Friday, May 16, 2008

The running man of Mahon

It’s 6.30am and a car pulls up next to the camper van at Mahon Golf Club. I hear the unmistakable sound of clubs and trolley. I’m out of bed and eating breakfast, but 6.30am is just a bit mad.

By 7am I am on the 1st tee, somewhat confused. With the dew I can clearly see the tracks of the mystery man – only there appears to be more than one, with two or three sets of footprints heading off in different directions. As I continue to follow these odd trails, I finally encounter the other golfer as I play the 6th hole, overlooking the estuary. [Photo: Par three 4th, overlooking Lough Mahon at low tide]

“Beautiful day,” he calls out as goes up the 7th. The man is running and he’s left his bag behind on the tee. I’m about to point out the obvious, but think better of it. The man reaches his drive, looks at it, turns and then runs back for his trolley. He continues running, pulling the trolley to the ball, hitting his second shot and then repeating the process, running up and then back. I’m dumbfounded. Later, I ask Peter in the shop about this. He laughs and tells me that this is John Horgan, who is 67 years old. I know they’re talking about bringing in some new kind of faster golf competitions – Power Golf – but this is mental.

Mahon was a piece of magic. You don’t expect a course this good that’s ‘Municipal’. The tee box for 5 and 11 sits out in the estuary and requires you to drive over it. 11 is a big drive with a long carry over water. I hit a bad one, and watched my ball hit the rocks on the far side. There was no splash because it was low tide, and as I rounded the estuary there were dozens and dozens of balls lying on the mud, tantalisingly out of reach. Except one. Having lost one I thought I’d replace it. I ventured down over the slippery rocks and stepped onto the mud. Bad idea. I began to sink, but I’d come this far so I was determined to claim my ball. As I sank lower I scooped up the ball with a three iron and beat a retreat before the mud oozed over the top of my shoe. And what a find: a brand new Titleist emblazoned with Ballybunion Golf Club. Clearly Mahon attracts the higher end of the market!

And after all that, I found my own ball further up the fairway.

There’s one other touch that I particularly enjoyed at Mahon: the walk under Cork’s South Ring Road, which you take to reach 15 and 16, again along the estuary, before returning the same way. It was about 8.30am when I headed through the tunnel, and the traffic was at a standstill overhead. They’re all on their way to work and I’m playing golf. How great is that! [Photo: Par four 15th with excellent views of stationary traffic]

I was at nearby Douglas in the afternoon – if you’re going from one to the other, Peter, at Mahon, gives excellent directions – and I encountered four English gentlemen on the 12th. I encountered them again in the bar and we got to talking. When they found out what I was doing, one of them said: “You can put in your book that you met four Brits on the 12th hole and they were playing absolute crap!” So here it is.

Later in the round I caught up to three threeballs, also English, who were on a quick tour – playing Harbour Point (in excellent condition apparently, despite next May’s looming closure), Cork (a bit too tough for some of them) and Lee Valley, which picked them all up from the airport, at no charge, and had them playing for €35 a head. Now that’s a pretty sweet deal, isn’t it! Good on Lee Valley for devising that marketing ploy, and keep them coming. [Photo: Par four 17th at Douglas. This English guy has just hit his drive about 350 yards]

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