Friday, August 29, 2008

Gorgeous Galgorm Castle

[The 3rd hole, from behind the tee, completely flooded. Photo courtesy of Desmond]

Road works. Damn it, I hate roadworks. Now is the summer of our discontent etc. Crappy weather and an abundance of roadworks. I actually got within a quarter of a mile of Galgorm Castle before roadworks stopped me dead. I had to go on a big detour around Ballymena before I could get back to the club. Result: I missed my tee time. Fortunately, Barbara, the General Manager, sorted me out and I got away before a society.

A fourball let me through on the 4th and that was it for traffic. Desmond and three young ones ushered me onto the tee and I then walked the hole with them. Desmond, a member, said he’d send me a photo he took a week and a half ago, of the course partially under water. The terrible floods drowned three of the holes, and yet the course was open only a few days later. And now, a week and a half after that the course looks perfect. There is some detritus around tree trunks, showing how high the water rose, but that bears testament to the course’s powers of recovery.

[Right Photo: the 10th under water. Photo courtesy of Desmond]
[Photo Blow: the 10th as it's supposed to be]

After my round, Barbara and Phil arranged for me to meet the owner. Christopher arrived and we had a chat in the bar, where he told me about the future plans for the course and Galgorm Castle alongside. When he said that he hated the term ‘golf resort’, I knew what he meant, but that is what this will become. Then again, it will be so much more. Christopher took me around the castle and it is stunning. And when it is refurbished it will be magnificent. I wait to see if the painting of Dr. Colville is removed from the front entrance. Apparently, when he owned the castle some centuries ago, he sold his soul to the devil for a cellar full of gold. Legend has it that doom will fall on anyone who removes the painting. And yes, his ghost still haunts the grounds. Well, it would, wouldn’t it! Will it become a major golfing attraction? Yes, and so much more.

I don’t think I’ve ever used this blog to brag about my golf. Imagine it: “On the 1st at Galgorm Castle I hit a driver off the tee. I used a Titleist 4 with two red dots. It was a perfect drive, sailing through the air with the greatest of ease, catching the wind and drifting…” you get the idea. It would be boring in the extreme. But on this occasion I shall make an exception. When I started this trip I had two specific golfing goals: to get a hole in one (I’m still holeless) and to go around in level par. The former is more luck than anything, but the latter is within my control. A couple of times I have arrived on the 18th on level par, only to cock it up and rue the missed opportunity. So today, at Galgorm Castle, I realised very quickly that one of my goals might be achieved. And it just got better and better. Forget level par. How does four under par sound? Five birdies rolled off my putter, including the 18th. I know I shall never repeat it, but for now I’m enjoying the fact that my face is hurting from all the smiling. True, I had my luck – I bladed a wedge into rough two feet deep, hacked out and then duffed the next into the hole. Par. But for once every part of my game worked and the course is generous enough for a few wayward shots.

So, does this mean that Galgorm Castle gets a fantastic review in my book? Of course, but it thoroughly deserves it. The points I’ve awarded it would be the same if I’d played badly. This is a beautiful course with tremendous ‘playability’ – a term I particularly like as it means everyone will enjoy it. There is space that gives every hole an opportunity to express itself, and trees, rivers and ponds give the landscape an idyllic structure.

And not one person on my travels had ever mentioned it. So I’m ‘mentioning’ it now.

[Photo: the 3rd green, with the 4th green between the trees in the distance]

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