Thursday, July 4, 2013

Atlantic Coast Challenge - Day 3 (Enniscrone)

The drive from Belmullet to Enniscrone takes about an hour and a quarter. It takes you through some barren landscapes with only the distant mist-capped mountains breaking the horizons. It is as eerie as it is beautiful.

Our final round in this year’s Atlantic Coast Challenge was at Enniscrone. We were playing for nothing but pride and I was waiting to see Ronan’s reaction to this stunning course. After missing out on Carne’s jaw-dropping back nine, he was about to discover a course with blind shots, dramatic dunes and twists and turns that not even Fred and Ginger could begin to imagine. 

Enniscrone didn’t disappoint. We had a gentle Irish day – cloudy, mild and just a hint of rain – and with the tees well forward (last year we were off the back tees and I think someone had words) the course was ripe for the picking. Not that we did any such thing. Enniscrone has several blind shots, but it is rarely cruel. That said, it is a course that needs to be played at least once to give you an appreciation of what is, and what is not, possible. The 2nd hole (a dogleg right that requires an iron off the tee) is a perfect example. It makes the course no less brilliant and merely adds to its thrills.

Approach to the 2nd, with nothing but sea behind. 

“Now that’s a golf hole,” Ronan muttered on more than one occasion, most notably on 12 and 13 and 14 and 15 and 16.

Enniscrone used to start with two flat par fives, but a redesign/rerouting saw these dull holes removed and replaced with two that throw you straight into the dunes. The old holes now form part of the Scurmore nine-hole course, which plays alongside a number of holes on the big course. As we played around, we all commented on how many kids there were on the Scurmore course. Boys and girls everywhere, some with parents, some on their own. It is a positive sight for the game.

On the walk to the 3rd tee, you get a look down the 15th (Index 1, so pay attention)

Later, over a well-earned pint, I asked Ronan which was his favourite course. He didn’t hesitate.

“Enniscrone,” he said. He admitted that having not played the back nine at Carne he was deprived of information, but Enniscrone blew him away.

Finbarr still leaned towards Carne. “It would have been nice if we could have seen more,” he muttered of the heavy, wet day.

Me? You’d have to torture me for a week – or buy me a couple of pints – before I would separate the three courses. I love each one in different ways.

Approach shot to the magnificent 12th
 There was also the matter of the Starter. Myself and Finbarr were waiting to see if the gentleman from last year was making a reappearance. It was not a pleasant encounter, but this time we had the old, twinkle-in-his-eye character, complete with flat cap and a tale or two about ‘when I was your age’. He sent us all off with a smile.

Day 1 Review - Rosses Point
Day 2 Review - Carne

This year’s Atlantic Coast Challenge ran very smoothly indeed. Mary and David (managers at Carne and Co. Sligo respectively) have done a great job organising this event and the Challenge just gets better and better. The change in scoring format has made a difference both to the enjoyment and the time to complete a round. Last year we were averaging 5.5 hours; this year it was 4.5. It should also be noted that the courses are in excellent shape. What’s more, the greens were perfect. On numerous occasions we found the green with approach shots but failed to find a pitchmark. Not even a dent. I watched Ronan’s 5 iron on Enniscrone’s 18th touch down a few feet from the flag. When we got there we found nothing more than a couple of blades of bruised grass. You’ve got to love greens like that.

Finbarr putts across the 14th green
Prize Giving

The prize giving was in the Diamond Coast Hotel, which is right beside the golf course. The hotel was the big sponsor of the event and threw a ‘barbecue’ for all competitors. Considering that golfers were coming from Carne and Rosses Point as well, there were some 70 people at the evening which is an impressive turnout.

An average of 86 points per day won the competition – which pretty much covers our combined score from Carne and Enniscrone – but more impressive was the announcement that there were teams from Germany, England, Scotland, Australia and Brazil, with five teams from the USA. Word is getting around and the number of teams competing continues to grow. I highly recommend it to anyone who loves links golf and wants to experience three exceptional courses.

Ronan knocks his second to a few feet on the 15th

Next year’s event (Facebook page to be updated)

Golf Courses


Views over the 16th tee box

I am still amused – and bemused – that the book ’18 Greatest Irish Golf Holes’ lists Enniscrone’s 16th as one of the 18. As outstanding as it is, I can think of four holes at Enniscrone that I would rate more highly. Perhaps the most outstanding thing of all is that you can play this links wonderland for €55-€70. Combine that with Carne’s €50-€70 and Rosses Point’s €95 and you’re still paying little more than the green fee for the ‘big’ clubs of the East, North and West coasts. Why wait until the Atlantic Coast Challenge of next year! Come and play these courses and decide for yourself just how good they are.

Finbarr's approach to 10
After managing it last year, I failed to keep hold of the ball I started with. After two rounds and two holes, I smacked my beloved Titleist ProV1 Out of Bounds on Enniscrone’s par three 3rd. I’ll try again next year.

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