Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Two birdie Thurles

I had a choice: do I eat at Nenagh or do I eat at Thurles? Believe me, this is as exciting as it gets much of the time. I plumped for Thurles. After about 15 minutes I found myself on those back roads with grass growing up the middle. The kind of road you hope no one else is coming the other way.

Thurles was buzzing with activity – there was a ladies’ match on and it was going down 19 - so I sat in the bar and ordered some food. Now I don’t often make comments on the food because a). I don’t eat in enough places to be able to compare, and b). we all can have an off-night once in a while. But my food was not great, and I overheard someone else making the comment that the food at Thurles had not been good for a while. In a club that is recognised as a good parkland you need to have good food.

The course has been dissected by a big road so you walk through a tunnel to get to the 1st tee. This is the ‘new’ remodelled 9. The older 9 was seen as being too short. So now you have that new feel, with the shapes of the greens and the bunkering around them. There is plenty of water out here and it is an interesting 9 that mixes some good holes with the oddities that are 8 and 9: 8 is fine after you’ve played it once. Put it this way, looking at the hole from the tee I thought it was a dogleg right because of the line of bunkers, but it’s actually straight down and you can go right of the line of evergreens or left of them, over the bunkers; 9 is an attractive hole but the fairway is an explosion of lilting mounds that is not repeated anywhere else.

When I arrived on the 1st there’s a pond immediately in front of the tee and a swan resided there with four or five (they were all bundled up together so there was no telling) cygnets. And right next door, only feet away, a duck sat with a bunch of ducklings. As I played the par three 4th (see pic), one of the greenkeepers turned up and fed the swan. It reminded me of a story from Tuam when one of the greenkeepers was in the final pairing for the second round of the Captain’s Prize. As the players and a considerable following approached the par five 8th, a swarm (collective noun anyone?) of ducks hurried out of the pond that runs alongside the hole and headed enthusiastically towards the greenkeeper. The two players were surrounded in a Hitchcock-esque moment as the ducks waited to be fed by the man who brought their food every morning.

Back on the other side of the road – we’re back to Thurles – you hit the classic parkland holes that the course is known for. Rich and green, and big. The 10th is index 1 and it is followed by the best hole on the course, a par three downhill, over some sort of ruins (see pic - flag just to the right of wall). I birdied it as well as the next par three, the 14th. Down Greystones way that’s worth a few bob. Sadly they were the only bright sparks on a bad day – 2 lost balls didn’t help. Actually, it was three, but it was one of those amusing times when you hear a ball crack against wood and haven’t a clue where it went, only to find it on a fairway two holes later.

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