Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Athenry - Loughrea

From Cregmore Park I was directed down the back roads to Athenry, and sometimes it is a blessing to have a huge lorry in front of you: cars steer clear, finding the smallest of holes to squeeze into. It just makes my life a lot easier since I don’t command that same respect.

[Photo: par four 1st at Athenry]

Athenry has a big, new clubhouse. Or so it appears on arrival. Actually it’s a 2 million euro revamp, but it makes a great impression and I ate there in the evening and following morning. It was good grub, which is not always the case. As an example, I played at Tralee about 8 years ago. There were three of us and we ate in the clubhouse afterwards. Actually, we didn’t. The food was inedible. I ate there a few weeks ago and the food was excellent, but that would be expected of one of the more entertaining links courses on the planet.

I played Athenry early in the morning and got around very quickly. It is a solid parkland course and must be a society’s dream location. It’s not hard wor, it’s not long, it has the facilities and the grub, and it entertainment from start to finish – particularly the finish, as you head into a wood of tall pine. But it's also worth mentioning 3 and 12, two particularly pretty par threes that run side by side. [Photo: par three 12th at Athenry]

Loughrea came next and is one of those odd courses that never quite finds a single direction. On what is a fairly basic country course, this actually works in its favour. The variety means you never know what’s next.

I met the greenkeeper who was mowing the greens as I putted on the 1st. And the 2nd, the 3rd and 4th. He never said a word or even smiled. I finally escaped him on the 5th, but not for long. Usually, on my early morning rounds you bump into the men and women looking after the course for the first few holes, or at some stage later on, but not the whole way round. My uncommunicative friend reappeared on 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14 and 15. He kept waving at me to play into the green, but wasn’t inclined to stop mowing. I’m not taking that kind of risk, so I would aim well away from him at one of the bunkers – oddly I ended up within four feet of the pin. Twice. [Photo: par four 15th at Loughrea. Beware the second lot of water in front of the green]

When he followed me up the 16th I was prepared for more of the same, but thankfully he veered off. And at that point, despite aiming at the flag, I found bunkers on two of the last three holes.

Next stop Ballinasloe.

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