provides well equipped laboratory facilities for the investigation of the biological basis of childhood disease and has made significant progress in the development of a Clinical Research Programme.

 

 

Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Galgorm Grabs the Limelight with ISPS HANDA World Invitational

Last year, when the professional sport of golf began its return to TV, there was a special treat for golf fans as Rory McIlroy, Dustin Johnson, Ricki Fowler and Matt Wolffe played in a fourball skins game at Seminole Golf Club in Florida. It was for charity and it raised bucketloads of money for coronavirus relief funds. In all, some $4 million was raised, with approx. $700,000 of this coming from viewer donations.

Was it a success? Clearly.

Did it miss an opportunity? Absolutely.

This wasn't a tournament. Instead it was a spectacle where golf had a chance to show

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Five New Courses added to the Carr Golf Fold

Blainroe 7th hole
There have been few good news stories doing the rounds of Irish golf recently so it is always welcome to dwell on those when they do appear.

Carr Golf announced last week that five new golf clubs have been added to its Course Maintenance portfolio across Ireland. That brings to 18 the number of courses being serviced by the company. At heart, clubs want to improve course standards and as specialists in golf course maintenance, Carr Golf brings a level of professionalism that achieves just that. Look on social media or on chat forums and you’ll read that Corballis – one of those 18 – is in the best condition it has ever been.


It is no surprise therefore that Carr Golf is continuing its drive in the domestic golf market with the announcement of several long-term deals. Over the past six months, the company has been enlisted by five clubs: Ardglass in Down, Blainroe in Wicklow, Edmondstown in Dublin, Ardee Golf Club and Seapoint Golf Links in Louth.


Despite the economic challenges posed by Covid-19, golf enjoyed a domestic boost during those periods when courses were open for play in 2020. So, it appears, did Carr Golf. What’s more, there are plans for continued growth by a company recognised as the industry leader.

Seapoint Golf Links 16th

Ed Pettit, Managing Director of Carr Golf Maintenance Division said: 'We are delighted to be working with the teams across these five incredible courses. The new signings are extremely exciting for us as we continue to work with courses throughout the country to improve and streamline their course maintenance. While Covid has widely impacted the golf industry in the past year, we have seen an increase in appetite amongst the domestic market in Ireland."


Pettit added: "We are working with the green keeping teams at the clubs to help them maximise their ability to present the golf course to the highest possible standard. Our goal is to create the best possible playing surfaces and provide members with an enjoyable and challenging experience year-round. Our aim is to work with each of these clubs to increase their national ranking, to strategically improve their course and equipment fleet and to work with them to help increase memberships year on year. Once the current lockdown restrictions lift, we cannot wait to see people back out enjoying the courses in Ardglass, Blainroe, Edmondstown and Ardee Golf Clubs and Seapoint Golf Links."


The lockdown has been ‘good’ for not a lot, but greenkeeping teams have certainly had the hours and opportunity to get much needed work done at courses nationwide. Golfers are indeed itching to get back on the fairways and they can expect courses in excellent condition when that moment finally arrives.

Ardglass

Ardglass Golf Club, in Co. Down, is the most recent club recruited, with the partnership commencing in January. Paul Vaughan, PGA Professional and Director of Golf at Ardglass commented: "Carr Golf Maintenance has now been with us here at Ardglass since the start of the calendar year and they have already made a huge impact in such a short space of time. The team is working closely with our green-keeping staff to provide expertise and resources to help produce first class playing performance at this crucial time for our club. We believe that Carr Golf's innovative techniques and technologies will enhance the golfing experience and provide the best possible surfaces all year round while developing the performance of our own team by creating a culture and broadening their skills through training and mentoring. We look forward to working with them over the next few years".


Carr Golf has developed its technology and approach over 30 years and the company’s experience allows clubs the opportunity to increase productivity and efficiency, which results in increased performance and improved standards across the board. In recent years, Carr Golf has seen a steady growth in the uptake of their maintenance service with, on average, three to five club partnerships being signed each year.


Golf clubs always want their course to be presented to the best possible standard. In a few weeks’ time, when we do get back to playing golf, one of the first debates we will be having with fellow golfers is what kind of condition our courses are in. Five of those courses will undoubtedly impress their members.