Tuesday, April 27, 2010

€66 at The Heritage

[Photo: The clubhouse - picture copied from www.theheritage.com]
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.)

The golf course was still under construction and I was taken for a spin in a 4x4 by Eddie Dunne, the Golf Manager, who showed me the recently seeded greens, the bunkers still to be filled and the thousands of trees just planted.
So I wrote the golf brochure, focusing on the Seve Ballesteros designed course (with Jeff Howes) – his first outside Spain – and the ‘Natural’ School of Golf that bore Seve’s name. I wrote a radio ad for Seve, too, and the agency went out to Spain to record the ad – sadly I wasn’t invited as it would have been amazing to meet him, and I might have stopped him murdering the ad. I wrote it to be humorous but evidently Seve didn’t see it that way!
Later, I was asked to write the hotel brochure – despite there being no hotel built – and if you look at the website today and download the hotel brochure, you will read the following:
"We are proud to introduce you to the opulent luxury, sophisticated elegance and impeccable hospitality of The Heritage Golf and Spa Resort – Ireland’s brightest jewel."
I am delighted to say that I did not write this drivel.
Anyway, to the golf… there is an offer on the back of the Irish Times at the moment offering a round of golf, a full Irish breakfast, a strokesaver and a €10 voucher for the pro shop, for the bargain price of €66. On a course this impressive that’s good value.
The Heritage is one of those new, perfectly maintained and manicured beasts that always looks beautiful to the eye. Fairways are cut into chequer-board squares, tees are oval (a Jeff Howes signature) and like carpet, the water features are idyllic and the greens like silk. There are no hills to climb and while it can play long (6,889 yards off White tees), the course’s open aspect on the landscape means a battering from the wind is the biggest hardship.
Actually that’s not quite true! I played here with my dad a few years ago. I was playing off 8, which seemed prophetic as I lost 8 balls. I don’t think I have ever lost so many in a single round – including at The European in a gale. Losing two off the 1st tee was not the way to start and it rarely got better, apart from one piece of brilliance that saw me 6 inches short of my first hole in one (the 305 yard par four 11th). I lost two more off the tee at the 18th. Memories of the lost balls in between are too painful to relate especially as it was not windy. Put it down to long rough and the ball refusing to bounce on water.
The Heritage is maturing at a good rate, and the trees are making a huge difference to a course that has an endless but bland landscape around it. It also has, in my opinion, the best clubhouse in the country, including the plushest changing rooms and a viewing tower at the top which gives expansive views of the course.
I suggest you pop along for a round. Or consider an Associate Membership

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