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.

Sunday, February 21, 2021

Golf's Stay & Play 2021

2021 is not yet two months old, Covid19 remains rampant and vaccines provide no guarantees. 

On the other hand, things are looking a lot better than they were a few months ago when certain morons were suggesting the cure was to inject bleach. The cautious optimism heading into spring and summer has golfers waiting patiently (or impatiently, depending on your point of view) for courses to re-open. International travel will be severely limited for the global cohort of golfers so the stay-at-home stay and play offers will be keenly anticipated by all. Hotels and local golf courses, golf resorts and the likes of Fairways & Fundays are all gearing up for the holiday-at-home audience.

Druids Glen par-3 8th

This was made abundantly clear by three things in the past week:

1. The Irish Times Weekend magazine (Feb 20) had a six-page spread on Staycations, covering 38 different accommodation providers (from 5 star to camping). Nine of these were were hotels with golf courses attached and the Irish Times was kind enough to mention the availability of golf. Included were Adare, Ashford Castle, Castlemartyr, Druids Glen, Faithlegg, Farnham Estate, Fota Island, Kilkea Castle, and The Heritage. 

Places like Carton House, Mount Juliet, The K Club, Slieve Russell, Waterford Castle, Dromoland Castle, Glasson, Moyvalley, Powerscourt, Portmarnock Links, Ballykisteen, Dundrum House, Mount Wolseley, Ballymascanlon, Doonbeg, Rosapenna, Macreddin, Knightsbrook, and Castle Dargan failed to be mentioned. We have a wealth of them so it's no surprise that not would make the cut.

2. Fairways & Fundays have started their 'at home' offers. There will be many more companies and hotel/golf course combos doing the same thing in the weeks and months ahead but Fairways and Fundays tend to have a march on their competitors and come up with some cracking deals. See below for just one example!


3. Destination Golf Top 150 Courses in Ireland

This annual publication - of which I am the editor - has a five page spread on the Stay-and-Play opportunities in 2021... and it includes many of the resorts and locations missed by The Irish Times. The article starts on page 14.

Friday, January 15, 2021

McGinley Making Changes at Grange Golf Club

2020 might have been a year to forget but there were some positives for golf clubs. Memberships showed big gains which is a massive momentum shift for Irish golf but, behind the scenes, golf clubs also continued to invest in their courses, clubhouses and facilities. We’re talking a lot of money here, and while much of it would already have been committed (pre-Covid) it still shows confidence across the board that so many projects continued during the year.

I wrote an 8-page article for Irish Golfer Magazine outlining many of the investment projects that have taken place – Click Here – but there are others that I didn’t include simply because I hadn’t heard about them (or they were too small). One was the new website for Cairndhu while one that most definitely should have been included is Grange Golf Club, where Paul McGinley Golf Course Design has been carrying out a considerable amount of work. Grange is dear to my heart as I played it many, many times during my teenage years. Once, in the Leinster Schoolboys (a fourball matchplay format where you play to the 18th regardless of the win/loss), we came up against Col√°iste √Čanna. My partner and I won the first hole but after that it was one-way traffic as one of the opposition pair dismantled us hole after hole. We were 8 down walking off 18 and we like to believe that the individual concerned was Paul McGinley… it helps us sleep better at night.

Despite such a hammering I retain very fond memories of the course and the club, so here’s an update from Paul McGinley Golf Course Design on what’s been going on:

Grange Golf Club engaged the company to create a masterplan to update its enduring James Braid course to make it fit for decades to come. This masterplan is the second phase of a programme of development which has seen the club invest €570,000 in the past five years in its Love, Sheahan and Academy Courses, as well as its new integrated short game complex. There are 24 holes here with the holes forming different routings.

The objective of the masterplan from Paul McGinley’s standpoint is to enhance and improve the facilities at Grange Golf Club. A particular focus is being placed on the new lands with the aim of better blending these holes architecturally with the current Love course… and especially the two holes which are part of the Sheahan routing. The works will include improving the movement of members and guests around the current site, while adhering to health and safety procedures. Paul is going to work to ensure the enjoyment and playability for all levels and standards of play. Key will be protecting, enhancing, and future proofing the Grange’s DNA… as a beautifully tree-lined, parkland course.


Some of the options under consideration in this second phase include:

  • reviewing tee box locations in order to offer a better mix of challenges for the full range of handicaps;
  • providing alternate layouts to the Academy Course to increase golfing options for members;
  • making further additions to the practice facilities including a warm-up area;
  • bringing the bunkering back to a traditional style, with modern construction to reward strategic golfers and improve year-round playability.

Investment to date, much of which has been designed and overseen by Paul McGinley and his project coordinator, Joe Bedford, has included the creation of a championship-sized integrated putting and short game practice complex; the redevelopment of the 1st hole and green; completion of a project to bring all putting greens to USGA standards; bunker improvements; and new course signage and other developments. The construction works have been completed by DAR Golf. 

Saturday, January 2, 2021

Irish Golf in 2021 - what the year has in store

Now more than ever is a good time to look ahead to 2021… and the positives that await in the world of Irish golf. Because heaven knows there aren’t many people thinking about the positives right now.

Mount Juliet's 4th green

 Pro and amateur golf aside – and there are plenty of big stories there with Padraig captaining the Ryder Cup team, Shane Lowry defending his Open Championship, Stephanie Meadow and Leona Maguire making strides, and Rory McIlroy still striving to complete the grand slam … not to mention the likes of James Sugrue and Olivia Mehaffey taking their next steps – Irish golf courses have plenty going on, too. True, we remain at the mercy of Covid and lockdowns but that didn’t stop things happening last year… and it won’t stop them happening this year either.

 

Highlights of 2021 will be:

 

1 The opening of the St Patrick’s Links at Rosapenna. It is the first ‘new’ course in Ireland since 2008 (Cobh Golf Club) and it has been designed by Tom Doak. Due to open in the summer the buzz is mighty and I am officially enthralled at the prospect of Doak designing a course in Ireland… let alone a links. There are photos of the course on Instagram. Take a look; get excited. Donegal is becoming the hottest destination in Ireland… the world maybe… as it will now have all of its existing stock as well as courses designed by Tom Doak and Gil Hanse (Narin & Portnoo). Expect golf writers/reviewers from around the world to flock to Ireland as soon as it is safe to do so.

 

2 There are lots of courses making investments in their courses (my 2020 investment article for Irish Golfer is here) and that will be continuing in 2021. Castlebar Golf Club will officially open its updated course in the spring, even if it was being played by members last summer. Malone Golf Club has been doing a lot of work to holes on its back nine as well as a new practice area. This will open this year. But the biggest job on course upgrades is still underway at Glasson Golf Club, where the closing five holes have been revamped entirely. These were the course’s best holes so it will be fascinating to see how they have evolved… and whether David Jones, the designer, will then be asked to turn his attention to the holes on the other side of the entrance road.

 

3 The Dubai Duty Free Irish Open will be played at Mount Juliet… a year late but still showcasing the beauty of Irish golf. On the downside, the Rolex mantle has gone; on the upside the event has been moved back to the more attractive July date (July 1-4). That date should also help with the anticipated roll out of the vaccination programme… in this country at least… and the likelihood of spectators being allowed to attend. Register your interest for tickets here


4. Have you heard of Clandeboye Golf Club, outside Newtownards? Most Irish golfers have but not many have visited this lovely rich parkland. There are two 18-hole courses here and the championship course, the Dufferin, will host the PGA EuroPro Tour in August (18-20). Tullamore Golf Club is celebrating 125 years this year and will be hosting the Irish Am Close as part of what will undoubtedly be a busy year.

 

Those are the big stories to look forward to but there is much more going on – at Ardglass, Dingle Links and Bandon, to name a few – and many clubs are celebrating anniversaries.

 

It’s not going to be dull that’s for sure. Happy golfing for when we can get back on the fairways.

 

 

Monday, December 28, 2020

Golf, Ireland, and Covid-19 in 2021

It is almost impossible to read any review of 2020 without the word ‘Covid’ or ‘virus’ appearing in the opening lines. That was the year we all had to endure and, as much as we have high hopes for 2021, the realists among us will know that there are several months of hardship ahead of us still.

This is as true in Ireland as it is anywhere.

 

We want golfers to return to this fantastic golf destination but those golfers will be thinking about how and when to visit, where to go, who to book with and what the implications will be of the vaccination programme – not just in Ireland but in their home country, too.

 

I particularly feel for those who had to postpone their 2020 golf trips and moved them to 2021. There must be a sense of desperation setting in.

 

If I had a crystal ball I would help you, I really would, but in the absence of such fortune telling powers I can do no more than direct you to the websites which will offer you the best and most up-to-date information:

 

1.    https://www.golfireland.ie/news?menuid=98
This is Irish golf’s official governing body and they update their ‘News’ feed regularly to spell out what is happening, not just with Covid-19 but with Irish golf in general.

2.    https://www.gov.ie/en/ 
For Irish government guidelines, this is the official place to go. It is up to date but also spells out what is and isn’t allowed in our five tier structure.

 

There are plenty of online resources out there but the newsfeeds for www.irishtimes.com and www.irishexaminer.ie are definitely worth checking. The Irish Times allows you five free articles a week before you have to tackle their paywall. The Irish Examiner doesn’t have any restrictions presently.

 

The current feeling is that there will be mass vaccinations in Ireland in May to July, and that the country will be much more accessible to tourism from that point as a result. That's not to say golf won't be accessible before then but, as this virus has shown, lockdowns and restrictions can happen fast… and comprehensively, and some peace of mind later in the year might be exactly what you need. 

 

All the same, businesses are following the relevant protocols so it is hoped we will be 'open for business' soon.

 

Remember, you will need a face mask (and I would recommend bringing several). Face shields don’t cut it unless worn with a mask. You are not allowed into shops (bars, restaurants, hotels included) unless you are wearing a mask. 

 

 

Friday, December 11, 2020

Christmas Golf Gifts 2020 - A Guide for Irish Golfers

Christmas shopping in 2020 is going to be a new experience both in terms of when we do our shopping and where. There has been an impressive push this year to promote Irish stores online and, with that sentiment in mind, here’s where to find everything you need for the golfers in your life... broken down into four headings:

1. Clothing

2. General

3. Golf Stores Online

4. Food/Drink)

Please don’t forget to support golf club pros by purchasing a voucher (or more) now that golf clubs have re-opened. 

1. Clothing

 

Rock Solid Apparel

Rock Solid Apparel is a young Northern Irish clothing brand. The company launched in late 2018 and the products available expanded quickly to include hoodies, sweatshirts, ¼ zip tops,

Saturday, November 28, 2020

Raflewski Performance Academy Launches At PGA National Ireland

So here we are, in November 2020, and golf is about to return to our courses. Apart from golf on TV, for many of us golf ceased to exist over the past six weeks. We had other things to worry about.

But golf in Ireland has continued behind the scenes. The greenkeepers have been busy maintaining courses and preparing them for our return, while for others there were developments that had been planned for a while and couldn’t simply be postponed.

 

One of those is at Slieve Russell… and it’s something pretty spectacular. The

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Top Ten Photos of the Year 2020

It is a frequent occurrence that no matter how much you plan, some of the best photographs come about thanks to a bit of luck. There are two photographs below that owe their existence to that luck.

It hasn’t been as busy a year as past years because… well, we all know why.


You can buy prints of many Irish golf courses through my website, including three of the shots listed below.


Here are the Top Ten shots of 2020, in no particular order... because ranking them would be like having to choose your favourite child.



1. Arklow 6th green 

The light was magical and there’s really no other Irish golf club car park – where this shot was taken from – that shows off the beauty and shape of the course you’re about to play.



2. Arklow 8th

This was the first shot I took with a new camera/lens combination (Nikon’s Z series