Tuesday, September 9, 2008

PGA National – head in the sand

[Photo: par three 3rd which sums up the brilliant front 9 perfectly]

Call me crazy, but there can’t be many golf courses in the world that boast an ostrich when you drive in. I nearly crashed as this odd looking head poked over a fence at me. Inside the clubhouse I asked Maria, the girl who I’d arranged my round with, if it had caused any accidents. Apparently not.

I’ve been buzzing about the PGA course for a couple of years now, so it was brilliant to turn up after a miserable, wet morning, and find the sun out. True, there was a serious wind, but in the grand scheme of things that was a minor complaint.

I was also supposed to be meeting the Course Editor from Today’s Golfer magazine, but he had to cancel. Hopefully I’ll be hooking up with him in October. I’m already writing articles for Ireland’s Golfing Magazine, but being featured in a UK magazine will be a big thrill.

A Christy O’Connor designed course always generates some interesting comments, but Palmerstown must be one of his best (Headfort New being another beauty). It has a wide expanse of room to work with and the whole thing has been put together immaculately. As I played the par three 3rd, there were four men gardening the enormous bed that banks the right hand side. Flowers and shrubs of all descriptions give it a flash of colour, and this is repeated several times – the par five 9th (a huge bunker is stuffed with shrubs) and the enclosed par three 12th most noticeably. The effort that goes into maintaining a course like this must be huge, but as the Irish home of the PGA I suppose it has to look the part. And it does. Right down to the changing rooms which are luxurious – quite like Fota Island and The Heritage. When you pay big green fees you expect that whole pampering thing.

[Photo: par five 9th - the fairway swings right, behind the water and then left, back up to the green above the bunkers]

When you walk up onto the 1st tee you’ll find a choice of four tees. Gold, silver, bronze and black. I played from the bronze, which measures 6,468 yards. If you fancy the big tees, you’re looking at 7,419 yards. With beaches of sand, and vast and beautiful swathes of water on 13 holes, you might as well pick the sensible tees – or at least the ones that suit your game. I found water twice and considered myself lucky.

It is an experience, that’s for sure, but my guess is that Americans would make the same claim about it that they make about the K Club, which is that courses like this are a dime a dozen in the US. Fair enough, but not that many of us go to the US to find these things out.

One point to note is that it is a long course, even off the black tees, because there are several walks from green to tee which skirt the water and add on several hundred yards. And on 12 you walk the whole length of the hole to reach the tee - it is worth it. At least the course is mostly level. Or take a buggy if you’re a lightweight.

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