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
Tuesday, January 31, 2012
If you like Stats
And your golf prize is…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
[Photo: Enniscrone's par three 3rd, green to tee]
Then again, if you’re here for golf, your requirements are straightforward: clean, comfortable and accessible. And a well stocked bar.
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.
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
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
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
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 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
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
Connacht: Ashford Castle
BEST HIDDEN GEM
Ulster: Concra Wood
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
Thursday, January 19, 2012
Open Fairways Ireland for just €25
Wednesday, January 18, 2012
Sunday, January 15, 2012
Connacht Golf Conference - Driving for More Golf
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]
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.
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.]
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...
Thursday, January 12, 2012
Edmondstown hunt for a new General Manager
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.
Wednesday, January 11, 2012
Save €246 at the K Club
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.
Monday, January 9, 2012
€1,000 for a hole in one – at The European
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.
The European Club 0404 47415