Wherever you go, there will always be a couple of courses side-by-side that golfers will compare. County Sligo vs Strandhill, County Louth vs Seapoint, and Athlone vs Glasson.
One has the reputation, the pedigree and the celebrity factor that draws the visitors; the other, well, sits in the shadows. In all three of the above instances you'll get a real buzz by playing both courses. And for me, this is most marked with Athlone and Glasson.
Glasson is, comparatively, the young pretender. It has acres of space and it has Christy O'Connor Jr's name to it. It has wonderful views and a lilting landscape that simply begs for a golf course to be adorned across it. And it has a great hotel too, making Glasson a comprehensive, full-bodied golfing experience. [Pic: Glasson 14th tee]
Athlone dates back to 1892 and the maturity of the trees makes it a stunning course: 1 is superb, and 7 and 15 must get harder every year with trees defending against all shots. Athlone, too, has a big Irish name attached to the design (in part): Des Smyth. And the Hodson Bay Hotel sits next door. The landscape is just as captivating as Glasson. [Pic: Athlone approach to 3rd green]
So how do you compare the two?
The way to answer that is to play them in quick succession. I know which I prefer, because the course offers more enticing shots and greater challenges, as well as an impressive amount of variety.
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