Thursday, September 19, 2013

Young Irish Golf Courses Evolving

The growth of Irish golf courses exploded between 1990 and 2008. The total number of courses on the island increased by 50% in that period... and only a handful of those were in Northern Ireland. Some of those courses have closed; some have been reborn. Many have struggled; a few have thrived.

The Castlemartyr clubhouse being built in 2008 and
how the wood has 'weathered' today.
Here are some photos showing how four of our courses looked in their early days and how they look today.

Bunclody Golf and Fishing Club opened in 2008. Here's the signature 15th hole, four years apart. For the 'Inside The Ropes' review and photos of the course, click here. Bunclody's growth is most obvious on the open holes at the start of each nine. Here the young trees are filling in steadily but a few more years are needed yet before fairways are hidden from each other. From the photos below, you can see how the hole/tee box/fairway have settled in.
Bunclody 15th - Autumn 2009 vs. May 2013

Dunmurry Springs, designed by Mel Flanagan and opened in 2005. It was smartly rerouted in June 2013, to avoid a couple of the steeper climbs. The photos of the (now) 17th were taken over five years apart. They show how the course has matured considerably... from young and a bit scrappy, to colourful and elegant. For a review and photos of the day we visited in June, click here.
Dunmurry Springs 17th - March 2008 vs June 2013

Castle Dargan opened in 2006. Taken almost six years apart, these photos show a change in colour (thanks to the seasons) and a little bit of 'filling in', but not a lot else. This demonstrates how well the Darren Clarke-designed course was constructed at the very start. I have heard that there are issues with drainage but there was no evidence of this on my visits, and the greens were in exceptional condition in 2007 and 2013. Photographs of the course (from 2008 and 2013).

Castle Dargan 18th - October 2007 vs June 2013

Castlemartyr opened in 2007, and while the luxury hotel alongside has changed hands, the golf course is shaping up very nicely. The greens are like silk and it is easy to see why it is referred to as an inland links-style course with its many flowing bumps. What the image below fails to show is the abundance of gorse that now adds colour and depth to the golf course. The photographs on the website do it far more justice.
Castlemartyr par three 12th - May 2008 vs September 2013

These are just four or Ireland's golf courses that are maturing for the better and there are plenty more out there enjoying a successful evolution.

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