Sunday, December 16, 2012

The 12 Months of Christmas… Irish Golf for 2013

Yes, I know, it should be the 12 Days of Christmas… but 12 days simply doesn’t give you enough time when it comes to golf. So let’s look at a bigger canvas and call it the 12 Months of 2013.

Here’s my challenge to you – or a list of suggestions if you prefer – set yourself a golfing goal for each month, write it down on a chart and make those your targets for next year. Tick them off as each month passes and you’ll have something to look back on with a sense of achievement, come December 31, 2013.

Need a hand? Here are a few ideas...

Read a good golf book. It’s cold out there so stay indoors, put on the slippers and enjoy something uplifting, humorous or educational. There are plenty of books to inspire you for the year ahead. Bring Me the Head of Sergio Garcia, The Longest Shot, Dream On… to name a few.

It’s still cold, so practise a new shot – something you haven’t tried before: a fade, a draw, the 50 yard bunker shot, or playing a 7 iron from the edge of the green. Stretch your boundaries and expand your game. It will make you a more versatile player.

Do you like competitive golf? If so, target the teams at your home club that you could play for… potentially. Find out who the team managers are, ask them how selection works, and show them that you deserve to be considered – in thought and word and deed. It’s a lot of fun, and pressure too, so see if you rise to the challenge when that four foot putt is the difference between victory and defeat.

Royal County Down 6th hole

Visit Royal County Down (RCD) when green fees are £75 a round (incl. Sunday pm). This is one of the best golf courses in the world. It is an unforgettable experience and it’s about 2 hours from Dublin Airport. It is a ‘bucket list’ course, so get up there. You can probably get out with only a couple of days’ notice, so keep your eyes on the weather forecast.

Or swap with February’s goal, as green fees are a mere £50 weekdays at RCD.

And if not RCD, then any of the other links on this amazingly links-blessed island. March is a perfect time of year to play some links golf. (Do check that mats aren’t in use and that you can play off fairways, and not place in the rough.) There’s something about the chill in the air, the look of the fairways and the roll of the greens. If you’ve never played links golf, why not start at Corballis on Dublin’s northside. It’s cheap and a real treasure.

Corballis 11th hole
Attend the West of Ireland Championship at Rosses Point. It starts on April 1st. The best amateurs play the event and they’re not just from Ireland. If you want to see the potential Pros of tomorrow, pay Sligo a visit. And since you’re there, it would be rude not to play some of the great courses in the area: Strandhill, Enniscrone, Bundoran and Donegal, or you can stay and play at Castle Dargan, which also has a spa.

Or target the handicap you want to reach and decide how you’re going to achieve it. More practice, more golf and/or golf lessons? What’s your Achilles Heel?

Make it a goal to play a course you’ve never played before. This is the best time of year for golf: parklands are approaching their peak, and colour, so try some of the big courses (Druid’s Glen, Adare, Mount Juliet, Concra Wood, Killeen Castle, Lough Erne, Headfort, Clandeboye, Malone, Killarney) or some of the gems (Rathcore, Portumna, Portarlington, The Curragh, Scrabo). Most of these can be done on a day trip, so splash out and enjoy.

View back up the 1st to Killeen Castle

20-23 of June is The Irish Open at Carton House (Montgomerie course). Tickets are a good price (€26 for a day, or €61 for a season ticket) and the course is close enough to Dublin. Support the event, be inspired and see if an Irishman can pull off a victory. Tickets available here.

Alternatively, do something completely different (and a little insane) and join the Insomniacs event at Westport Golf Club on June 29. Shotgun start and tee off is at 4am. [More on this to follow]

Take on the Atlantic Coast Challenge. Take part in one of Ireland’s dozen or so ‘Challenges’. This one is a personal favourite because it plays over three of my favourite courses (Carne, Enniscrone, Rosses Point). You pay a paltry €125 to play the troika of the North West’s links. Teams of three: bring your own friends, or make new ones on the tee. [More on this to follow, too]

Enniscrone's 3rd, green to tee

If you haven’t got away for a holiday, book into the Killarney Royal Hotel, voted Boutique Golf Hotel of the Year at the IGTOA Awards in November 2012. Killarney is one of Ireland’s big tourist destinations and there are hundreds of things to do besides playing golf… although with some of Kerry’s great courses on your doorstep it would be criminal not to get in at least one round of golf while treating the family.

Consider a lesson or two. How have you been doing during the year… what areas do you want to improve? A Pro could provide just the inspiration and direction you need, and with Winter coming you’ll have time to practise and get familiar with any changes. Check out these six stages of what lessons are all about… and then decide.

Make it your mission to inspire someone to take up the game. Your partner, your cousin, niece, godson, neighbour, postman. Failing that, make your dad’s, sister’s, best friend’s day and take them somewhere completely unexpected for a round of golf.

Or go away for a day with three friends: plenty of places will be offering golf and either breakfast or lunch at a very reasonable rate. Just remember to agree on the designated driver.

Learn some rules. This could (and should) apply to every month of the year, but think back over your year’s golf and assess those rule queries that came up.

Pick up the rules book and start learning the core ones you don’t know. What’s the difference between red and yellow water hazard stakes? What are the three options you have when your ball’s unplayable? What happens when your ball moves at address?

Buy something from the Internet for Christmas (for yourself or someone else). Something silly or different is good. A gizmo, a daft hat, some loud trousers. Give yourself a good pick-me-up for the end of the golfing year, and give yourself and your friends a laugh… or your wife a fright!

If you have any specific ambitions/suggestions, let me know.

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