Golf writer & photographer. Author of ‘Hooked’, the most comprehensive guide to Ireland's golf courses, and ‘Driving the Green’. Published by Collins Press. Editor for Destination Golf Ireland, feature writer for Irish Golfer Magazine freelancer for Irish Examiner. Golf is in the blood. http://www.kevinmarkhamphotography.com
Friday, July 30, 2010
Ireland's Best 18 Holes: Hole 3
Wednesday, July 28, 2010
Ireland's Best 18 Holes: Hole 2
Hole 2 Portsalon Par 4 361 metres. ‘Strand’
Portsalon is one of those ever-changing links that always keeps you guessing. It’s easy to be distracted by the magnificent views of Knockalla Mountain and Lough Swilly, but nothing quite prepares you for the spectacle that arrives as you walk away from the 1st green. The famous Portsalon beach stretches out below you, the views are superb and you’re faced with a hole that is one of the very best – if not the best – in Ireland. It is also Index 3, which demands two immense shots over the beach itself, on the drive, and across the river on the approach. It’s a dogleg that’s all on show below you, so bite off as much as you dare on your drive. It’s a brave shot into the green, just over the river, which is far wider that you’d believe from the tee box.
[Photo: the par five at Tralee. Aim well left]
Tralee and Cairndhu are two of several spectacular alternatives. Tralee’s is the more famous, a par five dogleg wrapping around low cliffs and the beach, heading out onto the headland. As one of the most scenic locations for an Irish golf course, many of Tralee’s holes are outstanding, and this is just one of them. (Apologies for the photograph, which doesn’t do the hole justice at all – checkout the second image at http://traleegolfclub.com/index.php/course/library/).
[Photo: the par three at Cairndhu]
Cairndhu has a peach of a 2nd hole. It’s a par three that comes at the end of one of the steepest opening holes in Ireland. You’re high on a rocky headland and the hole stretches 150 yards from one side to the other. The views, once again, are spectacular – taking in Ailsa Craig and Scotland on a clear day.
One hole I didn’t mention in the book is the 2nd at Old Head of Kinsale. After a straightforward ‘inland’ hole, you arrive at the tee to discover what all the fuss is about. The cliffs, the ocean and a dogleg that dances along the cliffs’ edge.[Photo: Old Head and the lighthouse]
Sunday, July 25, 2010
Ireland's Best 18 Golf Holes: Hole 1
Hole 1 Scrabo Par 4 404 yards. ‘Giant’s Chair’
Wherever you go there’s a sense of expectation when you walk up to the 1st tee. You want to be amazed and thrilled.
For many, Portstewart ranks as the best opening hole in Ireland. From its high tee, with views along the coast, including Mussenden Temple on the headland, and the density of dunes ahead, it is a breath-taking view. It is a dogleg right.
I prefer the opening hole at Scrabo. It’s a monster that drives from a high tee, straight up to the top of Scrabo Hill and Scrabo Tower. The views are magnificent, the tee shot inspiring and terrifying, and you can see the green waiting for you at the top. You know what you have to do, but it’s an intimidating challenge. And the rugged fairway makes the second shot just as challenging.
Play from the back tee to appreciate full what this hole has to offer, including the razor-sharp gorse. It’s Index 1 and it’s a brutal start that introduces you to one of the toughest inland challenges Ireland has to offer.
[Photo: the par five 1st at Doonbeg]
Other superb opening holes include the par five at Doonbeg, where the green is dwarfed by the dune towering behind it, and Ardglass, where the flank of cannons urge you on your way with the rocky sea shore to your left and the green tucked up and away in a parapet of rocks.
Tuesday, July 20, 2010
When I visited the County Kildare club (www.dunmurrysprings.ie) in early 2008, the club had only been open a couple of years. The clubhouse was a concrete shell and the facilities were located in a stretch of pre-fabs at the back of the parking lot. That said, these facilities were better than some other clubs I visited. But a club can’t operate to its true potential without a clubhouse where golfers can relax before and afterwards.
[Photo: The 3rd green]
The course is well liked by contributors to www.boards.ie and the question ‘has the clubhouse opened yet?’ appeared constantly on threads about it. Now that it has, hopefully more golfers will visit this fine course. It’s a sweet design, by one of my favourite designers (Mel Flanagan), with three tees: two short and one long. I played the short version (white tees 6096 yards) in March 2008, but I plan to go back and play off the back tees later this summer (blue tees: 6757 yards). They are completely different tests of golf, so choose your tees wisely.
They have proper fescue grasses here: if they’re up then getting stuck in the rough will be a nightmare, but if they’re short it’s a relaxing and enjoyable ramble up a gentle hillside (for half a dozen holes or so) with mountain and countryside views for almost the entire round. The club boasts that you can see seven counties from the 6th green. It’s not hard to see why – it feels like you’re looking into Ireland’s soul – and the view from the 15th stretches down to the clubhouse, and the mountains beyond, taking you all the way home.
[Photo: the view from the 15th tee takes in the run of holes back to the clubhouse and the distant mountains beyond]
If you want to find out for yourself, I suggest you get up there for their Open Week, between July 22nd and 26th. And, if you want to go the extra step, you can pay €1,000 which buys full membership and the Annual Sub for the rest of the year. It’s worth noting that the club is just 30 miles from the Red Cow roundabout on the M50.
Green fees vary from €25 to €50, but there are Open Singles events every Thursday for €20, which is a price that’s hard to beat.
[Photo: the par three 11th]
Thursday, July 8, 2010
It's a great piece of kit that comes in six colours. The plastic might not have the kudos of the metal that is typical of competitor products, but it does give the Go-Kart specific advantages in terms of weight and storage. Once you get the hang of assembling it and getting the battery in place you’ll find it does everything you need it to do. It also takes batteries from some competitor models.
Friday, July 2, 2010
www.boards.ie vs. Castleknock
Here's another tip for golf clubs around Ireland - after my one about mobile phone chargers. Take a few minutes and sign up to the very popular golf forum on http://www.boards.ie/.
You don't have to contribute, but you can keep an eye on what Irish golfers are saying are about anything from comments on new drivers to debates on rules. More importantly, you can see what's being said about your club. Recently, two clubs were getting some stick - Elm Park and Castleknock - for very different reasons. Elm Park was being bashed for its elitism, whereas Castleknock was being abused for the poor quality of its prizes in its weekly opens, as well as the price of the opens.
I don't think a 30 euro entry fee is that bad, but it would seem that there are plenty who do. When compared with other courses I can see their point, but Castleknock considers itself one of Dublin's top parklands, so a premium might be expected.
The prize won by the open comp winner was the chance to pick something from the '45% off' rack in the pro shop. That's not what I call a prize, and there are many others who agree with me. As a result, the feedback is all negative - even from those saying they like the course. The manager of the club has contacted me subsequently to say that many of the emails were inaccurate, but he didn't say how and he didn't go on to the forum to post a response.
Mount Juliet have cottoned on to the forum and replied to some queries about the price and availability of food at the club. As a result, they got eight golfers eating in the clubhouse bar who might otherwise have gone elsewhere.
So, whether you want to be seen contributing, or whether you want to skulk in the wings and see who's saying what about you, every Irish club she be on the forum. It's the only one that really counts.