Thursday, June 21, 2012

Inside the Ropes - Dun Laoghaire

It had all started so well… everyone had arrived without any trouble and Colm and Kevin had spent some time on the range before we enjoyed some lunch, courtesy of Ian McDonald, the club’s marketing manager. Jason, our fourth, arrived and we all headed for the 1st tee (Lower nine). En route, we were informed by the Course Ranger that our tee time to be on the second nine (Middle) was 3.20pm. That gave us two hours. Manageable, surely.

[Photo: local colour on the Lower nine]

Enjoy the Drink
Yes, it was all going so well until we reached the 6th tee. Colm (16 handicap), Kevin (20) and Jason (26) had played the first five holes comfortably but then the rot set in. In fairness, I started it. My driving has been a weakness recently, but playing off the yellow tees (2,819 metres) gave me some freedom to play an iron off the tee. The 6th did not offer that freedom, demanding a carry of 200+ yards over water and my drive made it barely halfway across. Kevin, Colm and Jason took pity and followed suit. We all reloaded. By the time we left the teebox we’d deposited eight balls in the drink – three of them mine – so, a suggestion for anyone heading that way: use the fairway that runs along the left of the water. It’s a very short par four, so rein in your ego and take the sensible route.

After that disaster the front nine took us two and a half hours, so we missed our allotted slot for the second nine. It didn’t prove a problem and the Ranger got us off on the Middle nine without any delay.

My book reviews the Lower and Upper nines, but I was told subsequently that the Lower and Middle nines make for a better 18 – and I had not played the Middle course. After this visit, I agree wholeheartedly. It gives a completely different perspective to the course, and the Middle nine would be the most vibrant of all three, with changes in elevation, more mature trees (the course opened in 2007 after moving from Dun Laoghaire) and strong water features. The quality is excellent (as you’ll read below) and the clubhouse is a remarkable facility – it has to be one of the top clubhouses in the country.
My review in the next edition of Hooked (assuming there is one) will be revised based on these assessments, but there was something else that really stood out for me:

Curtis Cup (2016) Choice
I can see why the Curtis Cup venue selectors would be interested in Dun Laoghaire. It has the clubhouse, the quality and good viewing points around the course but, above all, it promises thrilling matchplay because competitors have choices from the tee and the fairway. You can go for broke or play it safe, but you nearly always have options and that adds a great dimension compared to the longer courses where you have to bomb it time and again.

A big congratulations to the course on the honour of hosting the event.

But enough waffle. Here’s what the guys had to say:

[Photo: Colm, Jason, Kevin on the 9th hole of the Middle nine, with the hole and clubhouse behind]

Q. What are your overall impressions of the course?
Kevin: Very high standards all round – just needs a little more time to mature but very enjoyable.
Jason: Superb layout and greens rolling very well.
Colm: Very enjoyable and a fair course! Greens in excellent condition. It’s very playable for society golfers, but strategic enough for a low handicapper.

Colm showed some delicate touches around the greens, using the slopes and fringes very creatively - he may be a 16 handicapper, but some of his strategic play would put a single handicapper to shame.

Q. What do you consider to be the course’s three best features? Why did they stand out for you?
Kevin: Clubhouse – just look at it!!
         Views are stunning
         The condition is manicured and greens and aprons are fantastic
Jason: The greens – excellent roll
The fairways were cut very tight and fairly generous from the tee box
Changes in elevation on a lot of holes
Colm: Condition of greens
         Fairness of hazards
         Signage on the course, and easy to navigate

[Photo: views from the 9th green on the Middle nine]

Q. As this is a relatively new course – what did you think of the design?
Kevin: A few more features needed to identify different holes – some blended together.
Jason: I liked the design, especially with bunker placement. It’s a course you have to plot your way around.
Colm: Good. Some holes on the Middle course were not as strong strategically as those on the lower course. Overall some nice features bringing countryside and landscape features into play. Course was also very walkable – no great exertion required.

The course was designed by Martin Hawtree, who has worked on over 20 golf projects in Ireland including Dooks and Royal Dublin.

[Photo: Kevin targets the green on the par three 2nd - Middle nine]

Q. Are there any negatives – either on or off the course? If so, what are they and how would you suggest they’re fixed?
Kevin: Some people might be put off by the perceived pretentiousness of the clubhouse.
Jason: Long uphill struggle on 18 (Middle 9).
Colm: Timing needed to play second nine, i.e. the requirement to be on the 1st tee of the second nine by a certain time. Signage in the golf academy is poor – it’s easy to get lost and not know where certain things are.

[Photo: Jason in full flow]

The 9th holes on both the Lower and Middle courses rise up to the clubhouse (they’re side-by-side). Both can drain you after a long round of golf, especially if the golf has not gone your way. Jason is working on a revised swing (as well as having some new clubs) and the Middle nine did for him somewhat – I feel his pain as we’re both working on the same area of the swing and I know how frustrating it can be when things don’t click.

Q. What did you find particularly tough about the course?
Kevin: Heavy rough!
Jason: Par threes were playing long. [three of the four were 176 metres, 156 metres, 195 metres]
Colm: Reading the greens.

[Photo: Kevin in the heavy rough, no doubt lamenting that he found the ball at all]

Q. Which was your favourite hole and why?
Kevin: 9th hole on the lower nine – great views up to the clubhouse.
Jason: Lower 9 – the 1st hole, par five. Daunting tee shot and a great start to the round.
Colm: Par threes were enjoyable. Par fives from yellow tees were too accessible.

Q. What did you think of the facilities?
Kevin: Superb
Jason: Excellent
Colm: Excellent

Q. How easy was it to find?
Kevin: Easy as I live nearby
Jason: Very easy – directions on website were spot on.
Colm: Fine – no problems

[Photo: Middle nine, 6th hole. A short par four with water appearing twice. Sensible golf required]

Q. Any final comments?
Kevin: A tough, but not overly so, test of golf off the Yellow tees, for mid to high handicappers.
Colm: Would be ideal for big society day and Captain’s Prize. Price might be a bit of an issue. Hospitality of Ian McDonald, the club’s marketing manager, was superb.

Q. Your rating out of 10
Kevin: 8/10
Jason: 8/10
Colm: 8/10
Total: 24/30

Q. Value for Money out of 10
This one proved a bit tricky as the green fee rack rate is €70, while a fourball costs €50 each. Everyone agreed that €70 was steep in the current market, especially when Druid’s Glen down the road costs €65.
Kevin: (€70) Probably on the high side in the current climate. At €50, good value for high standards. 7/10
Jason: Would not pay the rack rate of €70 to play the course. At €50, would play it as in line with other top courses… 6/10
Colm: (€70) Round is not, unfortunately, worth €70. At €50, with the excellent facilities... 8/10
Total: 21/30

[Photo: wrapping up on the final green]

A big thank you to Dun Laoghaire – it was a great round and a pleasure to play with the three lads. Ian, our host, mentioned that the bunkers on the Lower nine were out of play (if we chose) after the rains of the previous week, but we all found them to be fine.

Dun Laoghaire Details:
Located not far from Bray or Enniskerry, off the N11, Dun Laoghaire is not where you expect it after its move in 2007. Directions are here. Its views of the Big and Little Sugarloaf are with you all day and add to the appeal, and take a moment to stop at the photo board on the terrace outside the Pro shop - it shows you what you're looking at.

[Photo: the clubhouse]

No comments:

Post a Comment