Irish golf writer & photographer. Author of ‘Hooked’, the most comprehensive guide to all 340 18-hole courses in Ireland. 3rd edition published in 2015. My second book ‘Driving the Green’, is the story of my camper van-tales that happened along the way. Published by Collins Press. I write for golf magazines and websites… if there's something you want to know about Irish golf courses/travel, drop me a line. Honoured to be writing the 2015 blog for Carne Golf Links.
The Mount Juliet special promotions continue into
September, with four special events – two of which, not surprisingly, are
wrapped around the Ryder Cup. As someone who doesn’t subscribe to the Sky stuff,
I am bereft of live action unless I visit a golf club, a bar or my dad’s
armchair. Tucked up in front of a TV screen at Mount J, with one of their great
burgers and a pint is about as good as it gets.
Here are those 4 events:
Irish PGA Pro-Am Team Qualifier
Enter the Irish PGA Pro-Am Qualifier on
Tuesday September 11th and you could win a place for your team in the Irish PGA
Championship Pro-Am in October
Here’s an inspiring old tale about my wife’s Godmother’s
mother, Lil, that has come out of some historical digging around. On Lil’s 80th
birthday, she was sitting with her cronies, playing Bridge, when she jumped up
and declared that it was far too nice a day to be sitting inside and who
fancied a quick 9 holes at the golf club.
The quick 9 holes was at the mighty Sunningdale, no less,
and they had their own 9-hole routing that started at the Old Course’s 4th hole
(near her house) and finished at the 12th.
So, Lil stepped up to play their ‘1st’ hole, measuring 150
yards from the ladies’ tee, and proceeded to score her first hole-in-one.
The moral of the story? Never give up hope, keep swinging
and always play golf on beautiful days… which, I appreciate, aren’t very
plentiful at the moment.
We’ve all had
dreams of sporting glory... going toe-to-toe down the finishing stretch against
Tiger Woods at the Open Championship or the Masters... and beating him with a
moment of pure brilliance on the final green. The crowds rise and goosebumps
ripple along your arms. Yes, the underdog, the complete unknown, the mission
impossible beats the world’s greatest golfer. Come on, admit it – you’ve
fantasised about it. We all have. Most recently I cruised past Usain Bolt in
the Olympics to take the 200 metres in a new world record. Well, you would,
wouldn’t you. Look, if you don’t have the ability then imagination is the next
best thing – everyone’s a winner in their daydreams.
Back in 1955,
that underdog, that complete unknown became the biggest story in golf and
delivered one of the greatest upsets in the game. It was the US Open and it
pitched the mighty Ben Hogan against an Iowan by the name of Jack Fleck.
The Longest Shotis the story of these two men’s paths to the Open
and their ensuing battle (over an 18 hole play-off). Ben Hogan was looking to
finish his remarkable career in style while Jack Fleck was looking to make a
pro career a reality.
The author, Neil
Sagebiel (of the Armchair Golf Blog), met Jack Fleck – now in his 90s – and
decided to write the story of golf’s greatest underdog. The story is one of
grit and determination, on the part of both men, and anyone who swings a club
will empathise with the mindset of Fleck as he tries to make a name for himself.
Sagebiel gets under Fleck’s skin so that you can understand the man’s work
ethic as well as his hopes and dreams. That is what is at the heart of this
book... the battle at Olympic in San Francisco was the mere culmination of the
man’s drive for success.
A vast quantity
of research went into this book and that is where my only frustration lies –
frustration at myself I must add – I simply can’t keep up with the names and
dates of all the characters involved. Sagebiel introduces you to a multitude of
players from that era (Littler, Rosburg, Furgol, Middlecoff among them), setting the scene and lining
up the players who had a real shot at the US Open, which was to be played over
what was widely regarded as one of the most difficult ever played. Just reading
about the course conditions instills a level of fear. (This year’s US Open was
held at the same venue.)
The battle at
Olympic is remembered more for Hogan’s loss (he was going for a record fifth
win) than Fleck’s win, but Sagebiel makes it abundantly clear that it was the
brilliance of Fleck over the final round in regulation, as well as the play-off
on the following day, that led to his victory. Hogan fought all of the way but
simply couldn’t match Fleck’s game.
The story is told
in an easy style, comparing the two men in their very different golf worlds. It
gives a taste of what pro golf involved in the 1950s, something that is almost
unrecognisable from today’s ‘celebrity’ environment. For starters, in 1955, the
final two rounds were played on the same day.
The other touch
that the author brings to this inspiring tale is that at different times you
find yourself rooting for each of the golfers involved. Nicely balanced, in
Fleck is the
oldest living US Open Champion. Read the book and you’ll discover what has been
driving him all of these years, and then slip back into a daydream... the Ryder Cup is only just around the corner after all.
Just Treats have been getting some more good golf deals out there, encouraging golfers to head a bit further than they might otherwise venture. And that's a good thing. There are too many great Irish courses that golfers have never heard of, so companies like Just Treats - and others - do Irish golf an important service by promoting not only green fee value but also the courses themselves.
I had never heard much about Portsalon Golf Club before my visit, but I am passionate about it now. I pitch the 2nd hole as the best 2nd hole in Ireland, but, in truth, it could easily be the best hole on the island. Danger, beauty, challenge, inspiration - they're all there in abundance. The holes that follow it, along the water, are almost as incredible. And then there are the dead sailors buried beneath the fairways. It all adds up to a thrilling links adventure in the depths of beautiful Donegal.
[Photo: the mighty 2nd hole]
TheJust Treats offeris a discount of up to 34% off two green fees - which would leave you paying €59 for a two-ball. Not bad at all when you consider the quality of the golf course - currently being 'tweaked' by Paul McGinley.
Other courses in the area:
Rosapenna (Sandy Hills and Old Tom Morris courses)
North West (links)
FYI - on the Portsalon website they're promoting the following: Three Day Pass to Rosapenna, Letterkenny & Portsalon only €90.
It's strange how conversations go and how things just pop out of people's mouths. I have known for some time that my mother-in-law's parents were gifted sports players. Her father played cricket for Ireland and, when he retired, became a scratch golfer within a year. If you have to read that sentence again I don't blame you - I had to ask if it was true on more than one occasion.
Her grandmother was also a scratch golfer but had been playing for a lot longer, so when it slipped out of my mother-in-law's mouth that there was a newspaper cutting of her mother standing on the final green of some Irish golf course, having just lost the Ladies' Irish Open (pre-1935), I was hooked - obviously.
"Yes," my mother-in-law said, "it's in a scrapbook somewhere. I think it's in the desk out the back, behind all the old boxes and in the draw that no one can ever open. If it's not there, maybe it's in the desk upstairs in the spare room on top of the beds... and so the list of potential locations went on, usually pre-empted by a description of the obstacle course I would have to overcome if I was to reach the required destination. So, I've been digging around in draws and through School Reports for my wife and her siblings (turns out they were a lot brighter than their teachers gave them credit for - well, that's what they like to think anyway), photograph albums from the 1950s and various scrapbooks that have no rhyme or reason that I can tell. I have practically developed asthma from all the dust that accompanies every moved box and opened drawer, but I have yet to find anything pre-1950s.
If I ever find the
cutting - I am now in my third day - I’ll let you know… but there are some among my wife’s siblings who
think that their mother just needs a couple of rooms
cleared! At least I'm doing a good job.
Our equivalent would be a leprechaun-shaped golf course, or one in the
shape of a shamrock (not that implausible actually), but Australians have their
Great White Shark to embrace…
… which is exactly what is planned for a golf course at Port Lincoln in
South Australia – 400 km west of Adelaide – whereshark cage diving is already a big
The course would
be part of a former BHP site, which is due to be redeveloped. It would include
tourist accommodation, a wharf and shopping facilities.
you fly into Port Lincoln you can see a great white shark and you know what
you're looking at," said Dean Lukin junior, the man behind the vision.
considerable hurdles to overcome, notably the volumes of water that would be
required to maintain the course in a town that is already strapped for water,
but it would be one of the more interesting golf course developments. I imagine
that bunkers will resemble the great white’s mouth – impossible to escape
from. More worryingly might be what they have planned for the water hazards…