Saturday, March 11, 2023

The Dunas Course at Terras da Comporta

There's no doubt that the Dunas Course at Terras da Comporta, Portugal, has been hugely anticipated in recent years...

... and if you tell me you haven't heard about it then you haven't been paying attention. There has been a long and somewhat complicated gestation period to the project that began well over a decade ago (2010)... well now it has come to fruition or at least it's about it. The course designed by David McLay Kidd will open officially for play on June 1st.

Where is it?  It's south of Lisbon... and just south of Troia. With another course yet to follow (designed by Olazabal and Garcia) at the same location, it will create another delicious destination like the West Cliffs/Praia d'El Rey/Royal Obidos triumvirate.

So, some detail.

Ahead of the opening of architect David McLay-Kidd’s first course in mainland Europe (he designed Powerscourt West early in his career) tee times have been made available to play the par-71 links-style layout from June 1st.

A standard green fee to play the 6,555-metres course will cost €175, while discounted rates are available for July, August, December and January 2024 will cost €125 per person.

All prices include a buggy, driving range balls and a selection of gifts, including a refillable water bottle and engraved bag tag. The experience comes with a valet meet-and-greet and club cleaning after your round.

Rodrigo Ulrich, director of golf at Terras da Comporta, said: “What David McLay-Kidd has been able to build here is exceptional and a true example of world-class golf course design.

“We are so excited about the launch and cannot wait for golfers to enjoy the exceptional on and off-course experience on offer at Terras da Comporta from this summer onward.”

Vanguard Properties, the largest real estate developer in Portugal, took ownership of the spectacular Terras da Comporta development in 2019 and the site features two plots: Torre, comprising 365 hectares of land in the Alcácer do Sal municipality, and Dunas, which occupies around 1,011 hectares of land in the Grândola municipality.

Situated in a secluded coastal setting on the edge of the Sado Estuary Nature Reserve, The Dunas Course is one of two 18-hole championship layouts that is planned at Terras da Comporta.

Created over 84 hectares of natural, sandy terrain, The Dunas Course has been built using the highest sustainable practices and is predicted to quickly become of Europe’s must-play golfing venues when it opens.

Complementing The Dunas Course will be a new clubhouse and golf academy.

Monday, February 20, 2023

The Next Bucket List... but not the last

They’ve become almost ubiquitous when it comes to golf destinations and yet we still devour every ‘official’ new list that comes out. 


And one has. This time it’s by Clarkes Golf, a UK family business started by Director and PGA Professional David Clarke over 40 years ago. 

Views from Carne

The problem with some of these lists – and this is one – is that they include courses that are inaccessible. We can all shoot for the stars but we should really be dreaming with our feet on the ground. Who among us doesn’t aspire to play Augusta? Who among us ever will? And Augusta is the number one course on the Clarkes Golf list. It also includes Muirfield Village and Kiawah Island, which, like Augusta, are private clubs. 


Here in Ireland we don’t have private golf clubs but there are so many in America, and a fair few in Great Britain and elsewhere, that it portrays golf as elitist. Perhaps that is why they appear on such lists. Like a child in the sweet store, we want what we can’t have. Personally, I think that does a disservice to the courses we CAN play. 

Carne's 13th green to clubhouse

So, the key question is: how do you define bucket list? Is it the best courses or the best destinations – there’s a distinct difference – or is it the most luxurious and/or unobtainable? 


For the Clarkes Golf ranking system the following information was collected on 498 golf courses across the world: Followers data was taken from the Instagram pages of each golf course. Interest data was taken from SEMrush by measuring the keyword volume for the golf course name. Both UK and US markets were used to define interest in playing the course. Popularity data was taken from SEMrush by measuring traffic data for each of the golf course websites. Both UK & US markets were used to determine the popularity of the golf course. All this data was collected on November 1st 2022, and if you can figure out what all of the above means you’re doing better than I am. But it does sound impressive, doesn’t it? 


Let’s take a quick look at a handful of other ‘Bucket List’ lists over the years to give you some flavour. I’ve included their top five results and you’ll see distinct patterns within the results. 


Bleacher Report (2010) focuses all too much on the USA with Pacific Dunes, Pebble Beach, Spy Glass, Torrey Pines and Kiawah Island as the top five. 


Golfpass (2015) had St Andrews at number one, followed by Pebble Beach, Cape Kidnappers, Bandon Dunes, and The Melbourne Sandbelt. (2021) listed Bandon Dunes at number one, then Cabot Links, Destination Kohler (where you’ll find Whistling Straits among the Wisconsin courses), Pinehurst Resort, and Sand Valley… so another very North American vibe! 


Shipsticks (2021), a company that ships your golf clubs wherever you want to go, had St Andrews top, followed by Pebble Beach, Bandon Dunes, Cape Kidnappers and Whistling Straits. In 6th place was Royal County Down. 

Royal County Down 13th 

Golfbreaks (2022) put Pebble Beach at number one, St Andrews at two with Trump Turnberry, Dubai and West Coast of Ireland rounding out the top five. 


I included the mention of Royal County Down (RCD) because it is important to highlight that two of the world’s greatest courses – RCD and Royal Portrush – don’t make the top five in any of these six lists and yet the reputation, location and setting for both courses is sensational. Surely they are the perfect bucket list destination! The Golfbreaks list at least mentions the West Coast of Ireland, but when you consider that we have a third of the world’s links it is mind-numbingly absurd that Irish (and Scottish) courses aren’t included on every list. Perhaps they’re just not expensive enough… and no, I’m not joking: the American and Asian travelling golfer often equates cost and exclusivity with quality and desirability. 


For clarification, the Clarkes Golf top five are Augusta, Sandals Emerald Bay (Bahamas), Pebble Beach, Kiawah Island Resort, and Whistling Straits. Other countries include Mauritius, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, and Barbados. Closer to home, Gleneagles, in 6th spot, is the only Scottish venue of the 20 listed. Meanwhile, Ireland can boast two: Adare Manor at 9th and Old Head at 20th. This strongly suggests that ‘plush’ and ‘luxury’ were highly regarded criteria because both Irish courses, as well as Gleneagles, certainly tick those boxes. 

To be honest, lists like this are just good fodder for conversation. And, a little like the Top 100 lists that appear frequently, they should be taken with a pinch of salt and used as a guide for future adventures… assuming of course that you are allowed in to play. 


The 1st at St Patrick's
If you’re wondering, my five-strong bucket list would be Cabot Links (Canada), Morfontaine (France), Utrecht de Pan (Netherlands), Lofoten Links (Norway), Askernish (Scotland). They combine varying degrees of quality, beauty, history and mystery. In Ireland, where I have played so much and so many, I can recommend nothing higher than Carne, Enniscrone, Royal County Down, Ballybunion and St Patrick’s Links. 


If you don’t have a bucket list ticking away in the back of your mind start one today. Pick five courses, near or far, and make it your mission to play them in the coming years.

Saturday, February 11, 2023

Ombria Resort appoints Salvador Costa Macedo as Director of Golf

Consider this: in the last 15 years there has been only one new course designed and opened in Ireland. That’s St Patrick’s, in Donegal. In Portugal, meanwhile, three new courses will be opened in 2023 alone. One is south of Lisbon (Comporta Dunes) while the other two are in the Algarve. Portugal remains one of the most popular golf destinations in the world and these new courses will only bolster that reputation.

One of these is Ombria.

The Ombria Resort course was designed by Jorge Santana da Silva and there has been much hype about it. It will be a par 71, measuring 5,802 metres, and it has been built to the highest standards of environmental sustainability. This has allowed the course to be officially certified by the GEO Foundation for Sustainable Golf. It is an essential recognition of environmental and social excellence. The images of the landscape – and the course – show how glorious the terrain is and what a perfect home it will be for these 18 holes.  Jorge Santana da Silva is well known for his designs at Montado and Amarante, and, most famously of all, Laranjal and Pinheiros Altos. Little doubt that Ombria will shortly be joining those ranks.

This luxury sustainable golf development has just announced that it will welcome Salvador Costa Macedo as its new Director of Golf. With the highly anticipated opening scheduled for April, one of Salvador’s key priorities will be to ensure that the course is in top condition… a task that should be no problem for a man whose résumé boasts 20 years’ experience in the field of golf in Portugal. 

Salvador holds a degree in Business Management from the Universidade Lusiada with postgraduate degrees in Golf Course Management (University of Algarve), Golf (Faculty of Human Motricity) and a specialisation in Hospitality Management from the Association of Directors of Hospitality in Portugal (ADHP). His knowledge has given him the opportunity to work for high-profile companies such as the Portuguese Federation of Golf (FPG), the National Training Center of Jamor, Quinta do Peru Golf & Country Club, and Penina Hotel & Golf Resort. Most recently, Salvador was Sales Golf Manager at Palmares Ocean Living & Golf and Amendoeira Golf Resort in the Algarve.

“My career has allowed me to work on some of the Algarve’s most prestigious golf courses,” said Salvador, “but Ombria Resort, with its panoramic nature views, will take golfing in the Algarve to a new and exciting level. I am delighted to join the team and contribute to making this golf course a new regional highlight for golfers of all handicaps.”

The resort will include a 5-star hotel – the Viceroy at Ombria Resort – which is under construction. It will include 71 apartments, 70 rooms, 5 restaurants, swimming pools, conference centre, Spa and kids' club. There will also be a residential development 


One thing’s for sure, Ombria will add hugely to the already impressive arsenal of courses in the Algarve and anyone who has a passion for golf in the Algarve will now have an even harder choice to make… or just another opportunity to visit again.



The resort is located inland, 7km north of Loulé and 25 minutes from Faro airport.


Sunday, December 25, 2022

Top Ten Irish Golf Photos of 2022

A good year for photographs but then it always is in the beautiful country of Ireland.    

Here are my top 10 photographs from this year.


Carne Golf Links 14th hole (Wild Atlantic Dunes) 

A par-3 that is undoubtedly one of the most special short holes in the country, crushed between two angry dunes with natural waste areas of bright white sand. I wondered what it would look like in black and white… and it is strikingly more dramatic than the colour version. Do you agree?



Greencastle Golf Club s famous 12th 

It was a long drive to the Inishowen Peninsula – some 5 hours there and 5 hours back – to capture one very, very particular shot – the club’s signature 12th hole that sneaks around a beach, over a ledge and out to the lighthouse.

Monday, August 15, 2022

David Higgins to defend Irish PGA Championship title at Carne Golf Links

Carne Golf Links will once again play host to the Irish PGA Championship 2022 from 17-20 August.


The 54-hole tournament is returning to the Wild Atlantic Dunes course at Carne Links, for the second year in a row, and will be preceded on August 17th by a Pro-Am (I'll post some pictures). The tournament, which is the oldest golf tournament in Europe, will once again be sponsored by Columbia Sportswear, whose CEO, Tim Boyle, and his family, owns Gearhart Golf Links in Portland, Oregon, which is twinned with Carne Golf Links.


Defending champion, David Higgins (Waterville Links), and many of Ireland’s leading PGA professionals will battle for a slice of the €45,000 prize fund put up by Erris Tourism Holdings Ltd, the course owners.


Former champions, Tim Rice (Limerick GC) and Damian Mooney (Damian Mooney Golf) have confirmed their place in the field alongside European Tour winner Simon Thornton, and serial winners on the PGA circuit, Colm Moriarty (Glasson Lakehouse), Richard Kilpatrick (Banbridge GC) and Liam Grehan (The K Club).


“We are delighted to be staging the 112th Irish PGA Championship at the wonderful Wild Atlantic Dunes at Carne Golf Links in County Mayo.  This is our most historic event in The PGA in Ireland calendar and it’s a pleasure to work once again alongside Chairman Gerry Maguire, General Manager Fiona Togher, and the entire team at Carne, who are first class supporters of golf in Ireland.  I would also like to recognise Columbia Sportswear CEO Tim Boyle for his continued support of this event” said Conor Dillon, PGA in Ireland Regional Manager.


The event will copperfasten the Wild Atlantic Dunes course routing at Carne Golf Links, which entered the Irish Golfer Top 100 rankings at number 13, and has been described as the biggest and most explosive Links in Ireland. 

The original 18-hole course that overlooks the Atlantic Ocean on Ireland’s west coast in County Mayo was the last to be designed by the celebrated architect Eddie Hackett and was completed in 1995. An additional nine holes known as the Kilmore, which was opened in 2013, plus the back nine of the Hackett course form the Wild Atlantic Dunes – the stage for a tournament that was first contested in 1907.


Chairman of Carne Golf Links, Gerry Maguire: “On behalf of the Board of Turasoireacht Iorrais Teo (Carne Golf Links) we are delighted to be welcoming back the Irish PGA Championship in 2022 on our magnificent Wild Atlantic Dunes course at Carne.


“I would like to welcome all the visiting Pros, their families and friends, to Carne, for what I know will be a great test of golf in dramatic and spectacular surroundings, amongst the highest dunescape in the world, and I wish them all the very best of luck in the tournament.


“It is a great honour for Carne and the Erris Gaeltacht region to be able to host this prestigious tournament, and we are looking forward to building on the success of the 2021 Championship and ensuring that the 2022 Tournament will be even more successful and enjoyable. Spectators are welcome free of charge at the event, which will bring a huge economic bounce to the town of Belmullet with increased bednights and spin offs for the local hotel, hospitality and retail industries.  It is only made possible by the support of our sponsors, Columbia Sportswear, and we are delighted to continue our successful twinning with Gearhart Golf Links, and partnership with Columbia.


“We look forward to working with the Irish PGA and continuing our long standing relationship to ensure a very successful Championship for all.”


Tim Boyle, CEO of Columbia Sportswear, added; “We are honoured to sponsor the prestigious Irish PGA Championship at Carne Golf Links, one of the world’s best courses.”

Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Kids Golf... Yes They Do and Here's How to Entice Them In

One of the greatest joys of golf is that it’s a sport for everyone, whether you’re five or ninety five. It is a sport for the ages… and for all ages. This summer will have a multitude of kids' golf camps, all around the country, so why not let your kid/s get a taste for the game in a setting specifically designed for them?


I started learning when I was five. My grandfather cut down a set of old clubs, strapped them up with leather grips and introduced me to a game that quickly became a passion. A lot of kids learnt like I did, with hand-me-down clubs and a family member prepared to offer the necessary encouragement. The quality of the clubs didn’t matter; it was the quality of the time given that made the difference between falling in love with the game and deciding it was something never to be spoken of again.

I was 10 when I played my first junior competition at the club I called home (Greystones). My grandfather had cut down more clubs to suit my size and so I watched in amazement as my opponent – a year younger than I – arrived with a set of new clubs, new bag and a trolley. I had an old bag over my shoulder, hand-me-down clubs and a putter made from plastic tubing and skirting board. No, that’s not a joke. Back in those days golfers had one putter and it was the most valuable club in the bag. You didn’t go giving those out like cotton candy and so that was the putter I had. And that was the putter that helped me win. 


It is safe to say that things have changed since those days and junior golfing equipment is now readily available and aimed with precision at the different age groups. It makes my introduction to the game seem almost comical but there are two sides to this: producing dedicated equipment is a lucrative market for manufacturers; and it enables children of all ages to own clubs that are designed for them… and that they can call their own. This modern equipment offers ample opportunity to attract more kids to the sport and while not every child will be interested there is a far more defined path to help those who are.


“Your number one goal is to create an experience that helps the young golfer fall in love with the game,” says Michelle Holmes, the Director of Instruction at the Michelle Holmes School of Golf. Michelle is originally from Enniscrone but left for college in the United States in 2001, when she was offered a golf scholarship at Campbell University (North Carolina). She has since established a career there as an LPGA Teaching Professional. Her golf school has three locations in Virginia, and her accolades are considerable, including Top 50 US Kids Instructor, US Kids Golf Master Professional, GRAA Top 50 Growth Of The Game Professional, and LPGA Junior Leader Of The Year, NE Section. If anyone knows how to bring the youngest generation into the game, it’s Michelle. 


“Focus on three key things,” she says. “First, listen to your child. What you consider to be a fun day at the course may not be the same for them. Children just want to have fun, so let them explore the game in their own way. Accompany them to practice and explain things as they ask them… but remember, you are there to assist them in the journey and it is important that they are in the driver’s seat. Second, find the correct coach/programme. Try multiple coaches, if need be, to find someone whose expertise and personality fit the needs of your young golfer. But be sure your child has the final say. Their bond with the coach will ultimately determine how much they embrace learning the sport. Third, and most importantly, give your child the right equipment. You want them to develop the correct fundamentals which can only be done with the correct equipment.”  


You may just want to take your kid to the driving range and have them watch you bashing balls… before asking them to do the same. That may be cool for you but not for them. A key impediment to kids learning to love the game is a parent/other who tries to make everything happen too fast. Adults get wrapped up in perfect golf swings and scores instead of focusing on providing a fun environment for the child. They’re not afraid to miss a shot because they’ll simply try again. You want a child to play aggressively and with confidence. Here’s another no-no: don't give your child a detailed critique of their swing after every shot. Allow them to make mistakes without fear of repercussions.  


“How your child performs at age nine has absolutely no bearing on their future. How you react to their play does. Choose your words wisely,” suggests Michelle.


Visit any big golf retailer website (e.g. Odwyersgolf, McGuirks, Halpenny) and you’ll find an abundance of clubs and golf sets for children. The junior audience is well catered for but there’s far more to it than simply picking something off the shelf. It is important to be realistic and to give kids the optimum chance of enjoying their path into the game. To do that they need the appropriate clubs.


“All the kids who come into the shop have a fitting so we can identify the best clubs for them,” says Cian McNamara, Monkstown Golf Club’s Head Professional. “It may only take 15 minutes in our Trackman room but it is essential to consider the child’s height and their abilities. We calculate the optimum length of club and then look at their swing speed to determine the flex of the shaft. Get those right and the child will see a positive ball flight when they strike the ball and that motivates them onwards.” 


Cian works with the company US Kids Golf, which runs programmes across America – Michelle Holmes is a US Kids Golf Master Professional – and sells fitted equipment worldwide.


“Most of the children we end up fitting come on to our coaching programmes,” says Cian. “We keep them in groups of equal abilities and plan their activities. It’s important to have a good structure and it’s an area we are looking to expand.” 


Covid permitting, Cian and his team will be running coaching camps this year. They already have six groups of juniors with over 100 youngsters involved.


Michelle also works closely with US Kids Golf.


“Give your child the right equipment,” she repeats. “Too many children use clubs that are too long, too stiff and too heavy. It is very important that your child is fitted for the correct set of clubs because when a child plays with clubs that fit, he or she is able to develop consistent swings that will stay with them forever. Always remember that a child should grow out of their golf clubs, not into them.”


It may not be easy to justify expenditure on clubs when you don’t know if your child will actively engage with the sport. Perhaps they will lose interest after a few minutes of coaching. Indeed, it is not even a question of ‘if’ but ‘when’, says Michelle:


“My first rule is that less is more. Do not overload a new golfer with information. For every year of life, we get one minute of learning focus from a child. So, in a 45 minute class of seven year olds we have seven minutes of instruction time and 38 minutes of game-based learning. Get them involved in group activities as it’s more fun to do things with others their own age.”


Children should be given plenty of chances to play. It is about enjoyment and that means playing kid-friendly yardages. Castlebar Golf Club recently developed a six-hole par-3 course specifically designed for kids. Holes measure between 50 and 100 yards. Other clubs have created or are investing in similar developments, a sign that junior coaching is being embraced on more levels than ever before. 


It is often said that those in the youngest age brackets are the future of the game. That’s not strictly accurate as so many golfers take up the game later in life – and will continue to do so – but introducing kids to the game when they’re young and giving them the right environment in which to learn means that they can play the game for all of their life… or return to it at some stage in the future when the time is right.


“As a coach, my goal isn't just to give golf lessons, it is to create an entire experience,” Michelle confirms. “This includes everything from quality coaching, social activities, playing opportunities, competition, structure and a long term player development path.

As a parent, your job is to provide them with an experience that will make them want to play the game forever, an experience that will allow their passion and self motivation to grow. Give them the chance to own the game for themselves.” 


Before Covid interrupted our lives there were junior programmes and camps being run at almost every golf club in Ireland. Many of these will be thriving again this summer, reigniting kids’ passion for the game and giving others the chance to discover the joys of the sport. 


“Every family is on a unique journey,” Michelle concludes. “Some are using golf simply as a fun family activity to do together, whereas some have aspirations of playing college golf and even beyond. No matter the journey, as a coach it's fun to be a part of that.” 


These days you’re unlikely to see someone at junior camp with a putter made from plastic piping and skirting board but you’ll see plenty of enthusiasm. Today’s equipment is much more aligned with the needs of children, so offer a child the right path and the right tools for the job, and watch that enthusiasm grow into a passion that can last for more than 90 years.


Friday, June 17, 2022

Cut From A Different Cloth II - Kwack Golf

The popularity of the Kwack brand established itself quickly... even if back in its early days it was known as Duck Hook. 

Here's a Q&A with the company.

When was Duckhook founded?

Kwack Golf, formerly Duck Hook, was initially founded at the start of the pandemic in January 2020.

And by whom?

Ben, Scott & Will. Ben & Will are first cousins while Scott & Ben have been friends since the start of secondary school in 2006.

Wednesday, June 8, 2022

Cut From A Different Cloth – Fia Links

The recent explosion in Irish golf clothing brands may come as a surprise for Irish golfers… many of whom still don’t know what is available. It is all too easy to roll into a golf store, Pro shop or hop online and purchase Nike/Adidas/Under Armour/Galvin Green etc. products. 

It wasn’t that long ago that the Irish golfer searching for Irish clothing was restricted to two or three brands… but the past five years – and the past two specifically – have seen a major shift: there are now at least a dozen dedicated golf clothing brands selling to an expanding market and a hungry audience. It is good news all round.


At least eight brands have come in to being since the pandemic started in early 2020. They are all small outfits of one, two or three golf-mad people. Most are still only selling online but that will probably change as awareness among the Irish golfing public (and further afield it must be said) influences golf retailers and Pro shops to stock these