Saturday, August 2, 2008

Donaghadee, by the sea

Donaghadee was easy to find – after some of my recent ‘hidden’ courses it was a relief to drive straight in and park. As with most places I have a quick look around, and stretches of the course were on show in the evening sun. A good feeling, and the course was busy – always a good sign, even at 8 in the evening. Knowing that rain was coming the next day I was sorely tempted to go out, but another 54 would have done me in, and I would have had to fly around. So dinner and a pint seemed much more appealing. And they were. The food really is good here and the whole entertainment thing is taken seriously – bands and dinner dances are frequent events – you’ll find a programme of events around the clubhouse.

Two things made me laugh when I arrived in the bar. The first was a large glitterball hanging over the dance floor. I haven’t seen one of those since the days when ‘clubs’ were called ‘discos’, and the obligatory slow set sent spotty teenage boys into a frenzy of uncontrollable hormones – at least until Lady in Red made us all violently in. My brother-in-law went to a wedding ten years ago when the bride walked down the aisle to Lady in Red. One side of the aisle (the bride’s, presumably) were all sobbing because it was so beautiful; the other side were wetting themselves with laughter because, and let’s be honest here, it’s naff.

The second thing in the bar was the wooden marker for the 13th tee box. Not often you see one of those in the bar, and certainly one of the toughest driving holes I’ve ever seen. The club is looking for sponsors and the tee markers will add tremendously to the appearance of tee boxes. And what better place to promote the idea than in the bar.

Then the rain started at 3am and it was still going at 8am. So I decided to walk the course. Playing in those conditions doesn’t give you a feel for a course at all.

Donaghadee is a good seaside course. I liked it, even only walking. There’s definitely a lack of colour but it does combine links, parkland and heathland so there’s something for everyone. And this close to the sea it’s always hard work getting deciduous trees to grow. I had a long chat in the bar afterwards with Jim, the Manager. For once I actually felt like I had something to offer, but only because the comments I was making were already being addressed. The most notable of which was on 16, where a long tee box hides the beauty of the downhill drive when playing from the back tee. The new course layout shows it being ‘stepped’. There were other things too, but when I mentioned bunkering, Jim immediately said that this was all going to change. Which is a shame because I thought some of the bunkering was brilliant.

The course is worth a visit undoubtedly – the green fees alone are a steal – and you have, in holes 2 and 12, those magnificent high tees that drop down to a distant fairway before rising up high to the green. Great to look at and nerve-wracking to play.

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