Friday, November 30, 2012

Golf Digest Ireland Top 100 Courses

The Golf Digest Ireland Top 100 annual rankings are out... let the arguments, debates and fisticuffs begin. You can look at rankings in one of two ways: ignore them as playful nonsense; or take them with a pinch of salt and go play the courses that catch your eye. They're there as a guide. As always, I have my quibbles - some big, some small - but when you have so many people involved in the ranking process it's impossible to get a consensus that everybody is happy with.
Needs no introduction - the view of the 9th hole (post blind drive) at Royal County Down
For example, if you took 100 people and asked them to rank 100 courses, 50 of them could come back and say Royal County Down (RCD) is number 1; the other 50 might put RCD at number 100. The median puts RCD at number 50... and not one person out of that 100 is happy.

I shall not make any comments this year... other than to say Esker Hills is the highest New Entry at 82, and, as always, a few of my favourites are not on the list (Coollattin, The Curragh, Macreddin, Rathcore - all listed under 'Worthy Mentions' at the end of Golf Digest's list - and Portarlington and Scrabo).

Rathcore's impressive par three 16th

The rankings are based on seven criteria:

Shot making/variety 20 pointsDesign variety 10 points
Memorability 10 points
Wow factor 10 points
Condition 10 points
Playability 10 points
Degree of difficulty/fairness 10 points

So here it is and please feel free to leave your comments below:

1. Royal County Down (=)
2. Portmarnock (=)
3. Royal Portrush (=)
4. Waterville (=)
5. Lahinch (Up 1)
6. Ballybunion (Old) (down 1)
7. The European Club (up 1)
8. Tralee (Down 1)
9. County Louth (Baltray) (=)
10. Adare (=)
11. County Sligo (Rosses Point) (=)
12. Ballyliffin, Glashedy (Up 1)
13. Enniscrone (Up 1)
14. The Island (Down 2)
15. Portstewart, Strand (Up 2)
16. Mount Juliet (Down 1)
17. Killeen Castle (up 1)
18. Donegal (down 2)
19. The K-Club, Palmer (up 1)
20. Belmullet, Carne (Up 1)

Mount Juliet's superb 4th hole - a lethal par four (Down 1)
21. Ballyliffin, Old Links (Up 1)
22. The Old Head of Kinsale (Up 2)
23. Portmarnock Links (Up 8)
24. Royal Dublin (Down 5)
25. Portsalon (Up 2)
26. Doonbeg (Down 3)
27. Carlow (Up 2)
28. Rosapenna, Sandy Hills (Down 3) (Dropped 7 places in last 2 years)
29. Lough Erne (Up 3)
30. Carton House, Montgomerie (Down 2)
31. Cork (Down 1)
32. Dooks (Up 1)
33. Killarney, Killeen (Down 7) (Dropped 10 places in last 2 years)
34. Rosapenna, Old Tom Morris (=)
35. Castlerock (=)
36. Headfort, New (=)
37. Fota Island, Deerpark (Up 3)
38. Narin And Portnoo (Up 5) (Up 13 places in last 2 years)
39. Druids Glen (Down 2)
40. Concra Wood (Down 2)

The 3rd hole at Portsalon (Up 2)
41. Slieve Russell (Up 4)
42. The K-Club, Smurfit Course (Down 1)
43. Seapoint (Down 1)
44. Connemara (Up 4) (Up 12 places in last 2 years)
45. Luttrellstown Castle (Down 6)
46. Carton House, O’Meara (Up 3)
47. Tramore (=)
48. Heritage (Down 4)
49. Dun Laoghaire (Up 6)  
50. Palmerstown House Estate (Down 4)
51. Belvoir Park (=)
52. Malone (=)
53. Powerscourt, West Course (Down 3) (Dropped 15 places in last 2 years)
54. Portumna (Down 1)
55. Portrush, Valley (Up 3)
56. Glasson (Up 6)
57. Bunclody (Up 2)
58. Hermitage (Down 1)
59. Castletroy (Up 4) (Up 26 places in last 2 years)
60. Farnham Estate (Down 6) (Dropped 12 places in last 2 years)

The 9th Hole at Dun Laoghaire (Up 6)

61. Arklow (Up 4)
62. Mount Wolseley (Up 2) (Up 14 places in last 2 years)
63. Royal Belfast (Up 8)
64. Westport (Down 8) (Dropped 19 places in last 2 years)
65. Dromoland Castle (Up 4)
66. Clandeboye Dufferin (=)
67. Druids Heath (Up 3)
68. Powerscourt, East Course (Up 7)
69. Rathsallagh (Down 2)
70. Tullamore (Down 9) (Dropped 17 places in last 2 years)
71. Dundalk (Down 11) (Dropped 21 places in last 2 years)
72. Castlemartyr (Up 4)
73. Shannon (=)
74. Strandhill (Up 4) (Up 9 places in last 2 years)
75. Ardglass (Down 4)
76. Rosslare (Up 5) (Up 22 places in last 2 years)
77. Laytown and Bettystown (=)
78. Grange (Down 4)
79. Ballybunion, Cashen (Up 2) (Up 14 places in last 2 years)
80. Ballinrobe (Up 10)

Ballybunion Cashen's drop-dead gorgeous par three 16th (up 2)

81. Dingle, Ceann Sibeal (Up 17)
82. Esker Hills (New Entry)
83. Castle (Down 4)
84. St. Annes (Down 2)
85. Mullingar (Down 5)
86. Galgorm Castle (Up 2)
87. Galway Bay (Up 9)
88. Galway (Down 1)
89. Balbriggan (Up 3)
90. Courtown (Down 1)
91. Tulfarris (Up 3)
92. Knightsbrook (Down 7) (Dropped 13 places in last 2 years)
93. Bantry Bay (Down 7) (Dropped 23 places in last 2 years)
94. Kirkistown Castle (Down 1)
95. Killarney, (Mahony’s Point) (New Entry)
96. St. Margaret’s (New Entry)
97. Kilkenny (Down 14) (Dropped 31 places in last 2 years)
98. Skellig Bay (Down 14)
99. Athlone (New Entry)
100. Woodenbridge (=)

The sweet par three 8th at Woodenbridge
Out of the Top 100 this year are: New Forest, Moyvalley, Castleknock and Killarney Lackabane (due to closure).

As I said above, any thought you have on the Golf Digest Ireland Top 100 2013, let's be having them.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Failte Ireland Golf Promotion Night - Follow Up

The Golf Promotion Night at the Burlington was an interesting affair. 66+ eager beaver golf clubs came from across the country to sell their wares, society packages and green fees. Until now, the event has been held in Belfast for the last 20 years or so, and this was the first time it was in Dublin – so naturally there was a buzz around the place.

I had a long list of people/clubs I wanted to see and had given myself 90 minutes to press the flesh. Over two hours later and having only seen half the clubs/organisations I wanted I had to leave. So, apologies to Glasson, Roganstown,, Doonbeg, Blainroe, The Island, Concra Wood, Dooks, Rosapenna, Mount Wolseley and The Curragh, among others.

Prizes were excellent, with all clubs in attendance chipping in – from fourballs to a five-day membership (Lisheen Springs) – but it has to be said that the microphone system would have given a train station tannoy a run for its money. I could have won every prize and I wouldn’t have known. That said, Ally McIntosh, the golf architect won the first prize of the night. McIntosh has designed the new 9 holes at Carne, which will be opened next year.

The night was aimed at societies primarily, and one early conversation I had revealed that a booking for 70 golfers was already in the offing. I hope there were plenty more, but the footfall was steady rather than spectacular.

[Photo: Bundoran's 12th hole, green to tee, and the views beyond]

Failte Ireland’s marketing covered many bases, including letters to all golf clubs, radio advertising, press releases to the newspapers and some online advertising, as well as tying in with MyGolfSociety. I was surprised therefore by the footfall. With all those prizes and the excellent value on offer I expected the place to be teaming with people. No doubt there will be further marketing opportunities – Social Media especially – next year.

Some of the Golf Offers (price per person) worth mentioning:

Adare Society rates, including accommodation, range from €135 (1 night DB&B and golf) to €295 (2 night B&B, 1 dinner, 2 rounds of golf).

Bundoran Society rates range from €25 to €30, and there are several deals with local hotels who cater to societies of all sizes.

Carton House Society rates range from €50 to €70… but if you book before 31/1/13 and mention the Failte Ireland Golf Society Night Special you’ll get : a 10% discount; a fourball voucher for Carton House (groups over 20 only); and a season ticket for the Irish Open 2013.

Donegal Society rates range from €40 to €50 with Main Course Dinner.

Dun Laoghaire Society rates range from €25 (40 or more players) to €55.

Fota Island Society rates range from €50 to €69.

Glen of The Downs Society rates start range from €25 to €45.

Headfort Society rates range from €20 - €40 on the Old and €20 - €45 on the New.

The Heritage is offering Society’s rates from €35 to €55, although you can also enter the Open Singles Competition on Mondays, at €25 per person.

The Island Society/Group rates range from €45 (over 40 players) to €105 (for small groups peak season).

The K Club Smurfit course has a special Christmas Week (26-31 Dec) offer, with a 2 ball at €60, 3 ball at €80 and 4 ball at €100. Their Society rates range from €40 (full Irish breakfast included) to €50.

Mount Juliet Society rates start from €60, with a free overnight stay for two for the group organiser.

Mullingar will be hosting an Open Singles Competition every Friday between March and October, 2013, for €20. Society offerings start at €30, rising to €60 (w/e with steak diner).

St Helen’s Bay Society rates start at €29 for golf and a meal.

Waterford Castle rates for Societies range from €25 to €45 (includes all day breakfast).

Westport Society rates range from €20 - €30

Golf Graffix were also there, showing off their new golf simulator. And a beauty it is too, partly because of its minimalist size, partly because it’s easy to use and partly because the graphics on the screen are excellent… and it’ll retail for approx. €400, assuming you can get your hands on one.

[Photo: a clever business card ploy of Adare’s. I love the idea of a golfer casually leaving this on the kitchen table.]

Let's hope Failte Ireland and Golf Ireland hold another Golf Promotion Night next year, and also give consideration to some Regional events which would be more likely to attract local societies.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

St. Andrew's to be "Updated" for 2015 Open

So, the powers that be have decided St. Andrew's, The Home of Golf, needs to be updated ahead of the 2015 Open Championship. It needs more teeth apparently. The Press Release is here if you want to read it, but I'll sum it up for you in two words:


In fact it's such a bad idea, I suspect they'll get Donald Trump to come along and make suggestions:

"Gee, that clubhouse, what an eyesore. Can we build a sandbank in front of it? Wadda mean no! Do it anyway. Can you people understand English!"

When you have hallowed ground you don't mess with it. I have not had the pleasure of playing there so I'm spouting about things I know nothing about, but there's a Twitter-storm of discontent brewing. Tom Doak is said to be horrified and he's not the only architect having conniptions.

Martin Hawtree is doing the redesigns - I still prefer Trumpy for the job - and if ever there was a design test, this is it. Screw it up and he may be out of a job for life. No pressure then!

Consider this: great golf course architects come to St. Andrew's to study every inch of it, to learn from it and be inspired by it. It is not a difficult course but that is not its raison d'etre.

St. Andrew's is the world's most iconic and cherished piece of golf land, by professionals and amateurs alike, and it is called the 'Old Course' for a very good reason. Doing anything to it to make it more 'challenging' is sacrilegious. Please, Mr. R&A, think again. You've made enough daft decisions over the years, don't make another one.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Golf's Social Media Open

Golf and social media in Ireland… an ever growing presence and, evidently, an ever growing purpose.

As more golf clubs, players and organisations see the benefits of social media, it’s no surprise that some enterprising Twitter golf nuts have created the inaugural ‘Social Media Open’. Check out @SMOpen on Twitter.

And they’re not exactly thinking small. This four day (5 night) tournament will see golfers playing Mount Juliet, Castlemartyr, Adare and Old Head of Kinsale. Those are four seriously good golf courses: two classic parklands that have hosted numerous international tournaments; a stunning headland course with a location that is envied around the world; and one of the new breed of inland links.

[Photo: the short par four 7th at Castlemartyr]
The Open is being promoted constantly on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, drumming up the interest of national and international golfers alike. It has also been submitted to ‘The Gathering’, which is the driving force behind 2013. The Open is the brainchild of several individuals, but putting the ‘flesh on the bones’ was the job of Tom Kennedy, currently Golf Sales Co-ordinator at Mount Juliet.

The goal is to be based in Kinsale town (one of Ireland’s most colourful and gastronomic towns) at the White Lady Hotel, and it will be during US Master’s week (April 2013) which should spice up the evenings nicely, especially as Rory McIlroy will be slipping on the Green jacket on Sunday night.

[Photo: the par three 16th at Adare]

The tournament will be played in a pairs fourball, betterball format, so you’ll have to drum up the interest of a friend… not that that is proving hard. I am reliably informed that spaces are filling fast, and from a very international audience, too.

Sponsors of the event, so far, include:, and so there will be a good prize ‘fund’ for entrants to play for.
[Photo: green to tee on Mount Juliet's 15th]

If you want further information you can contact - either as an entrant or as a potential sponsor.

Social Media Open Itinerary

FORMAT – INTERNATIONAL PAIRS, TEAM OF 2 EVENT Day 1, Wednesday 10th April 2013
Golf at Mount Juliet, 11.20am tee off. Overnight in Mount Juliet, OR Kinsale where there will be a Meet and Greet and optional pints at the White Lady Hotel

Day 2, Thursday 11th April 2013
Golf at Castlemartyr, 12.30pm tee off. Overnight in Kinsale,
First Round of US Masters

Day 3, Friday 12th April 2013
Golf at Adare Manor Hotel & Golf Resort (day trip), 12pm tee off. Overnight in Kinsale, Second Round of US Masters

Day 4, Saturday 13th April 2013
Rest Day / Optional Extra Golf / Sightseeing / Possible Pub Crawl of the Town
Third Round of US Masters

Day 5, Sunday 14th April 2013
Final Day's Golf at Old Head Golf Links, 12.15pm tee off. Prize Giving Dinner at Old Head Clubhouse
Final Round of US Masters in front of the big screen at White Lady Hotel, overnight in Kinsale

Day 6, Monday 15th April 2013
Depart for Home    

[Photo: the 2nd at Old Head]


Package price, golf & accommodation (4 rounds, 5 nights) €505 per person.
Golf only €275 per person.

A deposit of €150 per Team will be required to confirm any entries by 30th November and entries will be allocated on a first come first served basis. There are also non-golfing opportunities if you plan to drag your patient, non-golfing partner along.
If you’re playing, good luck, and if you can’t make it this year be sure to keep an eye out for the following year’s event.

Irish Golf Photographs

You’ll find photographs on the Twitter Feed (@SMOpen) or check out my Flickr pics:

Twitter Feeds

Oh, and you can be sure there’ll be plenty of Twitter activity during the Social Media Open… it would be rather pointless if there wasn’t.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Rosapenna - an 81 hole golfing mecca

In what will be seen as a brave move, given the economic climate, Rosapenna Hotel and Golf Resort has acquired a further 36 golf holes that were once known as St. Patrick's Links. One of the courses was designed by Jack Nicklaus, which will give you an inkling of just how good it is.

[Photo: From the 7th tee on Rosapenna's Sandy Hills course you can look across at St. Patrick's]

It means Rosapenna can now boast 81 holes, wrapped around a four star hotel in Downings, making it a mecca for golfers, and enhancing Donegal's reputation as the links county of Ireland.

If you want to read more details, you'll find an excellent article on Rosapenna's evolution here, on Brian Keogh's Irish Golf Desk

Lough Erne Resort and the G8

Congratulations must go to the Lough Erne Resort which will play host to the G8 Summit next June. That's no small feat given all the trials and tribulations that the resort has been through and the rest of the economy has been experiencing.

[Photo: Aerial view of Lough Erne Resort. Courtesy of Lough Erne Resort]

David Cameron made the announcement on Tuesday, during a visit to Northern Ireland, and there was a loud cheer after he had finished. Is it any wonder! The entire county of Fermanagh will be booked solid and hotels for miles around will be full. If you look on Twitter, hotels in the region tweeted that they were booked out within hours. The resort has 120 hotel rooms and 65 houses, which should be just about big enough for the British contingent, although Dave may make way for Barack.

Hopefully golf courses will grab their share too, although I don't fancy anyone's chances of getting out on Lough Erne during the event. Will Obama tee it up during his stay? There isn't a basketball court at the resort so chances are he'll walk over the pontoon to the 1st tee and enjoy Nick Faldo's impressive course. And will Faldo and/or Rory pop along to play with the President?

[Photo: The pontoon bridge across to the 1st tee]

It's hard to believe that that Lough Erne's golf course only opened officially in 2009 (the hotel opened in 2007). With Rory sporting the logo on his shirts it feels like it has been around a lot longer. But the same can be said of Rory.

[Photo: Approach to the 17th hole. Courtesy of Lough Erne Resort]

The golf course is a spectacular beast - manicured, of course, but with natural, wild flourishes everywhere and the lough constantly in view... and often in play. There are three men's tees: 
Black (7,167 yards)
Blue (6,241 yards)
White (6,241 yards)
Yellow (5,686 yards)

I think we'll exclude the Yellows for now - why would you want to play a par 72 that short!

[Photo: approach to the par four 7th]

The resort was performing successfully in 2011, but was put in administration by Bank of Scotland (Ireland), which partially financed the £35 million development. The reasons for the move were heavily criticised at the time as the resort was profitable, but it was Lloyds Bank, owners of Bank of Scotland (Ireland), who cocked things up massively by buying Bank of Scotland in the first place... and this was their short-sighted way of recouping some of their losses. 

Banks screwing up? Whoever heard of such a thing!

The Lough Erne Resort was the brainchild of Jim Treacy (who put in £10 million himself), but with the exposure the G8 summit will receive, maybe he'll see this as the perfect opportunity to buy back Lough Erne Resort.