Thursday, July 24, 2008

Down Royal and Edenmore

[Photo: brilliant Par 3 17th]

It’s odd the little things that happen to you as you travel around – and I don’t mean golf necessarily. After leaving Lurgan I decided to take the opportunity to get clothes washed, so I dropped them in to a local laundrette and headed off to Edenmore – golf club/leisure and conference facility. I expected a decent sized bar and restaurant but, remarkably, the place closes up at 4pm – even on a Wednesday in summer. It was a tame night for me in the camper van, that’s for sure.

[Photo: Par 5 dogleg 1st]

While I won’t rave about the course, which should be in better condition considering the time of year, I will rave about a 25 yard putt I sank on the Index 1 2nd – for a birdie. It lights up a round, at least until you take a double bogey at the par three 4th. No matter. I found a rather old ball on the 5th, and dropped it in front of the green which sits in front of the clubhouse. After my round, my shower, my lunch and my review, and a few other odds and ends, I left Edenmore and noticed that the ball was still sitting where I’d left it. Obviously the kids from Lurgan weren’t around.

The thrill of the day was collecting my laundry. Shock horror, they’d discovered my favourite t-shirt on the floor of the van, along with socks and jocks, after my other clothes had been washed. They were due in at 4pm. Regrettably I had to move on, but I still pine for my Mount Juliet shirt. Perhaps I’ll get back there one day.

And on to Down Royal. The club is unique in a number of ways: there are just two greenkeepers and two fulltime members of staff – both named Billy. No worries about getting the wrong one. When I walked in I asked if the man behind the desk was Billy. He said yes, so I asked which one, to which he replied that he was the one who worked. Fair enough since Billy 2 was on holiday. As Billy welcomed me he was desperately trying to keep his grand daughter away from the fax machine in the office (where he was taking green fees). She seemed determined to empty the machine of paper, and every time it spat out a sheet she’d gleefully shout ‘papa’.

Down Royal is a heathland track – quite literally – as it sits inside the Down Royal racecourse. It is another of these rarely talked about courses that deserves more credit. Put it this way, you can come here on a Tuesday or Thursday, pay £17 and get a meal after a round of golf that is a lot of fun. Gorse is your main challenge, similar to The Heath, and in its exposed position wind will make all the difference. The greens need serious improvements, but their bareness works in the given setting, so not too much tinkering is required.

Afterwards, in the clubhouse, I was sitting with Ian, Michael and Tommo. Billy was now serving behind the bar and making sure that the boys didn’t fill me with drink and tall tales. Certainly one tale about Spa caught my ear, for the simple reason that I loved the course. A recent, alleged, confrontation by the club with a green keeper led to the green keeper spilling diesel over eight greens, completely ruining them. No, that’s not the story I liked. The one I liked was Tommo’s tale that goes back to the days when Spa was a 9 hole course. On the third hole, this guy – I’ll call him John – stands up on the tee and smashes his drive into the huge tree off the tee box. The ball never reappears. He hits a second shot, that also hits the tree and disappears. A third tee shot has exactly the same result, and a furious John turns around and stomps off back the clubhouse. That night, at about 2am, the neighbours in the vicinity of the club call the police because of ‘activity’ on the golf course. And when the police arrive they discover John, with a chainsaw, cutting down the offending tree.

Tommo held up his hand at the end of the story and proclaimed it gospel truth as John was a friend of his. Good story, just be sure to take a pinch of salt with it!

1 comment:

  1. this story reguarding john and his famous tree at the spa can be verified by a few of 'senior players!!' of a by-gone era

    therefore no salt required