Monday, May 19, 2008

Scratch at Bantry Bay

Just to keep things ticking over with my handicap I enter competitions from time to time, and a Junior Scratch at Bantry Bay was too good to miss. The location is stunning, and even if your golf is rubbish you get the chance to revel in the scenery. Bantry Bay is beautiful, ensconced in a ring of mountains, looking over glorious stretches of water. Perhaps the distractions were the reason my golf was rubbish. I played with Ronan Nagle, who didn't have much luck either. The meeting turned out to be fortuitous since his dad, Denis, is the Manager at Kilrush Golf Club where I will be in a few weeks, and a member of Ballybunion, and Ronan’s brother is a member at Dromoland Castle. It makes things a lot easier when I try to arrange tee times. He plays off 18 and we had a very relaxed if tiring round. Off the back sticks, Bantry Bay is 6,700 yards and feels an awful lot longer with its blind drives and tumbling hills. As we struggled up to the 9th tee box we talked about Mahon – a really fun Cork City course – and he told me that the current holes 1 and 2, used to be 17 and 18, and they were known as ‘heart attack hill’. If you play there you’ll know why! I felt the same way about Bantry Bay on a number of occasions, but the views tend to sustain you. Walking up to the par three 9th green (see pic) is one of the highlights, as is the 10th tee, where you are met by views across the sea and islands to the Beara Mountains, Sheep's Head and the Mizen Peninsula.

The greens are a little bit crazy, with substantial mounding around them and also holding them at some severe angles. It’s over the top – it doesn’t sit with the location, and I really wasn’t surprised when I found out afterwards that these were Christy O’Connor Jr designs. On what is, essentially, an impressive country course, which obviously has intentions of being something more (and will be in time), the greens are an anomaly. On 14, Ronan was on the front of the green, putted maybe 30 feet up the slope and failed to get over the ridge. His ball ended up at the bottom again. He four putted. But he had never played there before so it was understandable. The club’s Captain however, playing in the same event, five putted. If that doesn’t indicate how difficult these big greens can be then nothing will.

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