Thursday, April 30, 2020

Beaufort GC - Unfounded Rumours and Powering On

The power of a rumour has become ever more potent in the digital – and specifically social media – age. One wrong word, one slip, one misinterpretation… and your world can turn upside down. Facts are misconstrued, quotes are taken out of context, spite bares its soul.
Take a President starting his own idiotic rumour that Covid-19 can be tackled by injecting disinfectant and many of us are waiting for the first deaths by bleach ingestion to be announced. His fixation with hydroxychloroquine has already caused the death of an engineer in Arizona who consumed a fishtank cleaning chemical believing it contained the Trump-touted cure. OK, so the word ‘rumour’ should probably be replaced by ignorance… but the two often go hand-in-hand. 
On the golf front we’ve all heard rumours about this and that and it’s not always easy to separate fact from fiction. I read an article some eight years ago that suggested Co. Sligo had been selected to host the Irish Open, and foolishly tweeted about it. Someone was having a laugh, started the rumour and I compounded it. 
At the moment the most dangerous rumours circling Irish golf are the ones claiming that courses are closing. Such rumours are like sharks scenting blood and no sooner does the rumour start than more predators emerge to get their teeth into the story. 
An old pic of Beaufort Golf Club
What we do know is that Killorglin GC has gone and so too Castleisland GC**. They were near neighbours (30 km apart) and they closed within a week of each other. I know of one other course that is supposed to have closed… although I won’t fall into that trap again… and there are undoubtedly rumours swirling around others.
Interestingly, a club that is located between these two Co. Kerry courses, Beaufort Golf Club, is another venue rumoured to be closing. Last Saturday was the first time I heard about this one… and the only reason it came to my attention was because the golf club contacted me to make it clear the rumour was false.

There are rumours being spread that we are closing,” said Fiona Dunne, Marketing Manager at the club. “This is far from the truth. I want to put to bed that we are not closing and we are looking forward to a successful second half of the year, welcoming members old and new, and visitors too once we are allowed to re-open. Maintenance work is being carried out on a continuous basis, alongside the implementation of our BRS booking system and a refurbishment of the Pro Shop.” 
The club is celebrating its 25th anniversary with a special membership offer as all anniversary celebrations have been put on hold. No doubt there will be some celebrations in the future, especially when the rumours of closure have ceased.
**Killorglin and Castleisland members are in the process of forming a new club to be based on the Killorglin course.

Sunday, April 26, 2020

Does Golf Go Above and Beyond?

Douglas Golf Club
There are calls across the UK to open golf courses to the general public. 
There is a movement in the UK that’s gathering momentum and it is already being muttered about over here. Should golf courses be opened to the general public?
Caroline Lucas, former leader of the UK Green Party, was one of the first to suggest it, specifically in more urban areas where green spaces are more limited… and where parks have been closed because people aren’t following the rules. 
It makes sense, doesn’t it? Golf courses are vast green and pretty spaces where no one is hitting balls these days and people can enjoy fresh air without getting close to others.

You know what… I wholeheartedly approve of the idea. It’s fabulous.
On one condition.
These people respect the environment they are in. And that means the following:
1.     Every single dog crap has to be removed and disposed of responsibly, and not chucked in the nearest bush. Chances of that happening? 2 out of 10.
2.     No ball throwing for dogs onto greens where putting surfaces could be gouged by claws. In Scotland, where there is a ‘right to roam’, people typically walk their dogs on paths through the golf course, but at Prestwick – the birthplace of the Open Championship – they have a ‘neighbour’ who likes to throw tennis balls onto the green for his dog, thereby causing considerable damage. Chances of no ball throwing onto greens? 4 out of 10.
3.     No sunbathing or picnics on fairways, by ponds/lakes or in the woods. That’s one of the main reasons you got kicked out of the parks in the first place, you dummies. Chances of that happening? 6 out of 10.
4.     People don’t dump their rubbish wherever they choose. Chances of that happening? 0 out of 10.
5.     Natural habitats and wildlife are not disturbed by dogs or humans. Chances of that happening? 1 out of 10.
6.     No kids (or adults) cycling over greens, playing football, frisbee or any other ‘sport’ on fairways or greens. If there’s going to be any sport you can sod off and let us play golf. Chances of that happening? 0 out of 10.
7.     Dogs and/or children are not allowed to play or dig about in the bunkers, thereby damaging drainage, the banking or edges. Chances of that happening? 4 out of 10.
8.     No one brings a golf club with them to ‘practise’. No one brings a dozen balls and then leaves a series of unrepaired divots and/or unrepaired pitchmarks on the green. Chances of that happening? 3 out of 10.
9.     People obey all of the above rules. Chances of that happening? Absolutely zero.
Based on the above, any suburban course, be it Milltown, Castle, Elm Park, Mahon, Douglas, Shandon Park, Williamstown, Rathbane would be very generous to open its gates to the general public. It would be a strong showing of community spirit and social responsibility for these clubs (and all clubs for that matter) to make their courses so accessible… but then you also have to consider mundane details like insurance, security and health & safety.
Castle Golf Club
And who is going to monitor the general public when they are enjoying the golf course surroundings? And who picks up the tab for the damage caused? Based on recent Twitter and Facebook posts, it is abundantly clear that it only takes a few morons on quad bikes or bicycles, with beer cans and/or dogs to damage a course and get every golfer's temperature up.
Ireland is fortunate to have cities that are nothing like the size and spread of those in Birmingham, London or Manchester, where green spaces are few and far between. I see the point of the arguments being made because it would be a fabulous gesture in these difficult times and I know that some courses have indeed opened their gates but the demands to open up Irish golf courses will be nothing like as intense. And, as restrictions are relaxed - in the next fortnight with luck - we golfers will be the first to experience courses where greenkeepers have been working so, so hard to keep everything in the best condition possible. 

Friday, March 20, 2020

COVID-19 and Irish Golf

Galway Bay Golf Resort 14th green
The anxiety surrounding the Covid-19 virus has been growing stronger by the day and will continue to do so as the days become weeks and weeks become months. The Dubai Duty Free Irish Open is the first event now listed to be played on the European Tour, at the end of May, but no one is expecting the tournament to happen. We have a long way to go.
We all know what has been happening with pub closures, the cancellation of large events (sports, music, weddings etc.), the requirements for employees to work from home where at all possible... never mind the lay-offs. ‘Social distancing’ will undoubtedly become an official term in dictionaries around the world, people will get into the habit of washing their hands properly and families will discover new ways to entertain themselves thanks to the varying demands of self-isolation.  
At the same time life must go on and, for now, we are still able to enjoy the open spaces around us. Golf is a ‘good news’ story in that regard. Yes, clubhouse bars, restaurants and Pro shops – even the clubhouse itself – may be closing but plenty of courses remain open and payments can be made online or over the phone. In terms of social distancing and forming a group of no more than four people, golf is the perfect opportunity to get outdoors for some physical exercise and stimulate mental wellbeing with friends and/or family. The government has emphasised the importance of both of these.

Yesterday's joint statement from the GUI and ILGU included the following:
The GUI & ILGU recognise the significant impact that the current Coronavirus / COVID-19 crisis is having on golf clubs across Ireland. While areas within golf clubhouses may not be available due to the need for social distancing, the sport remains open and accessible.

Golf club members can still play and enjoy their golf while acting within the guidelines issued by the Health Service Executive in the Republic of Ireland and Public Health Agency in Northern Ireland. Visitors (e.g. societies, open days) either require some form of screening or should be discouraged for the time being."

The restrictions do not prevent casual rounds of golf taking place. Indeed, golf is a great sport for people generally to get out and about, exercise and enjoy fresh air. It is played in an outdoor setting where the risk of contracting Covid-19 is low.
Strandhill's 5th hole
Golf clubs are aware of the difficulties presented by this virus and are taking the necessary precautions. The HSE has not yet placed any specific restrictions on golf clubs (clubs in Spain and Germany are now closed, for example) and while this may yet come, for now you can take time out to play a few holes.
Clubs are adapting to the new climate by introducing a number of essential precautions as well as offers to keep golfers playing the game. Essential precautions include removing rakes from bunkers, taking away bins, benches and ball-washers, and requiring flags to be left in the hole and untouched (the bottom of the cup insert can be turned upside down so the ball can easily be retrieved and you can use a glove to do this). They are simple steps but all designed to stop the spread of the virus through unnecessary engagement and contact. This includes how you pay (online, phone, contactless).
It is no easy task to attract golfers as concern grows, but Galway Bay Golf Resort has introduced a heavily reduced green fee as well as strict clubhouse and golf course protocols… none of which is arduous.
During these very difficult times we feel it is important for the community to keep active and safe,” says Dave Wensley, Sales Manager at Galway Bay Golf Resort. “We have therefore reduced our green fee to €30 for 18 holes, seven days a week. This reduced rate applies because we can offer contactless payments in the club. Visitors can also call us to pre-pay and then head straight out at their allotted time without coming into the clubhouse.”
Galway Bay Golf Resort's 10th hole
The GUI/ILGU's statement indicates that large groups of visiting golfers should be discouraged, and while I agree with dissuading large groups from turning up my own feeling on the matter is that members and visitors are the same when it comes to playing golf and embracing the relevant protocols. As long as everyone follows them and signs in on arrival (for tracing purposes) then golf courses are still there to be enjoyed.
Whether clubs remain open just for members or for everyone, the ‘rules’ remain the same: use a hand sanitiser frequently (clubhouses - if open - are stocking them), change your shoes in the car park, wash your hands thoroughly, don’t shake hands, keep your distance especially on the tee, and avoid touching your playing partners’ clubs or ball. 
At Macreddin, golfers are limited to one person per buggy.
If, as assumed, far worse is to come then it will come as no surprise when golf courses close their doors. In the meantime, playing this game remains an outlet to get outside and enjoy limited and careful social interaction, mental relaxation and physical exercise. 

Thursday, February 27, 2020

Golf Ireland Launches Its Brand Identity

On Monday this week, Golf Ireland launched its logo... as seen here.

I wrote this piece for the Irish Examiner, explaining the launch and the background to Golf Ireland. If you are an overseas visitor to my blog then you won't have any idea what Golf Ireland is all about. The article will explain it in depth but, basically, it's the new body that combines the separate Men's golfing union (GUI) and Ladies' golfing union (ILGU). Remarkably, Ireland is the last country in the world to have two separate unions based on gender.

I posted a Tweet showing the logo and inviting feedback from the Twittersphere. It wasn't positive.

"As a Venn diagram it would have been tricky in the junior cert."

"Take away the words and what are you left with. Spud-men? Mating amoeba? Two elastic bands?"

"With a squint of the eye it looks like someone is carrying something. Spud man with golf bag."

There wasn't one response that was complimentary.

Logos and branding are so difficult to get right and even more difficult to explain to the 'man on the street'. I was at the launch and listened to the rationale behind the logo's creation. Green shapes, bunker shapes, intertwining, moving away from the typical golf logo (of ball/flags/golfer silhouette)... sure, it made sense when it was explained in detail but if the typical golfer doesn't have this information to hand and they look at the above logo... what are they going to think?

Well... what do you think?

Saturday, February 1, 2020

The Top 100 Irish Golf Course Rankings... x 2

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.

Carton House (Montgomerie) 16 green

Irish Golfer Top 100 
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.
Connemara Links

Sunday, December 22, 2019

Top 10 Golf Course Photos of 2019

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

Saturday, December 7, 2019

Christmas Golf Gifts for 2019

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.

The Caddy Guy
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.
Mount Juliet
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
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.iecall 01 5054040 or email 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: to book.
Views from Dooks 
Seed Golf
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.

The Irish Putter

Aidhm – R-Series Blade Putter

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.

For prices, contact Peter on 051 644 721

Sunwise Shades
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 ( 
Cost €80 approx.

Shoe Joy
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!
Cost €30

Relive The Open Championship
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.

In The Bag
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.
Cost €120 approx, plus shipping

The Perfect Strike
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.
Cost from €50 approx.

Stamp On It
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. 
Cost from €9.95 (free shipping)

Bioflow Sport Flex Wristband

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.
Cost €30

Volvik V1 Laser Rangefinder 

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. (ships to Ireland) 
Cost €230 approx.

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."
www.books.ieCost €16.99

Tiger Woods, by Jeff Benedict, 
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 
Cost €15.40

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 Holes and 18 Greatest Irish Golf Holes.
Available on
Cost €12.00 approx.

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.

Cost €14.00

Golf Magazines
And don't forget the new breed of golf magazines and their subscription based set-up

Click HERE for my reviews

I hope you find something you like that will bring a little golfing joy into someone's life.

Saturday, November 9, 2019

Golf's New Magazines (Part 3 of 3)

Golf Turns the Page

The third magazine to be covered in this three part series is an interesting hybrid of origins.

Part 3

Country of Origin: USA (sort of)
First Issue: May 2018
Frequency: Occasional
Size: 100 pages
Podcast: Yes

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