Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Kilternan Hotel. What happened next?

[Photo: the ski slope]

Kilternan Hotel, with its dry ski slope and 'need-one-leg-longer-than-the-other' golf course, was a place I knew well growing up. I learned to ski here and swam in the pool, but never played the mountainside golf course which, legend has it, was a bit of a joke.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

€66 at The Heritage

[Photo: The clubhouse - picture copied from]
It's hard to believe, but it was the end of 2003 when I first saw The Heritage at Killenard (as it was to be called at the time). This was a massive hotel/spa/bowls/golf resort in the countryside of County Laois, 3km from Portarlington. I was working with a design agency, BFK, at the time and the resort was still being developed. BFK were creating the brand and producing the resort's first brochures - not an easy task when much of the site is still mud and mere aspiration. As is the modern fascination/requirement, there was to be a large development of houses to offset the costs, and you enter the resort through this estate. Many of these had already been built, as had the impressive clubhouse and mock-Irish thatched pub at the entrance, but there was no sign of the hotel or spa, and the bowls centre was a vast empty building that was supposed to be home to several indoor greens. (This is no longer used for indoor bowls and there are outdoor greens instead.)

Saturday, April 24, 2010

A Chinese Perspective

I've always been a bit dubious about the validity of Environmental Impact Assessments (EIS) that take place in this country - whether for housing estates, runways, harbours or golf courses. So often they seem to be ignored or steam-rollered 'in the national interest' - by which I always think they mean: in the interest of the developer and the bent politicians/councillors who will sign and say anything for a few extra quid or a free lunch.

Then again, Doonbeg and their snail has been a major success story (see my blog last month) so sometimes an EIS does work. And while I am loathe to say that the environmental impact is not significant (chemical/pesticide run-off is a major issue for Irish golf courses), it is nothing when you compare it with the approach of the Chinese, who, needless to say, have never been advocates of anything remotely ethical. 'Here's an island with a rain forest on it. 300 endangered species? Let's match that by building 300 courses':

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Have you got a spare €16,000,000?

[Photo: the approach to the 18th at Kilkea Castle]

If you do, you could be the proud owner of a golf course and clubhouse. And 33 lodges. And a 12th century castle with a 4 star hotel.

K Club in the News

An interesting piece of coverage on the K Club, in the Irish Times today (22/4/10). On the front page there’s a 21cm x 3 column ad, entitled ‘A view to wake up to’, with an aerial shot down the 16th fairway towards the hotel in the distance, and the Liffey slipping serpentine through the shot.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Powerscourt GC Photographs

It was a bright morning when I arrived at Powerscourt Golf Club a week ago to take photographs of the two courses. I’ve played the older East course several times, but the West course only once.

[Photo: the par three 16th of the East]
When the East course opened in 1996, it was lauded as one of the great new parkland tracks. Membership started at £IR 5,000, and this rose quickly as the club gained popularity.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Portumna in Golf Monthly Magazine

[Photo: the signature hole par five 17th]

I was recently asked to write a short (100 word) review for Golf Monthly magazine. They asked me to pick a course I particularly liked and say why it was so good. It's not easy when you're restricted to 100 words, and Portumna deserves many more words than that - it is one of the most under-appreciated and little-known parkland courses that would happily sit next to some of the big glamour names.

Monday, April 5, 2010

West of Ireland Championships 2010

[Photo: views of Rosses Point's par three 13th]

The West of Ireland (Amateur) Championship at Rosses Point, Co. Sligo, is a rich breeding ground for Ireland’s future professionals: Harrington (1994), McIlroy (2005 and 2006), Shane Lowry (2008) have all won here, while Walton (1980), Murphy (1995) and Hoey (2001) were runners-up – Gary Murphy losing at the 23rd hole. Other instantly recognisable names include McGimpsey, Fox and Fanagan, not to mention Miko Illonen from Finland, who won here in 1999 – proving it’s not just an Irish affair. The 2009 winner was David Corsby from Royal Lytham, who beat the 2008 winner, Shane Lowry, in the final.

[Photo: views of Rosses Point's par three 9th with Benbulbin beyond]

Rosses Point (Par 71) is a tough test of golf in any conditions, but coming in early April 2010, it was going to be a tough affair this year. And the wind blew during the two days of strokes competition. There were 141 competitors (and 61 reserves), and CSS on Day One was 74, and 73 on Day Two. Forget about qualifying – sometimes this was about surviving. The wind was coming straight down the Index 1 par four 7th of 393 metres, which has a deep drain right in front of the green.

When McIlroy won his first West of Ireland, he was 16 years old so I had high hopes for my home club’s 17 year old star, Paul Dunne (pictured). With a handicap of +2 it was his first visit to the West of Ireland Championships. He fought through the winds on the first two days to record a 77 and a 71, which qualified him comfortably for the matchplay stages. He won his first round match against Brendan Walton (The Island), but lost 2&1 to Eddie McCormack (Galway) in the next round. No doubt it was an excellent education for Paul and he will be firing at plenty more titles this year - especially after a stunning 64 in the Lee Valley Scratch Cup at the end of March. At the time of this blog, his victor has won two more matches and is now in the semi-final.

The last two rounds are played tomorrow and will see:
Eddie McCormack against Michael Sinclair (Knock), and
Rory Leonard (Banbridge) against Rory McNamara (Headfort)

The Championship began in 1923: the greatest victory ever recorded was by J Burke of Lahinch, who won 11&10 in 1936; the greatest battle was won by W Ferguson of Malone at the 38th hole (i.e. the 20th extra hole) in 1959; and the most prolific winner is J Carr with a remarkable 13 wins.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Glasgow Girls

I spent the day in Glasgow on Thursday. Sadly it wasn’t for golf because the weather was glorious and Troon isn’t far away. I was on business, but I had a few hours to kill so I walked around the centre of the city. There was some fancy dress thing on. Little girls were running around, caked in make-up and with those huge piles of curls glued to their heads. It made them look top heavy and in the winds blowing down the streets I swear some of them almost toppled over. I walked up towards the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall at the top of Buchanan Street and it all became clear. It was the World Irish Dancing Championships - Oireachtas Rince na Cruinne. A big banner spanned the doorways and there were little female leprechauns kicking up a storm inside. The noise was deadly and those girls could do some serious damage with those bullet stomping feet. Glasgow was a bit overwhelmed judging by the reactions of passers-by.

There was a bunch of proud mammies taking their girls home on the return flight and I sat beside three of them. They were discussing performances and the judging and why their precious child hadn’t won. It was the Americans, apparently. There are too many of them in these competitions (this was the 40th Championships) and they don’t do it right (not traditional enough).

Here are some snippets, written down by me with – I admit – a bit too much relish:

“Did you see that one? She was wearing green on one side and leopard spots on the other. And her dress wasn’t straight. She looked like a hay barn.”

“I couldn’t believe it. Did you see how short her skirt was! You could see her knees, and the judges didn’t deduct points. It was disgraceful.”

“Una was doing brilliantly. She was far better than all the rest and she had first prize in the bag. I think she lost it when she fell off the back of the stage.” Yep, that’ll do it.

On a golfing theme: the Scottish golf magazine Bunkered has a 10 page interview with Donald Trump about his controversial Aberdeenshire golf course – he hopes to host the British Open one day… It ain’t built yet Don! Here's the website piece

I got the window seat in row 6 on the flight home, with amazing views of the snow covered mountains that surround Glasgow. And a great view over Portmarnock Links on the approach to Dublin Airport.

One piece of advice: if you fly on Aer Arann Twin Prop planes, avoid seat row 6. The blades are all of two feet outside the window and they look lethal. I know, I know, if the blades fall off mid-flight and rip through the plane’s shell we’re all going to die anyway, but I’d just like to spend those last few moments plummeting to earth with my legs attached.