Golf writer & photographer. Author of ‘Hooked’, the most comprehensive guide to Ireland's golf courses, and ‘Driving the Green’. Published by Collins Press. Editor for Destination Golf Ireland, feature writer for Irish Golfer Magazine freelancer for Irish Examiner. Golf is in the blood. http://www.kevinmarkhamphotography.com
January comes to an end but the month saw two Irish golf course rankings published. Oh sure, golf rankings cause people to argue or even sneer but they also entice people to visit courses they might not otherwise have played.
By all means debate whether Grange is better than Castle, better than Hermitage. Is Ballybunion better than Lahinch? Which is the best parkland in Northern Ireland, or Cork for that matter?
Rankings will spell that out in black and white and whether you agree with them or not they’re a starting point for a conversation… and, in the end, it’s a consensus of experts so it has some standing that deserves a look…
… so take a look
Destination Golf Top 150
Destination Golf's 150 best Irish courses are ranked in three categories: Platinum for the top tier, then Gold, then Silver. Lots of photographs and lots of descriptions (written by me) of the courses.
This changes every year thanks to changing personnel on the judging panel and follows a set of ranking criteria that put design to the fore. I am part of this panel and it is an exhausting process to rank 100 courses, decide which don’t make the cut this year (this is seriously difficult), and who out of Castle, Grange, Hermitage… and all the rest… get the bragging rights this time around. A lot of courses are doing work and thins influences things considerably. Take Ardglass, Dundalk, and Dingle – all three making changes that will alter things considerably on their courses.
It was a busy year with the camera in hand so here are my ten top golf course photos of the year… in no particular order.
1. Dun Laoghaire Golf Club
You can’t deny that the Dun Laoghaire clubhouse is one of the most impressive in the country and two of the course’s nines (there are three loops here) finish below that clubhouse. Their fairways rise non-stop towards the grand modern building and this is the par five 9th on the Lower course. Dun Laoghaire is maturing beautifully and this shot captures some of that.
2. Royal Portrush Golf Club
The 15th (formerly the 13th before Ebert’s pre-Open Championship changes) at Royal Portrush
It's about this time that trying to find a gift for the golfer in your life starts to become a challenge. There's little point going for the 'funny' gadget (the amusement wears off 2 seconds later) so here's a list of items at varying prices that should suit your needs and your budget.
Padraig Harrington, at Dunnes Stores
There is a growing array of Padraig Harrington apparel at Dunnes Stores these days, from knitted tops, socks and chinos to soft shell jackets and gilets. There are 22 items in all and you’ll find them at the 145 stores around Ireland. There really is no excuse if you’re running out of ideas. Try the Blue Quarter Zip Funnel Neck, which is created from a cotton-blend for a sumptuously soft way to layer up on the golf course. Price €35.
It’s great to see some Irish innovation in golf clothing. The Caddy Guy offers an exciting clothing line including shirts, beanies, caps, gilets and jumpers. What sets this Co. Kerry company apart is the focus on natural materials. The Caddy Guy is the only Irish brand to use bamboo as it is the softest textile on the market, extremely durable, flexible and biologically beneficial. Several golf clubs – including Ceann Sibeal, Galway Bay and Killarney – are stocking the garments.
James Sheehy runs the company and his clothing range continues to grow.
Most golf clubs will provide green fee vouchers of some description so if someone you love (or just like) has a hankering to play a particular course, phone up the club and ask what vouchers are available. In the meantime, here are a few suggestions.
The home of next year’s Dubai Duty Free Irish Open offers a range of gift vouchers, should you feel inclined to encourage the golfer in your life to play the Jack Nicklaus-designed Mount Juliet. Or how about lessons? There’s a special offer which may add a little flavour: there will be a gift included for the first 30 x 1 Hour Trackman Lesson Vouchers purchased through Mount Juliet’s golf shop. Contact the shop on 056 777 3071.
For the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open, 27-31 May 2020, tickets are already available with prices up to €95. A pass for access from Wednesday to Sunday costs just €83. Tickets can be sent as an email PDF making it the easiest Christmas gift to wrap.
Fota Island has a stream of 12 Days of Christmas offers with golf very much to the fore.Academy Membership plus Four Lessons for €800 offers a saving of €200. Alternatively, for €120, you can purchase two green fees with clubhouse burgers. At summer rates that’s a saving of €155. There are plenty of gift vouchers available too.
Contact 021 488 3700
GUI National Golf Academy
The GUI National Golf Academy at Carton House has numerous packages available for golfers looking to improve their game. There are long game and short game clinics, half hour and longer lessons and, of course, monetary vouchers for those who want to choose exactly how they spend their time.
There is a special offer running at the moment: Two Hour Clinic, One Day Pass and Half Hour Lesson. This consists of 3 elements:
1. Choose from one of the two-hour Group Clinics (Trackman Long Game Clinic or Trackman Pitching & Wedge Play Clinic or Greenside & Bunker Play Clinic); 2. Work on any part of your game with a 30-minute private lesson with an Academy Professional; 3. Enjoy a full day of practice at the Academy with unlimited range balls and short game area access.
Visit www.bettergolf.ie, call 01 5054040 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for further details
Cost €100 (a saving of €90)
For the best club custom fitting around, Fore Golf at Killeen Castle has established a worldwide reputation. If you want to get golfers into the swing of things, you could start by purchasing an online voucher. Buy the One Hour Custom Fit voucher which reviews a golfer’s clubs for €100, provides a performance comparison of new custom clubs against the golfer’s existing set and uses TrackMan4.
Alternatively, the 30 Minute Single New Club session is a treat for the golfer looking to work on one club (excluding the putter) that isn’t hitting the high notes. The voucher costs €150 which includes a €100 deposit towards purchasing a new club.
Purchase it on your phone and have it emailed to your inbox. How easy is that.
Links & Lakes Spring Championship, 27-28 March 2020
This two day tournament sees golfers playing Dooks and Killarney (Mahony’s Point) Golf Clubs. This is a great way to get a group of golfers together – or even one golfer – to experience two of the superb courses in Co. Kerry. Packages range from golf and dinner (€120pp) to golf and DB&B accommodation (€299) at Killarney’s four star Castlerosse Park Resort.
Email: email@example.com to book.
Views from Dooks
The only Irish producer of golf balls, Seed Golf has been extending its range this year. A new golf ball has been added (the Pro Yellow SD-01 features an ‘Adularescence Fluorescence’ cover finish which may prove invaluable in the snow!), and a few extras have also joined the line-up: beanies, baseball caps, a flat cap and tee bag are now available, costing from €7 to €20.
On the golf ball front, Seed Golf provides golfers with a high quality ball that can be purchased online in innovative ways. Boxes of a dozen cost between €10 and €25.
Back in 2014, Master Clubmaker Peter Doyle had a vision of creating Ireland’s first bespoke putter brand. By 2018, he had produced his second generation Aidhm putter, the R Series Blade. Aidhm (pronounced “I-AM”) comes from the Irish word meaning “To Take Aim” and is a Tour Grade putter head which is CNC-Machined from one block of carbon steel. This ensures unprecedented feel and consistency. What’s more you are buying Irish.
It may not feel like quite the right time of year to be putting sunnies under the Christmas tree, but a golfer needs to protect his or her eyes. The Sunwise Blenheim Black sunglasses are perfect for any golfer. Unique polarised lenses help eliminate glare and the sunglasses are lightweight and strong. The Polafusion lenses are designed to improve your play and will make greens easier to read while also making it easier to follow your ball in flight. They are made in Britain. Buy them direct online, or try Halpenny Golf or Gleeson Sport Scene in Limerick (www.gleesonsport.ie).
At the other end of the scale we have Irish weather in winter (and the rest of the year…) when wet days and wetter shoes are guaranteed. The Drysure Shoe Dryers absorb moisture quickly thanks to silica oxide beads which are placed inside a foot-shaped holder.No heat, electricity or batteries required as the beads absorb the moisture from the moment the dryers are inserted. They last between six and ten uses before they need to be reactivated, by putting them in the oven. Cosy!
Relive the memories of one of the greatest Irish victories in Open Championship history by purchasing something branded with the Royal Portrush Golf Club crest. Shane Lowry winning on Irish soil lifted the nation so give the golfer in your life a lift with any number of high quality products… from head covers and ball markers to caps, shirts and sweaters.
Buying a lightweight golf bag can be a significant motivator for the golfer who prefers not to lug a big bag and trolley around when nipping out to play a few holes. The Jack White canvas bags take up to eight golf clubs and come in various colour combinations. They can be made to order, too. Order online.
New to the market this year and the winner of Best New Product at the 2019 PGA Merchandise Show, in Florida, AcuStrikeGolf is a golf training aid. It is remarkably simple and inexpensive (compared to the many other training aids out there), and it give golfers instant feedback on their ball strike and swing path. This will enable golfers to make instant changes and help them understand their swing. Buy online.
I was given one of these earlier this year and all of my golf balls are now adorned with an indelible stamp of a green shamrock. With over 150 designs you shouldn’t need to worry about playing the wrong ball ever again, and your mates will just think you’re applying lipstick.
The Bioflow Sport Flex Wristband is chosen by many of the world’s leading athletes as an integral part of their training and recovery programmes. This durable, waterproof silicone wristband incorporates a patented Central Reverse Polarity magnet technology and is designed to improve blood flow, help reduce inflammation and restore the body’s own natural pH levels by assisting the removal of free-radicals. It all sounds quite complicated but Lee Westwood describes the band as “a valuable part of my game”. Bioflow Sport conforms with the highly regarded Medical Devices Directive and has approval as a Class 1 Medical Device in Europe.
Volvik may take the prize when it comes to brightly coloured balls (think Bubba Watson) but now they’ve extended further into the golf world with the launch of their new Volvik V1 Laser Rangefinder. Available in orange or mint the rangefinder has quite a few extras including a ‘Slope Compensation’ mode which takes elevation changes into account. It also has a six times magnification and measures distances from 5 to 1,200 yards. Waterproof and lightweight golfers will have no excuses for coming up short.
Several books came out this year with very different characters at the heart of them. The biggest cheat in the game – allegedly – is the subject of one, while another focuses on the greatest golfer of all time. See if you can guess which is which.
Commander in Cheat: How Golf Explains Trump, by Rick Reilly
Rick Reilly has played golf with Donald Trump. That should be enough to make this book authentic but Reilly has gone digging and found some intriguing stories. Trump claims to have won 18 club championships – all at Trump properties – and yet one championship was at a course that hadn’t even opened, while another was won on a day when Trump was playing golf somewhere else entirely. When rocker Alice Cooper was asked who the biggest cheat in golf was, he said: “I played golf with Donald Trump one time. That's all I'm going to say."
Once and probably still the most recognisable face in sport, Tiger Woods has experienced a career of the highest highs and the lowest lows. This is the full story of his life and it’s of the warts-and-all variety. Jeff Benedict is a New York Times bestselling author, a special features writer for Sports Illustrated, and a television and film producer.
Available from Easons
The Meaning of Golf, by Craig Morrison
Morrison offers a wise and witty journey into the world of golf. Tiger Woods is the subject of one chapter, Tom Watson – in an exclusive interview - is the subject of another. The Presidents of the United States have a chapter to themselves too. Anyone interested in the game of golf, its history, its great champions and championships should love this book.Craig Morrison has previously written, produced and published two golf books,18 Greatest Scottish Golf Holesand18 Greatest Irish Golf Holes.
The Golf Lover's Guide to Scotland, by Michael Whitehead
Universally regarded as the birthplace of the modern game, Scotland can boast some of the finest courses in the world. This guide offers the golfer everything they need to enjoy a great round of golf at the best courses Scotland has to offer. You will find all the essential information you need here - par scores, yardage, prices, booking procedure, history and how best to play the course.
McKellar was founded by the longtime Guardian correspondent, author and Scotsman, Lawrence Donegan, and Thomas Dunne, a golf writer and golf architect aficionado. Its evolution is best told by Dunne:
“I'm sure Lawrence would agree that Lorne Rubenstein of the Globe & Mail is kind of the spiritual godfather of McKellar. Back in 2006, when I was at Travel & Leisure Golf, Lorne and I went out for a long lunch at the Algonquin Hotel in New York. We had this great conversation about developing a more thoughtful, literary breed of golf magazine – something that readers would return to over months and years, rather than flip through idly and then pitch in the recycling. Well, it turned out that Lorne had been having that conversation with other writers, including Lawrence, and when he approached me about it toward the end of 2016 we were immediately reading from the same hymn sheet in terms of the stuff that mattered.
“What really unites us,” Dunne continues, “is that all of us believe that print – even
The Golfer’s Journal has certainly set new standards in how we look at golf and how it appeals to us. The magazine’s tagline – Golf in its Purest Form – means the magazine bypasses short game tips and equipment features and goes straight to the heart of the game. You won’t find this
That gentle scrape of paper on paper is a sound that drifts back to childhood, be it a book or a magazine or even an encyclopaedia… not that you’ll find many of those on bookshelves anymore.
Despite the onset of the Internet and the cut and thrust of social media there’s still nothing quite like picking up a magazine and poring over it at your leisure. Traditional golf magazines may be struggling but that hasn’t stopped some entrepreneurial golfers and publishers targeting niche markets where
The role that Irish golf plays on the world stage is easy to gauge when you consider the recent list of winners in the Majors. 2019 has been a big year for this island, capped off with Shane Lowry’s Open win at Royal Portrush, not to mention the announcement that the Ryder Cup will be held at Adare in 2026. That will come 20 years after the huge success of the 2006 Ryder Cup at the K Club.
The challenge is to ensure that Ireland continues to benefit from all of this positivity and luring visiting golfers to these shores is a great place to start. Ireland’s south-west has long attracted golfers from North America but the entire island has seen increasing numbers since the disasters of 2008. According to Tourism Ireland, 2018 was the best year ever for overseas tourism to the island of Ireland, with revenue generated by international visitors estimated at €6.1 billion. This is an increase of 10% on 2017, with record numbers arriving from North America, Continental Europe, Australia and, crucially, emerging markets.
The par three 8th on the K Club Palmer course
Fairways & FunDays, the leading Irish golf tour operator, is among those companies bringing