Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The Island - Inside The Ropes - Volunteers

The Island Golf Club have offered me a complimentary tee time of 8.20am for four on Wednesday 3rd October - so I'm looking for volunteers.

No need for me to tell you how good this place is - it's Dublin's most exciting links course and one of the great challenges in Ireland. Famous for many reasons, the one that stands out most for me is the 14th hole - a short par four with the narrowest fairway you're ever likely to encounter (see photo). 

[Photo: Jack on the par four 14th fairway - which is about to get narrower still]

Must be available to play and be at the course on time. 
I'm looking for golfers who have not had the privilege of playing the venue before.
Must be prepared to spend half an hour in the bar afterwards!

If you can make the tee time for sure, then 'Comment' on this blog or visit the thread here. Names will be picked, 1pm Friday September 28th.

[Photo: the par five 15th heads into the biggest dunes]

A Full Set of The Island Photos is Here.

There's also an additional opportunity to play the course through Golfgraffix on the same day (10 minutes before my tee time). Click here for details.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Golf World: Top 100 Courses (You Can Play)

The August edition of Golf World magazine had a special section devoted to the World's Top 100 golf courses. There was an interesting caveat at the end: namely that these were courses that will take a green fee... which means courses like Augusta National were not on the list.

Golf Digest Ireland will be bringing out their Top 100 Irish Courses in mid-November, so it's always interesting to provide a little groundwork, a little perspective, before that list (always up for debate) arrives on the newsagents' shelves.

[Photo: view back to The Lodge from Doonbeg's 9th green]

There were 9 Irish courses included on the Golf World list - ranked in reverse order:
71 County Louth
64 Doonbeg
56 Lahinch
40 Ballybunion (Old)
36 The European
33 Portmarnock (Old)
18 Waterville
7 Royal Portrush (Dunluce)
and at number 1...

[Photo: The par three 4th at Royal County Down]

1 Royal County Down

Great to see RCD still being lauded internationally, at least by our neighbours across the Irish Sea.

The list also included 22 courses from the USA, 16 from England, and 13 from Scotland.

Great Scott, it's Never (Big) Easy

On another subject, the magazine did three big interviews with professional golfers - the first of which was with Darren Clarke. Bear in mind that this magazine was published in the run-up to the Open Championship, so what a coincidence that the other two articles were: first, with Ernie Els - talking about how he believed he could win another Major and what he was doing differently that would allow him to achieve that goal - and, second, with Adam Scott saying he was ready to win his first.

Turns out that one of them was almost right!

[Photo: Waterville's 1st Hole - 'The Last Easy']

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Mount Juliet kicks off with Ryder Cup Week

No doubt there will be many 'Ryder Cup' themed events in the next week or so and it's a great opportunity for clubs to promote themselves and open their doors to visitors.

[Photo: the oak-lined avenue to the 17th green]

Mount Juliet are doing just that with three events over the coming week and a half, ranging from a singles strokeplay to a singles Stableford, with a two-ball betterball event in between. The price for all of these is €60 per person.

Here are the events: 

Amateur Open
Be in with a chance of becoming the Inaugural Mount Juliet Amateur Open Champion on Monday 24th September.
• 18 hole singles strokeplay off the blue tees - this is for the serious golfer as the course measures 7,264 yards from the blues.
• €60pp
-Ryder Cup Open Fourball

Open Fourball
Get into Ryder Cup mood by taking part in the Open Fourball on Wednesday 26th September.
• 2 person team better-ball event
• €120 per team
[Photo: pray you're not facing this shot on 18 to win the tournament - nerve-wracking stuff]

Ryder Cup Singles Sunday
Savour the atmosphere on Ryder Cup Singles Sunday at Mount Juliet on 30th September by playing in the Open Singles.
• Ryder Cup coverage on our big screen in the Clubhouse as well throughout the day
• 18 hole single stableford
• €60pp

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The Great North Links Challenge...

... there's still time to get in on the act in 2012.

The Great North Links Challenge takes place between October 3 and October 5, 2012. The competition plays over Ballyliffin (Glashedy), Portstewart (Strand) and Royal Portrush (Dunluce). These are the three 'big' courses at each club (between them they have seven in all) and it includes this year's Irish Open venue, which will probably be in the best nick of its life.

There are plenty of remarkable Challenges out there (see my earlier post for details) and this is right up there with the best of them. You can still enter your team of four (or try to stick your name down individually - there are bound to be spaces) and the event is both Singles Stableford and Team Stableford.

If you're interested, contact Ballyliffin on 074 937 6119, but entries close next week.

Accommodation is plentiful, from Ballyliffin Lodge ( to The Ramada Portrush to The York in Portstewart, but this is just a sample from each venue. I've stayed in the latter two and found them both excellent.

For those concerned by the length of travel time from the two Northern Irish golf clubs to Ballyliffin - don't be: the Lough Foyle Ferry from Greencastle to Magilligan is running until October 7th.

Ballyliffin (Glashedy)
The stark beauty of Glashedy Rock combines with the roughly hewn mountains to give Ballyliffin a raw air – one that is matched by the club’s two courses. Designed by Pat Ruddy, Glashedy bears all of his hallmarks, namely that it is as elegant as it is lethal. The course dives into big dunes, pops up again briefly for stunning vistas of Donegal from the 7th tee box, and then heads back down again. Golfers must approach greens with great care if they are to score well, for poor shots are harshly punished here.

[Photo: Ballyliffin's par three 7th, from the highest dune]

Portstewart (Strand)
Few would argue that Portstewart’s front nine is among the best on the island. You are thrown straight into a landscape known as ‘God’s Own Country’, where valleys and tall dunes help to create holes that are tantalising and picturesque. Thorny bushes abound and only the brave, or the foolish, will attempt to retrieve balls from them. The new clubhouse is magnificent, as are the views over the 1st tee from its balcony.

[Photo: Portstewart's 17th green - taken from 18th fairway]

Royal Portrush (Dunluce)
A thrilling links that combines a worldclass reputation with some of the country’s finest holes (5 and 14 most notably). Like RCD, the Dunluce course has an air of greatness and an aura of invincibility which will inspire you all day long. Be patient as club selection is the key on holes where you can almost always see what lies ahead.  Enjoy the wonderful moment when you step onto the 5th tee and experience everything the course has to offer.

[Photo: The par three 11th at Royal Portrush, with the par four 15th behind]

And if you're already playing in it, then best of luck and enjoy.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Inside The Ropes - Mount Juliet

Mount Juliet opened in 1991, and it has been at the top of the pile ever since. It is a five star hotel and resort with every trimming you could ask for, including, most obviously, the Jack Nicklaus designed golf course. I was recently invited to play in the PGA media day to help promote the upcoming PGA Irish Championship event in October (11th to the 14th).

It lashed rain that day. The skies opened on the way to the 1st tee and didn’t stop until the 15th. It was brutal, but on a course this good you persevere!

[Photo: Stephen, in full rain gear, tees off in the sunshine on the 8th hole]

For the Inside The Ropes visit, on Sunday September 16th, the weather forecast wasn’t looking much better. As it turned out, the weather forecasters were wrong. Unfortunately, Stephen, one of our group, was as misinformed as the rest of us and appeared in full waterproof gear and had to spend the entire rainless round in it. We even finished in sunshine so, as golfers, let's bow our heads and acknowledge his lengthy discomfort.

Gotta love that Irish weather… and Met Eireann.

On the tee were Ciaran (18 handicap), Ivan (11) and Stephen (24) – the latter two coming up from Cork. We mixed up which tees we played from, playing from green or white depending on the hole, so the overall distance of the course is somewhat unquantifiable – ranging between 6554 yards and 6926 yards. A full set of Mount Juliet photos are here.

[Photo: Sunshine arrives on the 15th tee. Ciaran, Ivan, Stephen]

Q. What are your overall impressions of the course?
Stephen: Excellent, great facilities and chipping green is brilliant.
Ivan: Excellent. Condition of course is superb, although greens were slowish.
Ciaran: Immaculate condition, some easy fairways, tricky greens. Mostly open, inviting a big drive.

[Photo: Ciaran hits his tee shot onto the par three 11th green. After numerous par putts had scared the hole but failed to drop, he rattled in this birdie from 12 feet.]

Q. What are the course’s best features? What really stood out for you?
Stephen: Distance markers – some even on the cart path.
Ivan: Best features are the condition of fairways and tee boxes. Numerous bunkers throughout are also a big feature.
Ciaran: Practice facilities. Natural feeling to a flat course with mature trees. Always dry underfoot.

Q. Are there any negatives – either on or off the course? If so, what are they and how would you suggest they’re fixed?
Stephen: Didn’t get a lot of balls from the driving range for €5. A lot of divots were not replaced.
Ivan: My sandwich was expensive: sandwich and Lucozade = €10.50.
Ciaran: Slight lack of on-course signage.

Q. How easy/difficult did you find the course?
Stephen: Found the course within my capabilities, but overall the lenght of the course was my undoing. The amount of bunkers also caught me out, the amount of them, their locations and the pin positions were outside my normal golfing challenges. Overall a difficult course but not put off in any way.
Ivan: Found it pretty difficult, but it doesn’t help hitting everything left! Even if I wasn’t it still would have been difficult. Numerous bunkers throughout, and playing off the whites made the course long.
Ciaran: Relatively easy, mostly due to open fairways. But not easy to score well.

Interesting disparity here between Ivan and Ciaran – probably explained by Ivan’s wayward driving. Nicklaus courses favour generous landing areas and then follow these with heavily protected greens.

[Photo: Ivan proves how “long” the course is by turning the 500 yard par five 17th into a drive and an 8 iron. If he’d been driving straight he would have made mincemeat of the place.]

Q. What were your favourite holes, and why?
Stephen: 4th. Lovely, tight fairway and well guarded green.
Ivan: 17 and 18 are great finishing holes. The Index 1 13th is also an excellent hole.
Ciaran: 3 and then 4, where placement off the tee was critical.

Every course talks about their signature hole/s. At Mount Juliet I’d pick out 3 and 4 on the front nine, and 11 and 13 on the back. As Ivan points out, holes 17 and 18 are also superb… and 17 is becoming my favourite hole on the course, with the sentry like trees on either side of the fairway giving great character as well as presenting challenges.

I also have become very fond of the Index 1 13th... although it helps when you blade an 8 iron to two feet for a tap-in birdie!

[Photo: Four tee shots (if you can see them!) in perfect positions on the par four 4th fairway… Index 2]

Q. What had you heard about Mount Juliet before you got here?
Stephen: One of the best courses in Ireland.
Ivan: Had heard it was difficult and in great condition all the time.
Ciaran: Experience and good quality.

Q. Did it live up to your expectations? Why?
Stephen: Absolutely. I like that on any hole you cannot see another hole.
Ivan: Yes it did. Course condition was immaculate.
Ciaran: Absolutely.

The course has acres of space to stretch itself out – Mount Juliet itself is set on a 1,500 acre estate and includes a stud, so such an elegant golf course is not surprising.

[Photo: par four 4th green, where birdie chances went a-begging]

Q. What are the best parkland courses you’ve played in Ireland?
Stephen: Adare.
Ivan: Castlemartyr or Adare. Oh, and Killeen (Killarney). I love Killeen.
Ciaran: Slieve Russell, Headfort (Old and New), Druid’s Glen.

Q. How did Mount Juliet compare?
Stephen: Mount Juliet is better.
Ivan: Mount Juliet is better value than Adare, but Adare would have some better features. Castlemartyr would offer better value than Mount Juliet, but Mount Juliet would be more difficult.
Ciaran: The best of any course: more open fairways but short game where it counts.

Q. Any final comments?
Ivan: Facilities are excellent and the staff are very friendly.
Ciaran: Nothing artificial – even the lack of signage (as mentioned above) is almost a positive.

[VIDEO: Ivan tees off on 16... the set up, the swing, the slap of frustration]

Q. Your rating out of 10
Stephen: 10
Ivan: 9
Ciaran: 8
TOTAL: 27/30

Q. Out of 10, Value for Money (currently €80 per person – summer rate)
Stephen: 9
Ivan: 6… no round of golf should cost more than €50.
Ciaran: 6… there are other interesting courses for less.
TOTAL: 21/30

The old ‘value for money’ continues to prove a vexing issue for plenty of golfers. Balancing course quality and golf experience with green fee value remains a challenge in ‘the current climate’ (a term that, after four years, is practically a cliché) – especially for the top-tier courses like Mount Juliet. Such challenges will undoubtedly remain so for a few years yet.

There are always ways to get added value for money at the big courses, and Mount Juliet has a Winter and Summer Series as well as numerous other events (including several already included on this blog), so visit for the latest details.

[Photo: wrapping things up on the 18th green]

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Mount Juliet - Inside the Ropes

Mount Juliet have offered me a 2.40pm complimentary tee time for four on Sunday 16th September - so I'm looking for 3 volunteers.

You have a day left to enter - either on this Post (leave a comment) or on as names will be drawn 1pm Fri Sept 14th.

Your handicap is irrelevant - if you can hit a ball, stick your name down.

Must be available to play and be at the course on time. I'd suggest getting there at least 30 minutes beforehand as it's worth touring the place and the practice facilities.
I'm looking for golfers who have not had the privilege of playing the venue before.
Must be prepared to spend half an hour in the bar afterwards!

And to whet the appetite...

[Photo: The par four 1st]

 [Photo: The par four 18th]

And if you want to know what the rest of the holes look like, visit my Flickr page.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

PowaKaddy Twinline 3 Review

What better testing ground to try out and review the PowaKaddy Twinline 3 three wheel trolley than Royal Porthcawl, on the beautiful south coast of Wales. There was only one problem: pulling the enormous box from the boot of the car in a busy car park, and unpacking it in full view was bound to attract attention.

Sure enough, a shadow flickered across the tarmac as I ripped open the cardboard and sent plastic bags drifting on the breeze.

“What have you got there?” came from over my shoulder.

“A new trolley,” I said, running after one of the bags. I introduced the man to my latest acquisition, laying the wheels carefully on the ground and placing the main trolley body next to them. That was it… three pieces. This was going to be easy I thought.

Evidently the man, and his companions who had now arrived, thought otherwise and formed an arc around me.

Mankind – and when I say mankind I mean ‘man’ – has a fraught relationship with instruction manuals. Somewhere, a writer works tirelessly to create the foolproof set of instructions… somewhere else a man ignores them completely and gets stuck in.

Man is smart, intuitive and hopelessly misguided, which explains why we hurl remote controls, bang computer keyboards and kick anything with a wheel attached. Reading manuals is for losers. Besides, have you seen how thick some of those manuals are! It would take a week to get through them… and then for some reason they switch languages!

90 Seconds
90 seconds later the trolley was assembled.

“That can’t be right,” I muttered to myself as the three guys wandered off, clearly disappointed at my success. But the trolley was up and rolling, which was just as well as, A). I was due on the tee in 10 minutes, and B). there were no instructions in the box... although I did find them later in a plastic sleeve entitled 'Instructions'.

That was the first major plus for the PowaKaddy – easy and intuitive to assemble, with a minimal number of parts. And this from a guy who can’t even fold a newspaper correctly.
I was still convinced that during the next few hours something would fall off, collapse or leave me looking like an eejit.

Royal Porthcawl – apart from being one of God’s greatest gifts to links golf – is a tumbling, twisting affair. Bumpy fairways, short, sharp climbs, deep rough and deeper bunkers will give a trolley a severe workout, test its balance, speed, robustness and handling.

I did my research, read a bunch of stuff online and in golf magazines and liked the price - £119 from Direct Golf in the UK. It was ordered on a Monday afternoon and delivered on Tuesday morning to the UK address where I was staying. That’s what I call a speedy service.

A trolley’s purpose is to transport a bag of clubs around a golf course and take up as little room as possible in the boot of your car. To that end, the trolley did everything I wanted it to do but you’d think that one trolley is pretty much the same as the next. Quite possibly, but there are certain things that stand out…

There were no difficulties going up slopes or across the shoulders of bunkers and the handle is sturdy enough should you need to apply pressure when the slope becomes too steep.

You might expect the wheels to be wider – for wetter, wintry conditions – and time will tell on that front as these wheels are designed specifically to reduce ‘rolling resistance’. They work and also give the trolley a more streamlined look.

When in use it feels sturdy without it feeling heavy, thanks to the lightweight aluminium structure. My old trolley was so light it would blow over in a breeze – there’s no risk of that with the 7.4 kg Twinline, and yet it’s a lot easier to manage.

When folded up you realise how sturdy it is.

Wheels come off easily – if required – and with the quick release straps it is easy to remove your bag and then fold it down in four quick steps. True, like most things, it will take a couple of practice runs to figure out which step should be done first for maximum efficiency… Hint: the small lead wheel should be folded back/under before you collapse the main wheel braces.

Once folded, it has an easy and obvious carry handle, making it quick to lift and store in almost any boot.

I’ll also add – from prior painful experiences – that the Twinline 3 does not appear to have any nasty joints that can snap fingers, skin or other valuable parts of your anatomy.

[Photo: Views of the course from behind the 3rd green at Royal Porthcawl]

I wasn’t convinced when I saw images of it, but in real life it looks good, and even better on the golf course. You can also get it in white, although that’s like putting go-faster stripes on your golf bag.

Dead straight from the first push – such bliss – and if you do have problems, an Allen key is included to adjust the wheels. It rolls freely on its own and I released it down several bumpy slopes without any problems.

The wide handle makes it easy to use single handed or with both hands – particularly useful going uphill. It’s a soft grip if your hands are of the sensitive kind.

The scorecard holder is a bit flimsy. To be honest I carry scorecards in my back pocket and I would never use something like this – too big a chance of losing the card or it getting soaked.

There’s a small foot brake, which is located on the inside of one of the wheels (see photo). Again, not something I’d use but it doesn’t seem to be that easy to get at.

Value for Money
Considering the prices of other trolleys in the market, this has to get 5 out of 5. The PowaKaddy fulfils all of my requirements so I wouldn’t see the need to pay 250 quid for a top model – unless it’s prepared to take my putts for me.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Waterways Ireland World Corporate Golf Challenge

One of the things I love about these big ‘international’ style events is that they always take place on top tier courses. Why create a splash if you can’t do it in the biggest pond. The Waterways Ireland World Corporate Golf Challenge is certainly set to make a splash as it arrives at Lough Erne on Tuesday 25th September. The Faldo Course at Lough Erne has water on a dozen holes, so those participating are likely to be visiting the wet stuff at some point.

[Photo: Some of the ‘wet stuff’ around the 7th green]

This ‘Challenge’ is designed for businesses large and small and it is the Irish qualifier for the World Corporate Golf Challenge. The winners will head off on an all-expenses paid trip (flights, golf, all WCGC official functions) to represent Ireland at the 2013 World Final, making it one attractive proposition if your golf is on song at the moment.

Teams enter as pairs, so if you want to impress a supplier, reward a valued customer or suck up to the boss why not enter and enjoy one of Ireland’s best parkland courses. Set in County Fermanagh and promising a five star resort, the event offers plenty of ‘extras’ for its Stg £220 per team (N.B. accommodation is not included). 

 [Photo: The par three 3rd hole, in the woods]

A Bird’s Eye View
On Monday 24th September, the event kicks off with an opening ceremony and drinks reception on “Kestrel”, a boat which will be moored on Lough Erne Resort’s jetty.

On the 25th, the day promises breakfast on arrival, buffet lunch, a gift bag and a range of water-based activities (it is sponsored by Waterways Ireland after all!) on Lough Erne throughout the day… not forgetting the 18 hole competition.

[Photo: The approach to the short par four 10th, on what Lough Erne considers its Signature Hole]

The golf course plays through glorious woodland and then out to the lake as it stretches across a private 600-acre peninsula between Lower Lough Erne & Castle Hume Lough. It has a lazy pace, wild and untouched rough, and sleek greens. It is thrilling and, despite the water, this is one relaxing round of golf that every level of golfer can enjoy. It makes it the perfect venue for such an event…

20 Countries
… an event which takes place in more than 20 countries worldwide. To date, over 1 million golfers have taken part since the inception of the Waterways Ireland World Corporate Golf Challenge in 1993. Now that the qualifier is taking place at Lough Erne, there are plenty of reasons to participate.

[Photo: The nerve-wracking tee shot on the par four 17th, with the resort behind]

Lough Erne was voted Golf Resort of the Year (Irish Golf Tour Operators Association 2010) and Northern Ireland’s Hotel of the Year (Northern Ireland Tourism Awards 2011), so go the extra mile and spend the night on Monday 24th.

These events are always great fun, and very competitive! Representing not only your company but potentially also your country adds an extra dimension to the day. We’re looking forward to a big turn out and an exciting tournament for the Waterways Ireland World Corporate Golf Challenge,” says Lynn McCool, Director of Golf and Head Professional at Lough Erne Resort.

For further information or to enter, please contact the Golf Shop at Lough Erne on 028 6634 5766 or e-mail or contact Director of Golf & Head Professional Lynn McCool on

Alternatively, visit
 for special offers including a free practice round and accommodation rates.>