Saturday, August 23, 2008

Losing it at Loughgall

I found it very entertaining to roll into a golf club and pull up next to three other camper vans. For a minute I was worried that someone else was writing a golf book too, but it turns out that Loughgall Country Park and Golf Club caters to far more than golfers. It includes a football pitch, tennis courts, walking/cycling tracks and a campsite. And as much as I hate football, I was extremely grateful to the football pitch on which the camper vans were parked. It was a 7.30am round and on the 10th hole I checked my mobile phone for messages. There weren’t any, for the simple reason that there was no mobile phone. There was no wallet either. Don’t panic, I told myself – they’re probably in the camper. Still, I backtracked a couple of holes to when I had put on my waterproof top. Nothing. So I was mightily surprised when I walked off 18, trekked back across the football pitch to the camper van and almost stepped on my phone. Yes, it had rained, but only lightly. It was about 30 yards from the camper. The hunt for my wallet then began and I walked all the way to the 1st tee with that sinking feeling. Yet there it was, lying in the grass right beside the tee. I have no idea how many golfers had walked right past it, but luck was clearly on my side. And I can only assume that I had been the only person in about three hours who had walked the path across the pitch to and from my camper.

Loughgall, for me, falls into that category of parkland courses that have tremendous potential if only a serious designer was to cast an eye over it. That’s not to say it’s not already good, but with some finesse it could become a serious attraction. And it’s a municipal course. Huge trees float around the place, there’s water, there are great undulations and three very short par fours are going to tempt everybody.

On the 10th (before I realised I was traveling lighter than I should have been), I ended up talking to Wayne Haffey – the head greenkeeper – for about 15 minutes. Golf, obviously. Next summer he’s trying to play six courses in six different counties in one day. He and a friend will take buggies at each of the courses, but even then I think the traveling times between courses are going to be a major problem. I wish him luck and I hope he raises lots of money for the cancer charity he’s supporting.

Loughgall doesn’t mess about with rough either – unlike the two nearby courses (County Armagh and Portadown) where it’s all about playability, Loughgall has left much of the rough to grow wild and deep. If you stray you can kiss your ball goodbye – on 15 you’re not even allowed to go and look for it. It really adds to the colour and the drama of the course.

Oh, and for £50 you can become a member. You’ll find that very hard to beat.

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