Saturday, March 22, 2008

Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

On my travels I am asked certain questions time and again. ‘Which is the best course you’ve played?’ is by far the most common, but I’ve answered the top 12 below. (Photo: Rathcore Par three 11th)

Why am I writing this book?
My standard answer is that if you pick up almost any golf book on Ireland, you’ll find two pages on Ballybunion, but only two lines (if any at all) on Greystones. Clearly, Ballybunion is a better course, but there are many golfers out there who do not want to play Ballybunion, or cannot afford it. There are also a lot of societies who want to stay local and are looking for value for money.
This book gives every 18 hole course its own page, where the course and golf experience are described. Courses are also ranked against a number of criteria, although I am not trying to say that one course is better than another based on the final score.
The true answer, of course, is that I want to play golf for a year, and lots of it. Getting a book deal is just a huge bonus!

Where am I member?
Greystones Golf Club, Co. Wicklow

What’s my handicap?
I play off a very variable 7

Is my golf getting better because I’m playing so much?
I wish! I have discovered a fade I never knew I had, and travelling so much means I have no opportunity to put it right. I also draw the ball. I also hit it straight. Deciding where to aim off the tee box is proving a nightmare.

What’s the best course I’ve played?
Depends on what you mean by best. To date (190 courses played) the most sensational challenge is Scrabo in Co. Down. And it costs £24 at weekends. Amazing views too.
The best views are from Narin & Portnoo, which also has the best run of holes (7 to 11) so far. Old Head of Kinsale also deserves a mention. It’s not often you’ll get the chance to hit a three iron out to sea over 300ft cliffs and watch the wind bring it back to the green.
The most unbelievable experience goes to Carne. It has to be seen to be believed.
The most peaceful is Headfort New, along with Rathcore.

What’s the worst?
In terms of quality, I’d say Dublin Mountain and Slievenamon. But these courses serve a specific purpose and appeal to a particular audience who don’t wish to play the big courses. It’s about knowing your market.
Far more infuriating are the courses that claim greatness (and often charge accordingly) when really they’re just average. The Smurfit course at the K Club is the biggest offender, but there are others.

Has a golf club refused you permission to play?
Not yet. In fact everyone has been exceptionally accommodating. I expected that clubs like Old Head, Ballybunion, Doonbeg, Portmarnock Old… would want letters from my publisher, but they have been very helpful. The only difficulties I run into are when it’s Ladies Day or a weekend. And even then I usually get out easily enough.

How many 18 hole courses are there?
Honestly, I don’t know. 360 approximately, but courses seem to crop up all the time and if they’re not GUI affiliated, it’s not easy hearing about them. For example, Scarke is close to me in New Ross but if I hadn’t driven past it I’d never have known it existed.

Do you get lonely in the camper van?
Absolutely, but fortunately the winter is over and clubhouses won’t be closing at 5pm anymore. It’s quite soul-destroying getting into the campervan at 5pm and closing up shop for the night. Then again, I’m not sitting in an office from 9 to 5 am I!

How does your wife take all of this?

What’s the title of the book?
Hooked: an amateur’s guide to the golf courses of Ireland.

Who is publishing the book and when?
Collins Press in Cork. ‘When’ is not yet decided - late 08 or early 09.

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