Thursday, June 13, 2013

Inside The Ropes - Bunclody Golf Club

View of the 18th green from the clubhouse deck
In 2012, Bunclody won the ‘Hidden Gem’ award in the annual ‘Golfer’s Guide to Ireland’ magazine. Quite a feat considering it only opened for play in 2009. Tucked away on the Wexford/Carlow border, the course stretches over 300 acres of an old estate. It is a wonderful golfing experience, from the moment you take the long, winding drive through tall trees and alongside the River Slaney, to the time you slip into a comfortable chair on the terrace after 18 holes.

And three golfers were about to find out how wonderful it is.

“Excellent clubhouse and warm up area,” noted Jonathan, a sentiment echoed by Mark, who spent a good 30 minutes using the driving range and chipping greens before our tee time. “The practice range is very good, and it’s a lovely clubhouse,” he said of the building with its famous thatched roof.

Any golf course will look glorious basking in 20 + degree heat and sunshine, and Bunclody was no different. We were welcomed onto the 1st tee with a mist of cool droplets left behind by the water sprinklers.

The clubhouse
Choose Your Tee
We made the mistake of playing from the green tees. And when I say ‘we’, I mean ‘I’. I thought it would make the round easier if Conor (18 handicap), Jonathan (16), Mark (16) and myself played off the forward tees (6,291 yards), versus the white tees (6,728). The black tees measure 7,164 yards. I hadn’t taken into account the weather conditions and the run on the fairways. It worked in my favour – I had two eagle putts on par fives – but not in Jonathan’s, who went so long on 10 (344 yards) that we never found his ball. The lads were all big hitters and when asked what one thing they’d need to remember to score well in the future, Conor said:

“Look at the length of the hole before teeing off – plenty of par fours require an iron only.”

The short par four 9th - one of the holes where an iron is the sensible play.
There are doglegs and bunkers (too many, if you ask Jonathan)… and a lot of doglegs with bunkers, so course management is key.

New Design
As it is such a new course it was essential to get the guys’ thoughts on Bunclody’s design. The length off the green tees was raised, not surprisingly, but all three were impressed nonetheless:

“I like it for its variation,” said Jonathan. “There are narrow fairways and wide fairways, so it has a very broad scope of interest.”

Jonathan's drive on the short par five 8th - you can see his ball in the tree-line.
It was our best hole of the day: 2 birdies, 1 par, 1 bogey.
Conor was quick to agree. “It’s a lovely course. Very well designed around the landscape and natural features, such as the river.” There’s little doubt that the old Hall-Dare Estate, with its mature woods and stretch of the River Slaney, has been used to maximum effect. The river affects five holes, the Index 1 16th most notably, and anyone with a draw will be very nervous on both 16 and 17.

Mark pointed to the par threes. “They’re not all the same yardages, and every green was smooth and true.”

There are also downsides to being new. “It’s still a bit ‘young’ looking and a bit open around holes 1, 2, 3 and 10 and 11,” Conor suggested, “but it’s improving.”

Conor, Mark and Jonathan on the par three 14th tee (green behind)
In A Bunker
Jeff Howes delivers distinctive bunkers and if there were any criticisms aimed at the course, it was these. Jonathan admitted to having a ‘very bad day at the office’, finding only one green in regulation (par three 17th), and spending so much time in the bunkers he must have been looking around for a bucket and spade. “I feel there are too many bunkers in unnecessary areas for certain holes. But,” he added wryly, “they are kept in very good condition.”

Conor was in agreement again. “There are too many bunkers to be easily maintained, and the waste bunkers on 6, 7 and 8 could be replaced. They’re hard underfoot.”

Mark hits in to the 12th, with its nest of bunkers
(the clubhouse is blow and to the right).
Variety in shot making is always important and while the green tees again made things shorter than they could have been, Conor and Jonathan had a busy day of club selection.

“Many of the approaches were varied, so it made me think. I probably used every club in the bag,” Jonathan said. Conor added, “shots are very varied and despite a lot of short holes there’s plenty of trouble. Sensible play is rewarded.”

Bunclody Golf Club and Fishing Resort sits on the very edge of the town, opposite the Millrace Hotel, and has gained a reputation in golfing circles for two things: the lift and the final holes.

View from inside the lift, out over the 17th green.
“Not many lifts on golf courses,” Mark quipped as we ascended the five storeys to reach the 18th tee.

The other and far more pertinent reason why golfers visit this quiet part of the world is the stunning finishing stretch of holes.

“Holes 14 to 18 are a great finishing stretch,” Mark enthused. “They’re tight but rewarding holes.” The 15th would be regarded as Bunclody’s signature hole, and it was the hole highlighted by Conor. “A great tee shot,” he said, despite stuffing it left into tough rough. His recovery was a moment of brilliance and followed by a superb up and down from the back bunker for par. [Watch the video of his bunker shot

The guys on the 'green' tee of the spectacular 15th.
They're looking down on the 16th beside the river.
“The 15th is a cracking hole, but I really enjoyed the entire finishing stretch,” Jonathan commented. “It’s a great way to end the round.”

For Conor, an even better way to end the round was winning the Titleist ProV1, with 37 points, which included a scratch on the last. "I'll be too nervous to play with it now."

When asked for final comments, Mark pointed to the incredible views, Conor joked about his missed eagle chance on 8, adding that Bunclody is under-rated, while Jonathan summed it up best:

“It’s a hidden gem and definitely great value for money.”

Finishing up on the 18th green
Their ratings out of 10 for Golf Experience were:
Jonathan 8
Conor 8
Mark 8
Total 24/30

Their ratings out of 10 for Value for Money (€25 - €40) were:
Jonathan 8
Conor 7
Mark 7
Total 22/30

The club is open to visitors every day

Rainbow across the 18th green - looking back up the fairway (right)
12 Week Open Stableford Series - Beginning June 12th
The Weekly Winners Will Receive An Amazing Flat Screen TV And DVD Player
Contact Pro Shop For Full Details: 053 9374444
Open To Ladies And Gents GUI/ILGU Cardholders
Book Online Or Through Pro Shop
Entry €30


  1. Great review Kevin, and on reading it I'd probably bump my rating up a bit - it really was a lovely course.
    My only complaint was that I got a par on the 15th - in the bunker in two!!
    Thanks again for a really enjoyable round,

    1. Yea, I had a par written on the card, but I thought you couldn't have reached the bunker from that hanging lie... I guess that shows off your true genius! Changed accordingly!