Monday, May 6, 2013

Ireland's Golf Gathering 2 - Carlow

The Bunclody clubhouse, behind the 18th green
(taken from their website)

Irish golf continues to promote itself through the 'Gathering'. 171 events are now listed under 'Golf', which is up from 134 when I first posted about it in February. I'm sure there will be more. Carlow has now pushed itself into the fray with the Carlow International Golf Classic

It plays like the Challenges I am so fond of promoting. In fact, it is exactly the same. 
Despite living in the next county over I had never heard of it... easily explained by the fact that this existed in a very different guise until this year. Now three of the best courses in the region have come together to offer a three day/three round event. It's something worth talking about.

Carlow International Golf Classic
From 9th to 11th of September, golfers will play over three parkland beauties: two in Carlow and one on the Carlow/Wexford border. They offer an intriguing mix of eras: 
  1. Carlow Golf Club (1899)
  2. Bunclody Golf and Fishing Club (2008) 
  3. Mount Wolseley Golf Resort (1996)
The tournament is hosted by Carlow Tourism and, in the spirit of The Gathering, the organisers are extending an open invitation to golfers worldwide. 

Carlow Golf Club is a timeless classic. In terms of age and quality, it is one of our best courses... and it is one of the least revised golf clubs in the country. Oh sure, there have been tweaks (1937, most notably), but the heart of this course has remained untouched and it holds its wonderful charm from start to finish. None of these modern design features or muscular additions, because Carlow doesn't need it. There are ample slopes and changes in elevation, plenty of twists to fairways, plenty of space, plenty of trees and always slick, slick greens... why would you want to change anything. 
Carlow's signature 8th hole, a straight downhill par four
Almost every hole is memorable but the brutal 7th (Index 1), the downhill 'signature' 8th, and the run from 14 to 17 will live long in the memory. Par 70, 6,300+ yards.

Carlow's extremely tough par four 16th. Anything but a perfect drive will leave you blind.

Bunclody Golf and Fishing Resort has so much going for it that it fully deserved last year's accolade of Best Hidden Gem in Ireland (A Golfer's Guide to Ireland Awards). The drive in through the woods, the thatched clubhouse, the practice facilities... it's just the start of something that is maturing rapidly and maturing beautifully. 

The par three 5th at Bunclody gives you little room for error.
The design is by Jeff Howes, stretching across 300 acres of the Hall-Dare estate, and while the open holes at the start of each nine are still acquiring their character, the other 11 holes through woods, along the River Slaney's edge, around ponds - or all three - feel like they have been there for decades. It's a thrilling adventure and the run for home from the 13th makes it all the more memorable. Par 72, 6,700+ yards.

Bunclody's 16th hugs the River Slaney as it curves left

Mount Wolseley Golf Resort is the big, new boy that became such a part of Celtic Tiger golf in the 1990s and 2000s. At Par 72 and 6,700+ yards, it is the same length as Bunclody, but it has the muscularity that comes from mounding, numerous doglegs and serious water hazards. It was designed by Christy O'Connor Junior, and there are few holes where you can pause for breath and admire the views. It is a testing layout and if you can escape without finding a bunker you will be doing extremely well

Index 1 at Mount Wolseley is this tough par four. It doglegs late, right
and up to a tiered green (just visible)
The venue is growing on me the more I play it, and it has its fair share of excellent holes: the start is a rollercoaster ride over lilting terrain, through dense trees and introducing plenty of water hazards. Then, 10 to 15 will push you and thrill you in equal measure. 18 may prove your undoing if you're hanging on to a decent score. The course is wrapped around a big hotel, on the outskirts of Tullow. 

The par five 7th at Mount Wolseley drives at distant mountains
before swinging left.
Format & Cost
This is a team of four competition, in a stableford format- with two scores to count on every hole. That certainly makes it friendly. The price of €149 includes your three rounds of golf, three meal vouchers and one gala dinner... pretty impressive, you have to agree. On top of that there's up to €7,000 in golf prizes. The fee goes up to €159 per person after June 30th. Closing date for receipt of entries August 31st 2013. 

The Mount Wolseley Hotel as it looks from the 18th tee
(the hole doglegs right, around a lake).
Special packages are being offered by five hotels in the area, including Mount Wolseley, which may seem the obvious bet - especially as they have self catering options, too. It is also where the Gala Dinner/Prize giving/Entertainment will be held on the last night.

You'll find all the details on Carlow Tourism's website, or download the pdf and send it on to your friends. And start booking. A great event by the looks of things, and even better value.

Follow this link for Ireland's Golf Gathering 1.

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