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

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Sister Courses in Ireland and Oregon to Host Golf Championships in 2021


When Carne Golf Links first told me about their twinning with Gearhart Golf Links, in Oregon, I thought: now that's a brilliant idea. Two courses that help each other, swap ideas, promote the other locally and nationally, field teams against each other, and generally just create a positive channel of communication between them. What's not to like? Joint membership? Yep, that too.

Though separated by thousands of miles, these two courses with a unique connection will celebrate their alliance in the summer of 2021 by hosting national championships: The US

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Saudi Arabia, Golf and Sportswashing

An announcement by the Ladies European Tour (LET) last month reignited a controversy about professional golf tournaments taking place in Saudi Arabia.

It may seem that the horse has already bolted following the European Tour’s Saudi International golf tournaments of 2019 and 2020, but the LET is also involved. The original plan was for the Ladies’ event to take place in March 2020, two months after the men, but Covid-19 put a stop to that. Until now.

 

In October, the LET announced not one but two ‘landmark’ tournaments for November (12-19), with prize money of $1.5 million on offer. 

A glossy video hit the airways showing female professionals giving lessons to young Saudi