Tuesday, January 31, 2012

If you like Stats

A quick link to Andrew Rice's Blog with a heap of fascinating statistics from the tour last year...

... like this one:

Luke Donald had 483 consecutive holes without a three putt and Kevin Na made 676 out of 676 from inside three feet!

And your golf prize is…

You’ve played out of your skin, tamed the weather and racked up 40+ points. Sure, sure, you missed a tiddler there on 18, but you must be in with a chance of a prize. It’s a great feeling, isn’t it?

But how does it feel to discover that you’ve won the whole thing, and all you get for your golfing brilliance is a tacky lamp. Only it’s worse than that. It’s a lamp made out of a brass figurine of a golfer. Yea, the kind of lamp you wouldn’t put anywhere in your house, couldn’t give away as a present, and shouldn’t even mention in polite company. Hell, you wouldn’t even use it to beat your worst enemy to death with. You also know it was on sale for half price, because that’s the only way those disgusting things ever sell. That or a car boot sale!

Your joy of winning has been cruelly crushed. How can you brag about that 5 iron to two feet when you can’t brag about the prize!

Simply put, all too often the prizes offered by golf clubs are a turn-off. Or useless. Or both. I’m sure some of you will say that it’s not the prize or even the winning that counts, it’s the taking part… pleeeeeease! You’re kidding yourselves and you know it. Winning IS a big deal, and you want to win a prize that means something.

So what makes a good prize? That depends on you, doesn’t it! The golf figurine lamp might just be your thing, but what about the other options? I’ve done a bit of research on the matter (through Twitter and Boards.ie) and here are the scores.


A popular prize for big events – e.g. Captain’s Day. It’s a big deal, so a big prize is well deserved, but that still leaves questions: what do you use it for, and where do you put it? Does it end up proudly displayed, collecting a few years of dust before it quietly disappears into a cupboard? How about a bowl full of pot pourri or a vase filled to the brim with jelly beans… there are only so many uses and only so much crystal your spouse will tolerate…

… especially if the name of your club is engraved on the glass. If you win a piece, wouldn’t you at least like the option of selling it on eBay? With the club name emblazoned across it, the eBay value has dropped from ‘weekend-away’ to zero faster than our economy’s pants dropped around its ankles.

And in case you hadn’t heard, Ireland’s famous Waterford Crystal ain’t made in Waterford no more. Now everybody seems to make it: Slovenia, Slovakia, Poland, Italy… ah yes, that Irish symbol of quality.

Desirability: 9%

Golf Vouchers/Golf Green Fees

Yes, very desirable: you’re playing golf so why not win a prize that corresponds – we all like to buy extra golf gear, be it new shoes, a new bag or a classy, sleeveless, pink Pringle sweater (you fashion icon, you); and green fees for a big name club always hit the sweet spot. It’s great to be able to treat your buddies for ‘free’, especially when you know they’ll be buying the drinks.

Then again, golf clubs don’t see much kudos in putting an envelope on the prize winner’s table. Not when they’ve got golf figurine lamps collecting dust in the basement. No, in your golf club’s eyes (or the sponsor’s) an envelope doesn’t say ‘you’re a winner’ quite like a golf bag, lamp or crystal bowl does, which is why envelopes are usually reserved for lower placed prizes.

Desirability: 34%

Golf Gear

Golf gear is close enough to Golf Vouchers as makes no difference, but a golf bag often appears on the table because it looks big and expensive. The prizes are fine as they are, but even if they’re not you can always take it back to the Pro shop/retailer and exchange it for something you actually need – maybe swap that pink Pringle number for the blue one with the yellow stripes.

Desirability: 19%

Weekends Away

A smart prize, for sure and your partner finally gets something out of all those hours you spend on the golf course. Yes, after listening to you endlessly moaning about missed putts, unlucky breaks and shots into trees that mysteriously moved since last week, she (or he) gets to be a winner too. Whisked away – your clubs hidden in the boot – you even have a legitimate reason to sit her down and talk her through every single shot of your prize-winning round. She’ll be so proud of you she might even listen.

Desirability: 33%

Bottles of Wine/Newbridge Cutlery etc.

Not a bad prize actually, especially if you’re throwing a party or you have a wedding present to source.

Desirability: 4%

Golf Clubs/Sponsors could learn a thing or two about selecting prizes. Good prizes keep golfers happy and interested; bad prizes can be a serious turn-off to entering Open events.

[Another popular fallback prize...]

Don’t believe me? I went to a Scratch Cup with two friends and we had lunch before heading out. There, on the winner’s table, were the brass, golf figurine lamps I mentioned. We made unappreciative noises as we headed out…. and five hours later, we were standing on the 18th as one of my friends drained a birdie putt for a serious score. He looked at me and smiled weakly.

“Of all the days to play perfect golf,” he said. “Do I really have to accept that thing if I win?”

He did win, and as he accepted the prize his smile would have made a politician proud.

We didn’t go back the next year.

And if you happened to notice that the above totals only add up to 99%, that’s because 1% of respondents want to win a golf figurine lamp. Lads, get yourselves on eBay – my mate’s auctioning it tomorrow.

Monday, January 30, 2012

A Diamond of a Golf Offer in Enniscrone

Let’s start with the obvious: Enniscrone Golf Club is heaven when it comes to links golf. It is punishing, it is playful, it is incredible… it easily makes my top ten Irish links. Streaking through a strip of muscular dunes on the edge of Killala Bay, you must endure the expected wind, some intimidating blind shots and tough golf. But the reward (and the friendly atmosphere in the quaint clubhouse) is worth the struggle. What’s more, being a links, it is playable all year round…

[Photo: Enniscrone's par three 3rd, green to tee]

… which brings me to a golf offer I discovered in the Irish Golf Review Magazine.

The 4* Diamond Coast Hotel is on the outskirts of Enniscrone and overlooks the golf course. It’s that close. It’s a modern hotel, so what it lacks in glamour on the outside, it makes up for with style and comfort on the inside. I have not been (and have no affiliations), so please take what I say with a pinch of salt and check out their site for yourself.

Then again, if you’re here for golf, your requirements are straightforward: clean, comfortable and accessible. And a well stocked bar.

The Offer

For €159 per person sharing you get:

· 2 nights B&B (full Irish)

· 1 four course dinner

· 2 rounds of golf at Enniscrone

[Photo: the par five 16th, shot from the 17th tee]

That is amazing value for one of the top links golf courses in the world. Consider that for that same money you wouldn’t even get out on some other links courses (at peak season, granted) for a single round of golf.

What Else Is On

Of course golf is not the only thing here: Enniscrone is famous for its seaweed baths (I tried it once, and while I wouldn’t want one every week it was an entertaining if slippery experience). There are glorious beaches, lots of hill walking opportunities and surfing is growing in popularity.

There’s also the ‘Eagles Flying’ Research Centre (between Enniscrone and Sligo) where you can watch eagles in full flight and in all their glory. The centre is only open between April and November.

Views of Bartra Island and the Nephin and Ox Mountains form an enchanting backdrop, and the town of Ballina is only 15 km away. Sligo town is 55 km east, but has the added attraction of Strandhill Golf Club and Rosses Point Golf Club – another two links beauties – as well as Castle Dargan’s parkland course nearby.

Other Offers

The Diamond Hotel, with its 92 rooms, has several offers on: a Winter Warmer, €139 total, for two people for two nights B&B; a Golden Years package, €169 pps for 3 nights DBB; and Family packages are also on offer. As you can imagine, the town is quiet at the moment so it’s a great opportunity to take advantage of our mild winter weather and play some unhurried, heavenly golf.

The golf offer above is valid all week and weekend (subject to availability obviously). And expect prices to go up as the golf club’s green fees acclimatise to the season.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Golf Course Provenance - Waterville

Waterville Golf Club is one of the finest and most beautiful links in the world. Set on the edge of the wonder that is County Kerry, the course is a mecca for golfers worldwide.

But when was Waterville founded?

A Golf Week article (January 19, 2012) by Martin Kaufmann, listed it at number four in the Top 40 GB&I golf courses built since 1960… i.e. the Modern era. It lists the designer as our beloved Eddie Hackett, and the date as 1973.

[Photo: Waterville's 1st hole - Last Easy - green to tee]

I strongly suspect that Waterville GC would take exception, seeing as the course was established in 1889. It was one of the earliest courses to be played in Ireland and was one of the first clubs to be affiliated to the Golfing Union of Ireland.

It’s history started with the hundreds of workers drawn to nearby Valentia Island to work on the first trans-Atlantic cable, which relayed messages between North America and Europe. The workers gradually migrated south towards Waterville, where golf was played in the winter months.

Back then it was a nine hole course, and membership varied alongside the demand for cable communications. By the 1950s, such demand had evaporated and the links at Waterville fell dormant… ‘dormant’ being the important word.

[Photo: Waterville's famous par five 11th: Tranquility]

John A. Mulcahy, the Irish born American, ‘rediscovered’ Waterville in the 1960s and had a vision to build the world’s most challenging links. He asked Eddie Hackett to design this eighteen hole course, which Eddie did, brilliantly. The revitalised Waterville opened in 1973… which is where the Golf Week list comes in.

I disagree that Waterville should be included in this ‘Modern’ list. Eddie Hackett’s course reconfigured and expanded the original holes to create today’s front nine.

So, the question is, does reconfiguration and expansion make it a Modern course? Personally, no, it doesn’t. The provenance is too strong and too influential to the final design.

[Photo: Approach to Enniscrone's mighty and terrifying 12th]

The European Club (ranked 6th) was built in 1992 from scratch. There was no history to the place. The same applies to Carne (ranked 8th), built in 1995. These can’t be disputed, but the same issue of Modernity applies to Enniscrone (ranked 9th), founded in 1918. A course has always existed on the links, although the current 18 uses little of the old nine hole course. Like Waterville, however, I suspect Enniscrone wouldn’t be pleased to be regarded as a Modern course.

It is also worth noting that Eddie Hackett played a major role in the design of Carne and Enniscrone.

The list also includes the Irish Courses of:

Old Head of Kinsale 7

Lough Erne 10

Carton House (Monty) 11

Tralee 12

Doonbeg 13

Ballyliffin (Glashedy) 14

Rosapenna (Sandy Hills) 19

Druid’s Glen 26

The K Club (Smurfit) 28… SERIOUSLY!

Fota Island 32

The K Club (Palmer) 34

Ballybunion (Cashen) 40

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Golfers Guide To Ireland Reaches 21 Years

You wake up and switch on Morning Ireland; it’s doom and gloom. You watch the 6 o’clock news; it’s doom and gloom. You listen to the 9 o’clock news and it’s doom and gloom. And if you haven’t had enough by then, you switch over to Vincent Browne.”

So said Michael Ring TD, Minister of State for Tourism & Sport, at last night’s launch of the 2012 Golfers Guide To Ireland. His point was that we had to stop beating ourselves up, and spend more time focusing on the positives. And, on the back of a 7% increase in tourist numbers last year, he had reason to be positive. His audience was the great and the good of Irish golf clubs (north and south) who had assembled for the launch of the Guide and the inaugural Golfers Guide Awards (in association with Tipperary Crystal), at O’Connell’s Restaurant in Donnybrook.

Paddy McCarthy and Marty Burke are the men behind the 21st edition of a guide that gives a snapshot of every golf course in the country. It also gives a multitude of accommodation options in each of the provinces. Greg Allen, who spoke at the launch, has written a piece on Golfing Getaways around our island. He picks many of the high profile courses and throws in some lesser known gems as well (Strandhill and Concra Wood most notably), alongside suggestions on where to stay.

[Photo: Strandhill's 5th hole, taken from the 15th green]

The award giving – by Michael Ring TD and a representative from Tipperary Crystal – was the main event and it was one of the smartest ways to identify and reward the ‘best’ golf clubs, because it didn’t attempt to rank anyone…

… not like Golf Digest Ireland’s top 100 courses, which were published before Christmas, and Backspin’s top 30 parkland/links courses, published only a couple of weeks ago. Both have come in for a bit of grief from the golfing public, despite having their merits and different approaches to rating and ranking.

The Awards

The Golfers Guide picked straightforward categories and then divided them by province. The only ‘ranking’ that occurred was to pick one overall winner in each category.

[Photo: the finishing hole in all its glory on the Killarney Killeen course]


Parkland Winner: Killarney Golf & Fishing Club
Links Winner: Royal County Down

REGIONAL (parkland/links):

Leinster: Headfort and County Louth
Ulster: Belvoir Park and Ballyliffin (Old)
Connacht: Westport and Enniscrone
Munster: Cork and Waterville


Overall: K Club
Leinster: Mount Juliet
Ulster: Rosapenna
Connacht: Ashford Castle
Munster: Castlemartyr


Overall: Bunclody
Leinster: Woodenbridge
Ulster: Concra Wood
Connacht: Strandhill
Munster: Dundrum House

Best Golf Club Manager: Maurice O’Meara, Killarney Golf & Fishing Club

Best Hotel: Fota Island

Best Hotel Manager: Conor Hennigan, The Malton, Killarney

Best Boutique Hotel: Bushmills Inn, Co. Antrim

Each of the award winners received a unique Graham Knuttle commissioned ceramic wall plaque crafted by Tipperary Crystal… and the kudos of winning an award which I imagine will become both reputable and popular in the years ahead.

A Bit About the Publisher

Portside Publications is an Irish publishing company operating in the tourism sector for over 21 years. Its Golfers Guide to Ireland has enjoyed uninterrupted annual publication each year making it Ireland’s longest established golf guide. 50,000 copies have been printed this year and the Guide will be distributed and be available free of charge to every golf club in Ireland. An on line version will be distributed to golf clubs in Japan, Sweden, the UK and North America.

In addition Portside Publications provides tee time reservation services throughout Europe and North America through the Golfhub online facility.

Portside Publications Director, Paddy McCarthy, said the Guide had become an essential part of the travelling golfer’s kit when planning a trip to or within Ireland.

We have had magnificent support from Ireland’s golf industry throughout the years and I am happy to report that the industry has expressed its confidence in the future and through the Golfers Guide to Ireland has joined with us to market their businesses through this coming year. This evening’s awards inaugurates our wish to recognise individual achievement on an annual basis by those involved in our industry”.

My thanks to Paddy and Marty from Portside Media for the invitation to attend last night’s launch, and congratulations to all the winners. It was great to see many of my favourite courses achieving the acclaim they deserve.

I met a great bunch of people from Ballyliffin, Dun Laoghaire, West Waterford, Dundrum, Killarney and Bunclody golf clubs, but still didn’t get to speak to nearly as many people as I would have liked. Everyone was in great spirits and feeling positive about the year ahead… and that was well before Michael Ring’s call to arms. The only challenge for award winners is deciding where to put the Graham Knuttle commissioned ceramic wall plaque. I doubt the personalised bottle of Tyrconnell whiskey given to each winner will present such a problem.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Connacht Golf Conference - Cancelled

Sadly, this Sunday's Golf Conference has been cancelled... due to a lack of interest from the 41 affiliated golf clubs in the Connacht region. Unfortunately, only 20 delegates from eight clubs had committed to attend.

Frankly I'm surprised.

Given the situation we're in, you'd think people would be willing to explore every new avenue available to them... not only willing, but eager. The annual subscriptions might be the key revenue that clubs use to maintain operations, but the societies and green fee golfers are a vital revenue stream too. Paul O'Neill was attempting to bring golf clubs together to explore the options and the possibilities - and there are definitely a few out there. Doesn't it seem daft to ignore a call to arms that could bring a wealth of business and revenue to the Connacht region?

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Open Fairways Ireland for just €25

I remember Open Fairways as far back as 1998. It was an annual book packed with dozens of golf courses offering '4 for 2' and '2 for 1' green fees. It was superb value and you could make the money back on the cost of buying the book in a single round of golf, as I did at Powerscourt in 1999 - although one of my mates didn't enjoy it quite so much when he was hit by a golf ball.

[Photo: The par three 16th at Powerscourt East]

The economy was already booming, so green fees were rising and the book was very popular. The quality of courses was pretty good too, although many of the really big boys weren't interested. But Open Fairways grew and grew: first it included hotels, before expanding to target the UK. Today it's a global affair, stretching as far as Vietnam and Australia, and 25 countries in all.

The LivingSocial website is offering the Irish version of the book for €25, reduced from €99. The offer is only valid until Saturday 21 January, so here's the link if you want to take a look. The offer is valid until Saturday night, January 21st - so only a couple of days left. If you want to check out the Open Fairways website, click here.

[Photo: The par four 2nd at Mount Wolseley]

Many of the big courses are now included (Rosses Point, Ballyliffin, K Club (Smurfit), Headfort, Lahinch, The Island...), although you might only get 4 for the price of 3, or 25% off, rather than 4 for 2.

The question is, nowadays, would you not be able to negotiate a better green fee simply by phoning up the club? Yes, possibly, but you might find you are heavily restricted on tee time availability (before 10am for example), and during the summer months your negotiation power will be reduced at places like Lahinch, The Island and most links tracks.

And remember this, with a lot of golfers giving up their annual memberships, people have saved themselves some cash which they may feel inclined to spend on bigger and better courses.

It costs a mere €25 - surely that's worth a lash.

[Photo: The Island's 1st hole, green to tee]

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Trump Trumped

Yes, a man I particularly dislike for his attitude to the world is now whinging like a little girl that his 'best in the world' golf resort is going to be ruined by a wind farm off Aberdeenshire's shores.

Oh, so you can bully and pressurise and buy anything you want, bulldozing your way over environmental concerns, but when it's not going your way you throw the toys out of the pram, hitch up your skirt and threaten to run away. Donald, my boy, you need to grow a pair.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Connacht Golf Conference - Driving for More Golf

These are tough times for everybody, and well we know it. There’s no point running through the litany of job losses, insurance hikes and increased taxes… because we’re living them day-to-day. And golf clubs are suffering too.

As an Irish golf blogger, I was disappointed the other day to discover that the GUI has not yet updated its membership figures for 2010, let alone 2011. The 2009 figure (144,613) on their website indicates a small drop on the previous year (148,067), whereas we all know that it has dropped substantially since then. Look at your own club and you’ll know that people have taken sabbaticals, negotiated (or been offered) an instalment plan or simply left the club. It’s not hard to see the logic of taking your annual sub and spending it at clubs around the country. In fact, you’d probably save money.

And it’s not hard to see why entrance fees have dropped so markedly or been done away with altogether as clubs clamour for new members.

[Photo: Westport's par three 14th, with the mighty Croagh Patrick behind]

What’s New?

It’s good to see some concerted efforts to tackle the problem, and clubs are being proactive as they explore new and better ways to promote their most valuable assets: their course and, where applicable, their clubhouse.

In Connacht, home to some truly world class courses, they’re running a conference at the end of January, which is attempting to explore new marketing avenues, as well as further uniting the 41 clubs in the province under the Ireland West Golf Clubs Association umbrella. The focus is, undoubtedly, on stimulating a call to action for the province’s parkland golf courses, but links courses will be in attendance too.

[Photo: Ballinrobe's entertaining par four 10th]

There are strong reasons for this parkland focus: parkland courses are the forgotten entity in the world of Irish golf marketing. Failte Ireland advertising has concentrated on links golf and premier resort parklands (Mount Juliet, etc.) for a long time. There’s nothing wrong with this – we have some of the best links on the planet, and anyone who know me or has my book on Irish golf courses knows that I’m utterly devoted to Carne, Enniscrone, Rosses Point and Strandhill (which are already well served by the North and West Coast Links organisation) – but there are other, bigger audiences far closer to home that deserve our marketing attention. Failte Ireland already knows this and will, hopefully, be doing more about it in the near future.

And who is this audience? Great Britain. 66% of our golf visitors come from across the water, and most of them want accessible parkland golf and good value. That is something Irish Golf has plenty of.

Knock Airport

An added bonus came when Ryanair recently announced four new European routes to Knock Airport (www.irelandwestairport.com), starting in April 2012. True, they’re not to Great Britain, but it raises the prominence of the region and European golfers are a big audience for Irish golf, too.

With GB acknowledged as a core market, it is invaluable that airlines fly to Knock from nine GB locations (Birmingham, Bristol, East Midlands, Edinburgh, Liverpool, London (Gatwick, Stansted and Luton) and Manchester). Promotional opportunities abound: airports and airlines produce magazines and offer advertising space on websites, while airports themselves offer an opportunity for promotional activity.

[Photo: Enniscrone's 1st green/fairway, from behind the hole]

There’s also Shannon Airport, but generating publicity about the Connacht golf offering will be key (and free)… perhaps that’s where Rory can kick things off.

The Rory Connection

Rory McIlroy’s glittering amateur career connects him to several clubs in Connacht, including Ballinrobe (runner up in Connacht U15 Boys Open Championship, 2003 ), Castlebar (All-Ireland Youths Champion, 2004) and Westport (The Irish Amateur Close Champion, 2005). He also won the West of Ireland at County Sligo, twice.

“We can use Rory’s feats in Connacht as marketing leverage,” says Paul O’Neill, Marketing Manager at Westport Golf Club. As well as being behind the driving force behind the conference, Paul is also involved in the re-introduction of the Parklands West Golf Passport – which allows the golfer to play Ballinrobe, Castlebar and Westport on the one ticket. Will it have photos of Rory on the passport, I wonder! “Rory has become a superstar for Irish golf tourism, and we have our own story to tell.”

Ireland is being sold strongly at the moment: a new January TV advertising campaign by Tourism Ireland has been launched in GB and Europe, with one of the ads focusing on a Connemara pub; Bord Failte are looking to create and promote the ‘Wild Atlantic Drive’ to rival the best scenic drives in the world; and 2013 is the year of ‘The Gathering’. This puts Connacht and Connacht golf in as strong a position as ever. There is increased optimism in the Irish tourism industry, too. Now it’s up to the Ireland West Golf Clubs Association to figure out how to take full advantage.

[Photo: Connemara's 7th hole with endless mountains beyond - something to enjoy on the Wild Atlantic Drive.]

The Conference

This is the focus of the Connacht Golf Industry Conference, which will be held in the Knockranny House Hotel on January 29th.

The conference will cover a number of important areas for the province’s clubs, and hear from keynote speakers, including Mark Nolan (CEO Dromoland Castle Golf and Country Club), Ian McDonald (onlineteetimes.ie) and Ed Pettit (Carr Golf Services).

There will also be a trade show from 2pm onwards, which is open to anyone who wants to drop by and sample the latest equipment and gadgets, or find out what the province’s clubs have to offer.

As Paul puts it:

“The Ireland West Golf Clubs Association will build a marketing strategy that will show off the magnificent product that is currently available on the West Coast. Not only will the voluntary body be up and running to take advantage of the new "Wild Atlantic Drive" concept but it will also make it easier and more affordable for local clubs to have a presence at trade shows and major golf tournaments, working in partnership with Failte Ireland.”

You’ll find more information on the C.G.I.C menu tab at www.westportgolfclub.com/

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Ballybunion - Home of the 2006 Ryder Cup...

[Photo: Ballybunion Old's lethal par three 15th]

Seriously! This morning at my local coffee shop I picked up a book - 1000 places to visit before you die - and discovered that the 2006 Ryder Cup was held at Ballybunion... apparently.

I'm sure Ballybunion will be delighted by the promotion, although I can see some odd expressions on the faces of staff when someone turns up asking for the Ryder Cup tour. On the other hand, the K Club might be somewhat dismayed... then again, if the author/s can make such an obvious error (as well as promoting Tinakilly House in Co. Wicklow as one of its 1000 places) I don't think many people will be taking the book too seriously.

[Photo: Ballybunion Old's 10th green, taken from the 7th tee]

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Edmondstown hunt for a new General Manager

[Photo: the par four 6th]

Edmondstown Golf Club, which sits alongside Dublin's M50 (the course had to be rejigged as they lost land to the motorway), recently produced their three year plan. It's an ambitious plan, for sure, given the times we're in: there will be a new Pro shop and coaching area, an upgrade of the clubhouse as well as an upgrade to the course irrigation system.

Edmondstown is looking for a General Manager to oversee all of this and the general running of the club too.

For more information and how to apply, click here for the GUI website.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Save €246 at the K Club

[Photo: the back of the hotel, taken from the Smurfit Course]

The K Club have used the 'Deal' type sites a few times and they're doing it again.

"€169 instead of €415 for an overnight stay for 2 in a Superior Room with Full Irish Breakfast, a Glass of Champagne plus a €30 Resort Dining Credit at the magnificent 5 Star K Club!"

That's a big saving and, more interestingly for you romantics at heart, it doesn't exclude Valentine's Day itself (just Saturday Feb 11th) or Paddy's Day if you see that as an opportunity to 'celebrate' in posh surroundings. The offer expires on the 16th January, and you can use the voucher until the end of March.

[Photo: Palmer Couse par three 3rd]

Golf is not mentioned in the offer, but a quick check on the website indicates golf on the Palmer course is €75... I would expect that you can get it for less than that as a hotel resident... and just hope that it hasn't rained too hard - remember the Ryder Cup!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Dream On - The Movie

Most of you will probably know the book, or at least the premise of John Richardson's novel, Dream On - the quest to go from high handicapper to a level par round of golf in less than a year. The title Dream On came from a comment made by Sam Torrance when asked if it was possible to achieve.

You'll also probably know that he achieved his goal with a day or two to spare.

Well, now they're putting the finishing touches to the movie. There are no actors or anything listed at this stage (at least not on IMDB) but if you want to see a brief interview with the director about how he saw the book becoming a film (a 'romantic comedy'), click here:

And if you want to know more about the book or to buy it, click here.

Monday, January 9, 2012

€1,000 for a hole in one – at The European

[Photo: the par three 6th - from the front tees]

Under the new rules of golf, amateurs are no longer limited to the value of prize they can receive for a hole in one… so Pat Ruddy at The European Club has taken that to heart and decided to offer amateurs (and professionals) the chance to win €1,000 cash for a hole in one at the club’s par three 6th hole. It is quite probably the first such offer of its type in Europe.

The Good News

The competition (open singles) is open every day from now until the end of March. You can enter as often as you like. The green fee is €60… a third of the summer peak rate.

The Bad News

It’s links, it’s winter and the hole, for the purposes of the competition, measures 200 yards. There’s sand in front and on the right of the green, and a deep stream to the left… then again, that’s not where you’re supposed to be aiming, is it!

The prize will be divided if there is more than one hole in one.

It’s not as if you need an extra reason to play one of the top five links in the country, but every little helps.

Good luck.

The European Club 0404 47415

[Photo: the par five 13th, from the 15th tee box]

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Viva La France

Maybe it's too easy to lump the Irish in with our English neighbours - we share many traits after all. Nevertheless, I was non-plussed by the news that France's top-selling travel guide (Le Guide du Routard) is suggesting Ireland is once again a safe destination to visit.

I wasn't aware that our island was regarded as an unsafe destination in the first place.

What, exactly, made it unsafe? Thierry Henry, apparently. His famous handball incident in the World Cup 2010 qualifying match (played n 2009)... which may or may not have robbed Ireland of a place in the finals... caused concern among the French tourism psyche.

French travellers thought they might receive abuse on the back of Henry's actions... the French editor even went as far as suggesting that the French would not have been very welcoming of Irish tourists had the positions been reversed.

Message to our lovely friends in France... we are not England, where football is treated as a religion and fans from opposing teams are often deemed enemies and therefore fair game if spotted wearing the wrong colour shirt. That doesn't happen here. And please remember that you and England have history: you two were going at it hammer and tongs for a few centuries, although you made up during two world wars. No, over here we like your flair, your non-chalance, your wine, your language, that Gallic shrug and even your rugby when you release that flair (I was rooting for you in the World Cup ruby final).

Oh sure, we might have a word in your ear about Henry's handling of the situation, but only over a shared pint and a laugh. After all, as any Irish football fan would be quick to point out, you got your come-uppance by putting on such a dismal performance in the pool games.

Over 4,000 French golfers visit Ireland every year, so we would more than welcome you back onto our fairways, no matter what the guide book says.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Yesterday's Loser... Today's Winner

Carton House lost out to Royal Portrush this week in its bid to host the Irish Open 2012.

But it was also confirmed that Carton House will host it in 2013, instead... which, if you've been paying attention, is the year of "The Gathering". No, not a horror movie being filmed in Leinster House - as appropriate as that might seem with Luke "Ming" Flanagan beating people to death with peat briquettes - The Gathering is, in official parlance:

"... the biggest tourism festival ever held in Ireland," said Failte Ireland chairman, Redmond O’Donoghue, at the press conference in the Royal Portrush clubhouse. It's designed to bring our Diaspora home for one big shindig.

If they get the rain that Carton House and the Irish Open endured when it was last held there in 2006, I don't see much of a gathering at all.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Irish Open 2012... goes to Royal Portrush

Here we all were, thinking that the Irish Open was returning to Dublin in 2012 - because that's what we were told by the powers that be - and then out of the blue it's announced yesterday that Royal Portrush will be hosting it. We were blindsided on that one, seeing as Carton House were the hot favourites, with Royal Portrush destined to host it next year.

[The Winner: Royal Portrush's par four 5th]

It's great news for Northern Ireland, especially as there's so much hope pinned on Open Championship returning to Royal Portrush some time soon... which it should. The Irish Open - small fry by comparison - will be a good test for the club, the town and the county to adapt to the demands of hosting a prestigious event. Who knows, Rory McIlroy's course record of 61, scored when he we was a mere 16, might even come under threat.

[The Loser: Carton House's par three 17th]