Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Golf Digest Ireland at Royal Dublin

Sadly, not me.
Golf Digest Ireland is running a series of 12 amateur events this year, with a prize fund of over €8,000 up for grabs. It is the ‘largest prize fund in Irish amateur golf’ and it’s packed with extras that will make most amateur golfers feel utterly spoilt… and you get to play over some of Ireland’s premier clubs, too.

On June 16th it was at Royal Dublin, and it was too good an opportunity to miss.

The series has a number of sponsors and it’s fairly clear who those sponsors are from the moment you arrive (or look at the website) – Volvo cars appear here and there around the clubhouse, Nature Valley bars available all over the course and Seiko kindly reminds you of your impending tee time. It’s a big set-up and one that creates a buzz.

You check-in, get your card, receive your goodie bag, listen to the instructions, ogle the enormous trophy that goes to the series’ final winner and generally feel good about yourself.

Teeing off at the 1st
Is there ANY reason to feel bad about yourself? Absolutely not, so let’s get the typical gripes out of the way…

‘How much does it cost?’
Royal Dublin cost €80, but prices vary depending on where you play… Killarney, The Heritage, Carton House, K Club, Tralee… And if you think €80 is steep, remember this: it’s usually €120 at this time of year, and it was a Sunday. 
Eoin tees off at the 5th
 ‘What do I get for my money?’
All competitors receive a goodie bag with bits and pieces, including a sleeve of golf balls.
Free drinks, fruit and Nature Valley bars at every third hole. A free burger after nine holes. “This should be called the Fat Digest Volvo Open,” Eoin remarked as we stood on the 10th tee, busily chomping the burgers and wondering if we could send the man in the approaching buggy back for more.

There are two longest drive holes – prizes are a Seiko watch for male and female drives – and then each par three has a nearest the pin prize. Nothing much to get excited about here. I mean, all you could win is a Nikon Laser Rangefinder, a Powakaddy or a full set of Taylormade irons. Hardly worth getting out of bed for.
Tom on the par three 9th
My other two playing partners – Tom and Parry – may well have picked up prizes on two of the par threes (the 4th and 9th, respectively). I was even in the running on the 9th, if Parry hadn’t decided to rain on my parade and stitch it to four feet about 30 seconds after mine had stopped five feet from the cup.

Parry plays a blinder of a second shot to 8 feet on the Index 3, 460 yard 18th.
There are also Raffle prizes in the clubhouse at the end of the day, ranging from sunglasses to golf holidays… but you have to be there to collect a prize, so no wonder the late tee times book up so fast.
The Category prizes are divided across three categories: Men (handicaps 0-12 and 13-24) and Ladies, with 1st, 2nd and 3rd prizes (Taylormade Driver, Rescue and Putter, respectively).

For each Category winner, they will qualify for a two-day, 36 hole final at Carton House in November, with the winner of that event going on to play in the Volvo World Golf Challenge in Dubai.

So my question is this – is that worth €80 to you?

The par five 14th, straight back at the clubhouse.

Royal Dublin
It was a great day for links golf on Bull Island – a gentle breeze to start and hard, fast-running fairways. Greens were slower than you’d expect but they ran true. The rough was up (the Captain’s Prize had been the day before) and competitors were warned to play a provisional if balls veered off line. Staying on the fairways was at a premium and, like its neighbour at Portmarnock, the lines into greens were nigh on impossible if you were coming out of the rough. The green complexes are all flows, valleys, banks and dips, making your short game the difference between a par and double bogey.

I met Parry, Eoin and Tom on the 1st tee and despite some lacklustre scoring (off very forward white tees (less than the official 6907 yards)) it was a thoroughly enjoyable day – helped in no small part by the weather, the anticipation of winning a couple of nearest the pin prizes, and the prospect of a second burger.

There was some very wayward hitting and some remarkable ball-finding but none of us was surprised that the round took over 5 hours. We were the sixth group out and we were waiting on most tees. At least the events use a Stableford format. I dread to think how long it would have lasted if it had been Strokes.

Practice green and busy practice range.
I am not Royal Dublin’s biggest fan, but that doesn’t mean I don’t admire and respect it. As golf tests go it is hard to beat, but I prefer my links big and muscular, not lean and mean. After playing yesterday’s enthralling competition, I respect it all the more for its ability to humble you and to draw out your best shot-making skills… so I strongly suggest that you experience a course that will teach you about the advantages of straight hitting, low trajectories and bump-and-run. The clubhouse is mighty impressive too!

View of the clubhouse from the back of the 15th tee box

Golf Digest Volvo Ireland Events
As for these events, I also strongly recommend that you give one a go. You’ll find a full list of the remaining events on their website, and they include the K Club, Tralee, Galgorm Castle, Slieve Russell, Knightsbrook and Powerscourt. Even if it’s just to hear your name being announced as you step on to the 1st tee, the money is definitely worth it.

At the end of the day, it turns out that both Tom and Parry were nearest the pin and won a GolfBuddy World GPS and Nikon Coolshot Rangefinder, respectively. Congratulations to them both: Parry's was a shot of beauty; but even Tom will admit his shot took a few interesting bounces along the way.

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