Sunday, August 7, 2011

Tulfarris too good to go

[Photo: the par five 15th doglegs gently out to the lake.]

It’s funny what you remember about a golf club. The last time I played at Tulfarris – many years ago – I played in an open fourball competition where my original partner didn’t turn up. The stand-in was not up to much and insisted on talking non-stop… during putts and backswings, until I finally lost it and told him to shut up on the 4th tee box. It wasn’t much fun after that as he sulked and I smoldered.

My return visit was under completely different circumstances and I ended up playing early and alone with only the green keepers for company. I expected rain to push me round, but there was none… and I even had one dazzling burst of sunshine – something that always brings a golf course to life.

If you’ve played Tulfarris, probably the first thing you remember is the location. The Blessington Lakes are a beautiful backdrop and there are only a few holes where you can’t see the water. It’s peaceful and wonderfully mature.

It is also a challenging course and if you haven’t played it before then you can easily be fooled into going for shots that you shouldn’t. Take the Index 1, par four 10th: it is one of the toughest holes you will ever play, and unless you can draw a big drive this hole is almost a par five. It is, it has to be said, also one of the most thrilling tee boxes (see photo below) to play from.

[Photo: par four 10th. Aim at the bunker then draw it left.. but not too far. Simple]

‘Course management’ is what Mark at Tulfarris said to me, and that’s for sure… and that’s before you get to the excellent, tricky greens.

There’s a hotel here and a spa, so it’s a good destination for a family break and there are other superb courses roundabout (Rathsallagh, Macreddin, Carlow).

[Photo: views over the 13th green and 14th tee box.]

There is a ‘but’ here, and how you perceive Tulfarris will depend on your feelings towards the whole NAMA situation, as Tulfarris is now a part of this financial fiasco. I understand and appreciate the arguments for and against – and my biggest concern is how clubs in the vicinity are adversely affected by NAMA-supported clubs (e.g. Rathsallagh and South County, which would be competing for the same green fees) – but Tulfarris was established back in 1989, and it has matured into a beautiful parkland track. I don’t know the financial circumstances that saw it lumped into NAMA, but this is not a course that should be lost or ignored – the golf experience is simply too good. And that, after all, is what I am most driven by.

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