Sunday, August 28, 2011

Macreddin on the Boards

[Valley/Mountain views from the 5th green]

The Boards golf society is up and running. A year or two ago, some people tried to set one up but nothing came of it. This year, thanks to increased interest and, I suspect, great value green fees, the number of golfers willing to play has soared. A certain ‘Keano A Legend’ deserves the credit for getting the group kick-started and the first outing was to Dundrum Golf Club in Co. Tipperary a few weeks back.

The second was yesterday, to Macreddin in Co. Wicklow. The numbers playing almost tipped 30, and I imagine we were all fairly hacked off when we arrived in Macreddin's car park… after leaving Dublin or, in my case, Wexford, the sunshine had given way to some nasty rain. Quite literally, as I turned off the engine the rain started. Inside the clubhouse (a set of portakabins) I had a word with David about that. He shrugged and said he’d see what he could do. David Lee is the young man now managing the place and he is an active Boards contributor, offering some exceptional green fee rates to get out on Macreddin on a Saturday… a €15 green fee is remarkable (even for a group rate) or, for an extra tenner, you can share a buggy.

Two lads – Sternpeak and DubTom – went out first in a buggy, and David and myself were due to follow. We were joined by Peter, and just as we prepared to tee off the rain stopped. Sure, it returned briefly on the 2nd, but thereafter we had a beautiful day, which matched the course. Macreddin endured the highest level of two-day rainfall all Summer on the previous two days, and you could feel it underfoot from time to time – but, under such circumstances, the course was in superb condition and the greens were true and smooth. Add to that the popularity of the course, which is packed every weekend (value and quality!), and the resulting wear and tear that fairways, putting surfaces and tee boxes endure, is practically invisible (a few tee boxes aside). You quickly appreciate the volume of effort that goes into the place.

In terms of upkeep, an honourable mention should be given to the crows who seem to enjoy nothing more than digging up the surfaces to depths of three inches – I’m sure we all saw the crow-hole on the 11th green.

[Photo: the par three 4th has to be one of the best par threes in the country]

“They’re called leatherjackets,” David informed us, although I suspect he wanted to call them something far less polite. “They’re after Daddy-Longlegs eggs. They walk around until they feel the heat beneath their feet and then they start digging.”

You learn something new every day!

David obviously knows the course, as do I, but Peter didn’t, so it was interesting watching his reaction to what I reckon are the best holes – like the 2nd, 4th, 6th, 8th, 12th, 13th, and then the run for home from the 15th. He enjoyed all of them, and I imagine the 3rd will live long in the memory after a perfect drive, a better second and a sweet three footer for birdie. He plays off 14.

[Photo: the short but exquisite par four 6th]

A few comments should be made about Macreddin: it is a long track, made all the longer by the walks between 9 and 10, and then from 18 back to the clubhouse/car park. Peter was pulling his clubs and I thought we’d lost him when he disappeared on the walk to the 10th. We drove around in the buggy, searching, and finally found him… suspiciously close to the pub. The back nine is hilly in places (the par five 15th really knocks the breath out of you) and it is widely accepted that you need a buggy to get around the course. Personally, I don’t think you get a true feel for a course unless you walk it – it gives you a far greater appreciation for the design, the flow and rhythm of the course, and the challenges you face.

David reckons that 90% of golfers take buggies, and on a busy weekend they are all the more important as rounds can be lengthy affairs – we came in just shy of five hours. That’s not only a reflection on the course length, it also reflects the challenges you face if you don’t play straight golf. This is no easy course, but it is most definitely a thrill to play.

For those who were paying attention, the mounds and shapes created during course construction mirror the mounds and shapes of the hills around you. And if you didn’t notice them, then that proves just how effective they are.

[The steeply downhill approach to the par four 16th - one of the toughest par fours on the course... David almost made it]

After the round, five of us decamped to the pub that is part of Macreddin village next door, where we enjoyed a post-round analysis, and a burger and a pint for a tenner… another deal that David arranged.

You see, this is something I banged on about recently: a lot of the guys and girls running our golf clubs are old-school in their thinking. They do a perfectly good job, marketing through the same old channels, but in this day and age there needs to be a bit more ‘pushing the envelope’… and David is doing that rather well – as the Boards outing demonstrates. Find your target market, treat them right and inspire repeat business.

[Photo: the attractive approach to the par four 18th]

More and more clubs are on Facebook and Twitter, but it still comes down to how well you use the social media we enjoy today. Macreddin is hitting the nail on the head. And long may it continue for a club that has come through receivership and is now truly back in business.

It was a great day out, on a fantastic course… and a quick mention must be made of the efforts of two of our group who travelled up from Cork for the day. Lads, we admire your dedication.

Roll on the next outing.

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