Thursday, April 30, 2009

First sighting - Easons is a 'good' bookshop

It's a real buzz when you hear that a publisher is giving you a contract to write a book on something that you've always dreamed about; it's an even bigger buzz when you see the finished article sitting on the shelves of a bookshop.

Monday, April 27, 2009

In all good book shops

After three years, I can finally say that the book is in the shops. Not only that – it is for sale in all ‘good’ bookshops. I have not yet been told when it will appear in ‘bad’ bookshops, or, indeed, what makes a bookshop bad. So if you go to your local bookshop and there’s no copy of Hooked available, you’ll know you’re in a bad place. Please try to enlighten them as to how they can be upgraded to the ‘good’ category.

Of course you can also buy it online. The first day it appeared on, my wife pointed out that you can see where your book is ranked in order of sales. I was ranked at 790,000. I started watching daily and it became addictive. My brother-in-law bought a book (he doesn’t even like golf!) and so did a couple of friends – the book rocketed up the charts to 200,000. I was heading into Harry Potter territory, racing for the top spot. The next time I looked it had dropped to 322,000. Then it was up, then down, then up… then I had to stop. This sort of thing can wreck your head.

Killing Time at Killeen Castle

Three times in 2008 I asked Killeen Castle if I could play and review the course; three times they refused. They didn’t want to be reviewed until April 2009, was the response I received. I explained the book wouldn’t be out until April, but it got me nowhere. So, in 2009 I asked again if I could review the course and put it on my blog, so that it would be the first page when people visited after my book hit the shops. They wished me luck with the book but the email I received had this little gem in it: “They have declined your request with regards to reviewing the course for your blog at this time.”

Well, if they didn’t want to be on the blog – too bad because they’re on it! It makes them one of only four courses I didn’t review:
• Mount Ober: refused to be reviewed unless they could see and edit what I wrote. No thanks.
• Bunclody: was still too young (i.e. mud and sand) when I visited, but it is beautiful by all accounts.
• Harbour Point: closing very shortly.
• Killeen Castle: unaware that there’s a recession on and that positive publicity for the club would be a good thing. Shame, as I hear it’s impressive.

I suspect that I may never get an invitation now, but I was fairly hacked off by the attitude.

A little magic at Macreddin

I forgot to put up a blog about Macreddin the first time I played, but I went back recently to enjoy its charms again. One of this course’s great advantages is that it is part of Brooklodge, with an excellent hotel and the Strawberry Tree restaurant. There’s a pub and a couple of shops too, so it’s almost a destination, and the day I played (with my mate, Charlie) there was a wedding on. Probably one every weekend.

I’ve heard one complaint about this course: the lengthy walks to the first and tenth tees. Certainly, for the latter, you have to keep your eyes peeled to find where you’re going, but McGinley had to divide the course up, and this is how it fell.

The back 9 will hit you with a few climbs, but it also gives you the 12th, a superb par four dogleg that just happens to be Index 1. Charlie and I both got a par, but in completely different ways, and it illustrates the easy and the hard way to play the hole. The drive is captivating, hitting from a high tee to a flat fairway below, across Ballycreen Brook. Because it’s Index 1 you have to smash it as far as you can – or so you’d think. If you can cut the corner then you’re a seriously big hitter and I envy you; if not, the ideal route is to play a shorter tee shot that lands just over the brook (as Charlie did). This then gives you a straight shot into the green (over the brook again) which is clearly visible. If you drive too far and too straight, you’ll discover that there are two large pine trees on the brook’s bank which block your route entirely (as I discovered). And if you’re playing from the forward and middle tees you could drive too far and go up the bank.

With the changes in elevation, doglegs and trees, the back 9 is more enticing and more difficult. But the front 9 has views of the valley and some magical holes (2, 6, 7). It also has the beautiful and unbelievably towering par three 4th. It is miles below you and takes several minutes to walk down to it. It’s worth noting that the path to the 5th is about three-quarters of the way down, so leave your clubs and conserve your energy.

Charlie had an interesting encounter with the par threes – he hit a 7 iron at all four and landed on each green (and got par). I left my 6 iron on the tee box at the 7th and asked Dave – in the shop – to keep an eye out for it. He called me later to say it had been handed in. When I turned up to collect it, he was very impressed that I had hit a 6 iron to a 204 yard hole. I nodded graciously, flexing my biceps so they rippled under my tee shirt – as you do – too embarrassed to mention that we’d played from the forward tees, some 40 yards closer.

These are difficult times and it will be interesting to see how Macreddin endures. A clubhouse is planned, but for now you need to get a swipe card from the office to let yourself into the leisure facilities (which you pass on the walk back from the 18th green). And, as you play the front 9, you will see tall pillars sticking up. Initially I thought they were for a bridge of some description, but when you walk to the 10th you realise these are the chimney stacks of houses yet to be built. They’re a bit unsightly and they might remain that way for some time. That said, the houses that have been completed are very impressive indeed.