Wednesday, October 31, 2012

K Club Competition Giveaway

Sorry for such short notice, but Just Treats is giving away a K Club package worth €300... it would seem churlish not to enter when it's so easy. But entry closes tonight (Oct 31) at midnight, so jump right in.

[Photo: views over the 17th green, back to the tee]

The prize is:

  • 2 Green Fees for the K Club Smurfit Course
  • Sumptuous Dinner For two People in the K Club Legends Restaurant
Sure, sure, so the Smurfit is not my favourite course, but I'll be entering because it's a good prize and you can treat a mate, friend, colleague, client or even your spouse to a day out.

[Photo: approach to the watery 18th with clubhouse behind]

Strictly one entry per person

After you enter you will also get the opportunity to email the details of the competition to friends or family. There's even a special extra prize for anyone who helps spread the word.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The Hidden Golf Links of Donegal

By renting a cottage on Donegal’s coastline I was satisfying an urge to return to the grand dame county of Irish links golf courses. There are ten 18 hole courses after all, stretching from Bundoran up to Ballyliffin, and no other Irish county can boast such riches. Wherever I went, I’d be close to a fairway and dunes.

I should have known better. It’s hard to contemplate the sheer length and ruggedness of the coastline here and the roads don’t exactly make it easy – they’re not bad, but they weave in many directions and rarely in the one you wish to go.

Still, when your cottage has views like this, it’s worth the extra drive. We were in Kilcar, ten minutes west of Killybegs, in a house that was completely isolated and looked straight out on Donegal Bay and across to Sligo and its mountains.

[Photo: the views over Donegal Bay to Sligo, from my outdoor 'office']

Narin and Portnoo Golf Club

My wife – and our dogs to a lesser extent – are well aware that any holiday in Ireland comes with golf attached. We arrived on a Saturday evening and on the Sunday we were heading north to Narin. There’s a beautiful beach, I promised… one that just happens to run beneath the delightful Narin and Portnoo Golf Club. The course’s dunes stretch across the landscape as the R261 from Ardara dips down into the village. It is a beautiful spot, but the club does not help itself because golfers will be somewhat bemused as to how to reach the links. The course is accessed through the mobile home park by the beach, but visitors may be put off by the ‘Private Property’ sign that greets them at the entrance to the park.

[Photo: Narin’s beach curves in an S-shape that wanders right beneath the 15th fairway (in the distance)]

Still, once through, it was great to see the recent clubhouse additions, with the glass front to the bar/restaurant offering more space and views over the 18th green and 1st tee. The club has had a difficult year with the death of Connor Mallon, the Club Pro, but the course remains as mesmerising and intriguing as always. I love this place and I got quite a buzz when I picked up the club’s leaflet to discover a quote from Hooked was being used on the inside pages, alongside one from David Owens, the Golf Digest writer.

[Photo: a panorama from Narin and Portnoo's 7th tee box]

The day was as perfect as you can ask for on a links and after a clubhouse lunch it was off to enjoy what I still consider to be the most exciting run of golf holes on the island – starting with a par three on the 7th and ending with the par three 11th. 

I will always recommend Narin and Portnoo to golfers contemplating a trip to this part of the world. The views of Donegal’s mountains, beaches, ocean and solitude make it all the more embracing. Perhaps David Owens sums it up best:

I set a record for… saying ‘wow, great hole’ every time I opened my mouth.”

[Photo: the stunning 8th hole at Narin and Portnoo]

For a full set of Narin and Portnoo photos, click here

Donegal Golf Club

Donegal Golf Club came a couple of days later, after a trip out to the Slieve League cliffs – some very under-appreciated and strikingly under-marketed assets in Donegal’s scenic arsenal – Glencolmcille and down to the rocky tip that is Malin Beg.

[Photo: Slieve League cliffs. The highest sea cliffs in Europe, apparently]

The day started promisingly enough, sunshine lacing the scenery with light, but by the time we reached the golf club it had turned a muted grey that did the course no favours… especially after the colourful drive that slides through the woods which stretch across the neck of the Murvagh Peninsula. At the end, you reach Donegal’s clubhouse, the only building on the peninsula.

[Photo: the drive in to Donegal... it goes on for quite a while]

Donegal, or Murvagh, is well known for its length but the run of holes by the sea will impress anyone. Starting at the well-named par three 5th ‘Valley of Tears’, you are taken on a thrilling run pressed tightly to the rolling dunes that separate land from sea. On the 7th and 8th you walk up onto the dunes so you can see all around you. It’s an inspiring sight, grey skies or not.

[Photo: view back down the 7th from the high 8th tee box at Donegal]

For a full set of Donegal Golf Club photos, click here

Cruit Island

Time and again I have been told that Cruit Island Golf Club deserves to be in Hooked.

“It is the most beautiful spot you could imagine,” Ronnie, one of my regular golfing partners, told me.

It is, unfortunately, a nine hole course and therefore fails on the most basic criteria to make it into the book: it has to be 18 holes. That didn’t mean I wasn’t going to visit it when I was so close (to be reviewed on this blog in due course). We set off north again, passing Narin along the way, only to be stymied outside Dunglow by a maze of roadworks. A new road was being built across the bog, which involved two sets of lengthy traffic lights and a specially built diversionary road. Now, if only the roads in these parts were as good as the diversionary road, we’d have reached Cruit Island in no time. As it was, once we reached the island, the drive across it went on and on, bringing with it a sense of remoteness that only added to the anticipation. And it was worth the wait. You drive across the 1st hole on your way in, and you know something special awaits. Take a look at these photographs and you’ll see what I mean. Here’s the 6th, which has to be one of the best holes in the country.

[Photo: the stunning 6th/13th at Cruit Island]

After I walked off 9, I met Jimmy, the Manager.

“What did you think?” he asked.

I was in awe of the place. It may only be a 9 hole course, but try telling that to holes like 3, 5, 6 and 7 which would sit comfortably on any of the world’s best links courses. It is utterly natural, entirely unassuming and there are moments when your breath will be taken away.

“You know that American fella who walked around Ireland? Jimmy asked.

“Tom Coyne,” I replied.

“Yea, him. Now all the Americans who come here stop for ten minutes on the crest overlooking the 3rd green to have their photographs taken.”

[Photo: the drop to the 3rd green at Cruit Island]

And it’s no wonder as the views stretch over the sea to Gweedore, with Mount Errigal grabbing most of the attention.

There is a possibility that some land next to the opening hole, on the south west side facing Aran Island, will come up for sale in the near future… if a new 9 new holes were to be built, and they were as good as the existing 9, then Cruit Island would comfortably be up there with the best of them. Time – and money – will tell in this remote, beautiful spot.

But even as a 9 hole, this brings Donegal’s links count to 11.

My wife – and dogs – had one more visit to endure. As we headed home, we called into Bundoran Golf Club. I wanted to meet Noreen, the General Manager, to ask a few questions for an article I’m writing on the West Coast Challenge. It was bright and sunny, and for a weekday the course was buzzing. As was Noreen’s office: in the wind the office door sang like an angry wasp the entire time I was there. She barely noticed.

Photos of Bundoran are here.

[Photo: The house]

Six days, four courses… not bad for a family holiday!

If you like the look of the house we stayed in, check out Imagine Ireland

If golf books are more your thing, then Tom Coyne’s adventure is told in a book called ‘A Course Called Ireland’; mine, if you don’t know, is called ‘Hooked’.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Royal Portrush - IGTOA Links of the Year

This is not exactly a surprise after such a successful - and sold out - Irish Open this year. The course was immaculate and, despite the weather, hosting the tournament was a triumph for the club... and Irish golf/tourism. Will it be enough to convince the R&A? Time will tell.

[Photo: view of the par three 11th green, with the 15th green/fairway beyond]

Mount Juliet - IGTOA Parkland of the Year

Congratulations to Mount Juliet, which was chosen as the 'Parkland of the Year' by the Ireland Golf Tour Operator Association (IGTOA), at the 15th Annual IGTOA Networking Event Golf Classic & 2012 Gala Irish Golf Awards at Lough Erne, on Monday 22nd October. The image below will give you a small hint as to why Mount J picked up the award.

[Photo: view of the 18th green from the 17th fairway]

If you feel like getting a taste of why the course is so well rated, here are some fantastic offers over the October Bank Holiday Weekend:

-       Friday 26th October, Winter Series four person Team Event. €60 per person to include a Burger on the 10th Tee.

-       Saturday 27th & Sunday 27th October, €60 per person for groups of 16 or more golfers. Call Tom Kennedy on 056-7773012 to book or email

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Quiz Time... on Irish Golf

There are approximately 350 eighteen hole Irish golf courses.  

Here's a photograph of one of them. I'll send a copy of my book, Hooked, to the first person who can name the course. Reply on Twitter (see relevant Tweet from today) or leave a Comment here.

I'll give you a hint... it's a links course... as if you hadn't already guessed.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Irish Golf Courses - Going Cheap

Do you ever feel like a complete mug… … scratch that! Do you ever feel like you’ve been mugged?
For the last while I have been saying that I’m partially in favour of seeing NAMA support the golf clubs that fall under its auspices. That said, I don’t like doing it, for two reasons:

1.     Too many other financially viable clubs are struggling and, sometimes, as a direct result of the courses propped up by NAMA.

2.     Some of these courses are entangled with hotels/resorts that should never have been built in the first place and were developed on what we might today be called ‘empty promises’... or empty wallets, certainly.

But these are good golf clubs for the most part, and golfers would be poorer for not having them. I’m thinking of Portmarnock Links (more than half the price of any other 18 hole links in the region, bar Corballis), Tulfarris and Fota Island in particular. Fota Island’s golf course was built in 1993, and, when acquired by the Fleming Group in 2004, was upgraded to a 27 hole course, with a hotel and spa added in 2006.

[Photo: The par five 18th - reachable in two]

Why was I in favour of NAMA’s approach? Because their approach was to prop up these resorts and courses with the taxpayer’s money so that they would eventually be able to sell them on at a ‘profit’ when the economy recovered… thereby delivering a return to the taxpayer. I liked that argument. It made sense. Personally, at the start, I wanted NAMA to simply abandon these places – let them sink or swim – but that would actually cost the taxpayer more. No, I decided, keep them afloat and sell ‘em on.
So how stupid do I feel now that NAMA have put Fota Island up for sale. The numbers look like this: NAMA took on the resort covering the €40 million debt of the Fleming Group (which invested some €90 million to develop it in the first place). Since then the resort has been trading successfully, delivering a profit in 2012 of €1.3 million on turnover of almost €12 million… and yet NAMA’s asking price for the place is a mere €20 million. Surely this flies in the face of the very logic they were driven by! OK, so €20 mill is hardly pocket money, but when we owe billions it sure as hell feels like it.

[Photo: Approach to the 4th]

Adding insult to injury, the Irish consortium bidding on Fota has declared it can sell the resort on in seven years’ time for – wait for it – €40 million. Not only that, but the investors will reap a tax-free return on the capital gains because of a change to the law last year that was designed to boost the property market.

Here’s a viable business and NAMA, having supported it for a three years, have now decided to sell it on at a ‘loss’ even though others now see it as a gold mine. Well done NAMA – still doing what you and everyone else in the Government is so good at: not knowing your arse from your elbow.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Irish Golf Courses: Inside The Ropes at Greystones

Greystones Golf Club 

An Inside The Ropes visit to Greystones Golf Club (par 69) on Friday was fraught with danger – from my perspective anyway. This is my home club so the stakes were high. And speaking of steaks, there’s no catering at all on a Friday at Greystones… there simply isn’t enough demand. When I booked the tee time online on Monday, there were a few lines taken in the morning and then my tee time at 1.50pm. That was it. At €25 you’d think societies would be snapping up Friday afternoon slots, and with the sunshine we enjoyed I expected to see more people turning up at the last minute. It wasn't to be. We saw two other lots of golfers during the entire round. 

On the tee were Robin (24 handicap), Francis (14) and Aaron (19)

[Photo: Robin, Francis and Aaron on the 15th tee, clubhouse behind]

Q. In a couple of sentences how would you describe the course?
Robin: Interesting – particularly the front 9. Well maintained and in good condition.
Francis: Short holes made more difficult by tight fairways. Overall, a challenging course where course management is a must.
Aaron: Very mature, well maintained course. A course of two 9s – a very different look and feel to the front and back 9.

To put it simply, the front 9 plays around and over the gorse-drenched Jones’s Hill, while the back 9 is tighter, and moves back and forth between big trees on mostly level terrain. It always causes visitors to ask if it was originally 9 holes (the walk to the 10th doesn’t help in that regard), but the answer is no, with the club dating back to 1895. Typically, people prefer one nine over the other, and these three were pretty adamant as to their preference.

[Photo: the par four 2nd - Howth in the distance] 

Q. What are the course’s best features? What really stood out for you?
Robin: Liked the holes on the front 9. Attractive holes with great views along the coast.
Francis: The front 9 have spectacular views out to Irish Sean and back to the Wicklow Mountains. We could see all the way to Howth.
Aaron: Best feature for me was the front 9. Short holes but nothing straightforward – and some interesting holes with great scenery.

Anyone who drives the ball long will be in trouble on the front 9 if they think they can defeat it with brute force – holes 4 to 8 simply don’t need that kind of approach – and yet there is more chance of escape if you’re off-target. The back 9 requires more length AND more accuracy off the tee. Francis found himself in plenty of trees on the back 9, while a wayward drive off the 8th ended up on the 9th fairway, allowing him to fire at the green where he rolled in a nice 20 footer for birdie.

[Photo: Francis discovers an unplayable lie in the bunker by the 9th green]

Q. Are there any negatives – either on or off the course? If so, what are they and how would you suggest they’re fixed?
Robin: Difficult to follow course layout and signposts to course were poor.
Francis: Signage to next hole was an issue on some holes. Long walk from 9 to 10. It’s a pity that the 18th does not finish at the clubhouse.
Aaron: Teeing off on 18, you can’t help but look up at the clubhouse and wish they had 18th green in front of it.

Signposts to the club and signposts directing you on the course are not the best. From the 9th green I told the guys to find their way to the 10th, which they did after a couple of minor hiccups – you have to go around the side of the clubhouse. Elsewhere, the guys would never have found the 15th tee if I hadn’t showed them. Small things like that can prove highly frustrating at a club you don’t know.

[Photo: Robin strolling onto the 15th green, rainbow overhead]

Q. How did you find the shot-making – did you find the shots you were playing interesting – did you have to think about them? Highly varied, or were only a few clubs used all the time?
Robin: I usually stick to the same clubs where possible, but had to think outside the box on some holes.
Francis: You had to think about your drive on a good few holes, due to doglegs and tree lines… so I used 3 and 5 wood as well as Driver off the tee, which would not usually happen.
Aaron: Front 9 forces you to be sensible with club selection so there’s no real need for the Driver. Overall, the course is on the short side. A lot of second shots were played with clubs one or two less than my usual golfing haunts.

Over the first few holes, Francis sank a few long range putts while Aaron lipped out for pars just as often. Perhaps it was going to be one of those days – we’ve all had them – but then he arrived at the par three 11th which is 160 metres. He’d (net) birdied the 10th - Index 2, I might add - so he had the honour. He didn’t pay much attention to the tee box marker and decided to hit a nine iron… landing 40 yards short. His next shot was a sweet wedge that arched onto the green, smacked the flag and dropped for a full-on birdie. After that he didn’t have any problems with his putting.

[Photo: Robin tees off on the par four 8th]

Q. How easy/difficult did you find it to play the course? Off your handicap did you feel it was manageable?
Robin: Front 9 are difficult, back 9 are easier. It was manageable for my handicap (24).
Francis: I made such a mess of so many short shots I was more a 28 handicapper than a 14. But if you drive reasonably well you should play to your handicap.
Aaron: Found the course on the easy side, but only because I followed Kevin’s club selections. Very manageable if you play sensibly.

Robin, who has just returned to golf after a good few years, was quietly slotting in a handful of pars – the 7th most impressively – off his 24 handicap. It emphasised that big driving is not needed around here and he proved the point (one, I have never managed to learn after almost 40 years of playing here) that the back 9 is a lot easier if you play sensible, straight golf.

Q. What is your favourite hole? Why?
Robin: 7th hole. Interesting landscaping and views from green.
Francis: 7th hole. Spectacular views and a good hole for the second shot. And I parred it which is always nice.
Aaron: 10th – because I birdied it. The 7th hole is a great hole – I’d love to play it a second time. It would have been very tough without local knowledge.

[Photo: Views over the 7th green]

Funny how people view a course, isn’t it. Even Greystones GC pick the 7th as the ‘signature’ hole, whereas it wouldn’t make my top six. The second shot up to the top of the hill, often over the rock, and then the views that spread out below you from the green are certainly impressive, but I prefer the 6th and 8th that bracket it.

Q. How easy was it to find the golf club?
Robin: OK from the main road but then missed a poorly signed turn.
Francis: Sat Nav brought me straight to it.
Aaron: Very easy to get to Greystones from Stillorgan. However, signage once in Greystones could be a lot clearer. My driver missed one turn and he’d been to the club before.

[Photo: Point of Impact for Aaron on the par four 4th]

Q. What’s the best course you have ever played, and what made it so special?
Robin: Druid’s Glen. The holes are varied with spectacular features and wonderful landscaping.
Francis: Mount Juliet: excellent facilities. Great holes and I usually play well there.
Aaron: Ballinrobe. Only played it once but I loved it. Slightly biased of course, as I’m from Mayo and it was with a group of 16 friends.

Q. You’re selling this course to a friend – sum it up in one sentence.
Robin: Nice parkland course with a split personality between front and back.
Francis: Lovely front 9 and some nice tricky holes. For €25 you have to give it a shot.
Aaron: Short, but a very interesting front 9.

[Video: Aaron hits the perfect drive on the 8th]

Your rating out of 10
Robin: 8
Francis: 7.5
Aaron:  7 (good front 9, fairly standard back 9)
Total: 22.5/30

Value for Money (€25 per person) out of 10
Robin: 8
Francis: 7.5. Definitely worth playing for €25 but over that it’s pushing it.
Aaron: 7
Total: 22.5/30

Sunday, October 14, 2012

US Veterans Experience Ireland's Greatest Golf Courses

This is not a site you see every day on an Irish golf course, but it is certainly an inspirational one.

It is pure coincidence that when I was in Wales a few weeks back I met a golfer at Celtic Manor who had one artificial leg and, later that day, I followed a threeball at Royal Porthcawl who were accompanied by the club's blind President. It quickly makes you realise that golf is one of those sports you can always play and always enjoy... as 11 US veterans are experiencing on a special trip to Ireland's greatest courses.

[Photo: B.J. Jackson tees off the 1st at Ballybunion. Courtesy of Golf Digest Irish Tours]

Through the efforts of Linton Walsh (Editor, Golf Digest Ireland), over 40 Irish tourism companies have banded together to make this trip a reality for the 11 golfers (9 men and 2 women) and family members.

It's a 12 day trip, which started in Ballybunion and includes the likes of Tralee, Royal County Down, Portmarnock, Dooks, Waterville and Ballybunion, obviously. The weather at Ballybunion looked perfect for links golf - let's hope the next 10 days behave accordingly so these guys can experience everything that Irish golf (and hospitality) has to offer.

A number of US golf journalists are travelling with the group, so if you want to keep up to speed on where the veterans are playing and what they're up to, follow Golf Digest's Managing Editor Roger Schiffman on Twitter.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Inside The Ropes - The Island

It used to be that golfers would row across from Malahide to reach The Island Golf Club, landing next to the 14th tee. Now there’s a small road that slips off the R126 to Donabate, squeezing you under the railway line and then up against the sea waters as you wind around the shoreline towards the large dunes of The Island. If you have the nerve you can glance across the water and see the clubhouse, but this is no place to be distracted with the water directly below you.

The Island had willingly offered me a complimentary fourball for Inside The Ropes – it helped that the golf club knows how much I adore the place – but another Boards contributor, GolfGraffix, took the opportunity and asked if he could bring some Boardsies along as well to test out the company’s ‘Island’ App. That made 8 of us, arriving on a sunny, chilly morning. Our tee times had been consecutive but we got separated by a lone American who, we discovered as we overheard his mutterings, was rushing off somewhere else as he raced around the country playing all the links courses on his own. He was pretty miffed when his caddie did a no-show and had to tackle the course alone… not something you want to do at The Island. Then again, you also don’t want to come unprepared, which is what the French fourball behind us did – arriving in tee-shirts and being forced to buy sweaters and wind-cheaters.

[Photo: green to tee on the par four 2nd]

One of the lads had kindly brought along a bottle of wine as a prize for the best score. Always nice to add a bit of flavour to the occasion, and we decided in the spirit of things we’d play from the green tees – measuring 5,972 metres (par 71). A set of 36 Island photos can be found on my Flickr page.

John (19 handicap) and Tony (22) were out in the first group, while Thomas (7), Michael (10) and Tom (7) teed off with me, into a glorious if blinding rising sun. 

[Photo: John, Connor, John (Golfgraffix) and Tony. Too cold for Frenchmen]

[Photo: Tom, Thomas and Mike on the 18th tee]

Q. What are your overall impressions of the course?
John: Superb course. Beautiful greens and the fairways were in great condition. I only found one bunker – fortunately – but the sand was excellent and ‘fluffy’.
Tony: A challenging course with a great variety of holes.
Thomas: In a word: excellent.
Michael: Excellent.
Tom: Classic links in great condition

Q. What are The Island’s best features? What really stood out for you?
John: The sand dunes which are massive. Views and scenery are also very impressive.
Tony: The greens were excellent.
Thomas: I just enjoyed the whole experience of playing a links course for the first time.
Michael: I love the big dunes.
Tom: Each hole distinctive and separate yet great sense of space around you - short walks from greens to tees – views from the course

I am biased when it comes to The Island. For me it is the most exciting links in the area, helped by the big dunes, the sheer thrill of what awaits over crests or watching your ball duck and dive across the bumpy fairways towards intriguing greens. The course starts with eight par fours – some people might think that dull, but the direction, length and shape of the holes makes each one completely different.

[Photo: View of the short par four 5th from the 6th tee - a hole that sums up the front nine perfectly.]

Q. Are there any negatives – either on or off the course? If so, what are they and how would you suggest they’re fixed?
John: None, other than the fact that there was an error on the course guide.
Thomas: None.
Michael: Can’t think of any.
Tom: Minor grumble - having to go look for sprinkler heads for yardage. Keep sprinkler heads but add a 150 marker stake.

Q. What did you find particularly tough about the course (excluding the weather)?
John: The rough was very tough, even though it wasn’t particularly long. It really grabbed hold of the club and turned it over.
Tony: The rough was tough.
Thomas: The rough was very tough.
Michael: Rough is tough but fair enough.

Maybe there was something in the water that turned this lot into budding poets. Talk about singing from the same hymn sheet. Only Tom gave a different answer – saying that the opening hole was difficult – it didn’t help hitting straight into the early morning sun. Personally, I found approaches very challenging. Sometimes bump and run will work, other times the banks into greens are too steep. You need to be smart to figure out the best way to get your ball onto the green. And the two par threes on the back 9 (13 and 16) have putting surfaces that are difficult to find/hold.

[Photo: Thomas in some of that tough rough by the 6th green]

[Video: Thomas hits a perfect drive on 6. How do you know? Look how quickly he reaches for the tee.]

Q. Which are your favourite holes and why?
John: The par three 13th hole. It requires a great shot to get anywhere near the green. And the 14th hole – with out of bounds down the right and bunkers left – asks serious questions all the way. Even with two great shots you’ve still got work to do.
Tony: Par three 13th. And the par five 15th has a good inviting tee shot and a great approach.
Thomas: Really enjoyed playing the 13th par three. Probably the toughest par three I’ve ever played.
Michael: 7th – because I made par.
Tom: The 6th needs good accuracy off the tee with bunkers on the right side and another on left side to catch longer drives. Green not visible until arrive for 2nd shot when vista opens. Green does not have or need bunkers to protect it. Par five 15th invites driver but risky if leak it right for blind next shot. Your drive is rewarded if you can place drive in jaws of narrowed fairway as you can go for green in two.

[Photo: the par three 13th. As tough a par three as you'll find]

The par three is 195 metres and Index 7. It is often discussed as being one of the ‘great holes’. Playing into a stiff breeze we all had drivers or woods in our hands and a par here is undoubtedly a hard fought victory whatever the wind direction. In fact, with a steep drop in front of the green, playing into the wind is preferable to having it behind you. 

[Photo: Tom drives on the short par four 8th. Spot the ball... (above the clubhouse)]

Q. How did you find the shot-making – did you find the shots you were playing interesting – did you have to think about them? Highly varied, or were only a few clubs used all the time?
John: The choice of shots that you faced was huge. You could play approach shots in so many different ways (high, low, bump and run, etc.)
Tony: Used and needed every club in the bag. Course requires imagination for shots.
Thomas: Shot-making was very interesting. As the first time playing a links I found it hard to adjust. Trying to keep it low, putting from 30 yards short of the green – it was very hard to get the ball to stop.
Michael: You need to play a lot of different shots and it is very interesting all the way around. No need to hit a driver on a lot of holes.
Tom: Yes and yes: I didn’t use a few clubs but on a different weather day could see need to use all.

Michael is being disingenuous… here’s a guy who hits his drive huge distances (well over 300m on the last two holes), with one clear aim – get the ball as close to the green as possible so that he can putt it. He was most successful with his attempts from 30-40 yards out: unfortunately the 14th wasn’t one of them… see video below.

[Mike putting his 'approach' on 14]

Q. If you were coming back in a month’s time, what’s the one thing you’ll need to remember in order to score/play well?
John: Keep the ball low.
Tony: Keep it on the fairway.
Thomas: Keep it in play and keep it low.
Michael: Stay out of the rough.
Tom: Improve bump and run shots.

[Photo: Thomas sinking a putt on the par four 12th]

Q. Your rating out of 10
John: 9
Tony: 9
Thomas: 9
Michael: 9.5
Tom: 9
Total: 45.5/50 (for comparison purposes with other courses: 27.5/30)

Q. Value for Money (€100 per person) out of 10
John: 8. Fantastic course but in today’s economy €100 is a lot of money. It equates to playing two rounds on some other very good courses. Having said that, it is a course I would pay to play again.
Tony: 6.
Thomas: 4. Wouldn’t pay a €100.
Michael: 6
Tom: 9
Total: 33/50 (for comparison purposes with other courses: 20/30)

Perhaps it would have been fairer to have included the green fees for Royal Dublin (€120), Portmarnock (€150-€175) and The Links at Portmarnock (€45) for comparison. This is not the first time that green fee prices have been raised, and it surely won’t be the last, but for the quality and experience you get at The Island…

Q. Any final comments about the course or the facilities?
Tony: As far as I am concerned, a good course should be a good test of golf and require every club in the bag. A great course will leave you thinking you can do better next time and The Island certainly did that.
Thomas: A super course.
Michael: Loved everything about the course.
Tom: Don’t be tempted to change it too much.

[Photo: The Island 2nd hole. The approach shot towards Malahide]

Photo Set of The Island