Thursday, May 29, 2014

Top 20 Facts About The Irish Open

Fota Island Resort Golf
The par four 6th (the Pros won't be playing from here
With the Irish Open being played at the elegant Fota Island Resort for the third time, here are 20 facts (below) about the Irish Open that you may or may not know...

Following an investment of €500,000 by the new owners, this year's event takes place from 19-22 June. For tickets, visit The European Tour's website. Prices are very reasonable (e.g. €70 for a season ticket) and over 100,000 people are expected. Considering how easy it is to get here (there's a train station next to the Resort, with prices from Dublin to Fota on starting at €9.99, and one of the main Cork roads runs past the island) and the vibrancy, nightlife and gourmet credentials of Cork city, this will undoubtedly be another big success.

There are various packages available from the five star Fota Island Resort itself, and hotels and other accommodation providers in the area have assured Failte Ireland that they will keep their prices at normal seasonal rates.
Fota Island Resort Golf
Rob tees off on the par three 11th
Here are those 20 Facts:

1. The lowest 72 hole score was recorded by none other than Christy O'Connor Jnr, at Woodbrook in 1975. His 275 produced a score of -21.

2. The highest winning score was recorded by none other than John O'Leary, at Portmarnock in 1982. His 287 came to a score of -1.

3. The largest winning margin was 10 shots, by Bernard Langer at Portmarnock on 1987.

4. There have been 32 holes in one.

Fota Island Resort Golf
Fota Island's par three 7th
5. There have been four wire-to-wire winners: Christy O'Connor Jr at Woodbook, 1975; Bernhard Langer at Portmarnock, 1987; Nick Faldo at Killarney, 1992; Colin Montgomerie at Fota Island, 2001.

6. The youngest winner was Sergio Garcia in 1999, at Druid's Glen. He was 19 years and 176 days.

7. The oldest winner was Sam Torrance in 1995, at Mount Juliet. He was 41 years and 319 days.

8. Four players have won the Irish Open three times: Seve Ballesteros, Nick Faldo, Bernhard Langer and Colin Montgomerie.

Fota Island Resort Golf
The 18th green, shot from next to the 1st tee
9. The lowest 18 hole score was recorded by Graeme McDowell at Co. Louth, in 2009. His score of 61 was -11. Ross Fisher also recorded a 61, at Killarney in 2010, but this was 'only' -10.

10. The highest first day score by a winner was 78 (+6), by Thomas Bjorn, at Carton House in 2006. He finished -5 and won by a stroke.

11. Lee Westwood (1997, Druid's Glen) and Robert Allenby (1994, Mount Juliet) have the unfortunate distinction of holding a 3 shot lead after 54 holes, but not winning the title. The winners were Montgomerie and Langer, respectively.

12. Four players have recorded the largest final round come back, making up a deficit of 4 shots: Bernhard Langer, Nick Faldo, Stephen Dodd and Paul Casey (at Carton House in 2013).

Fota Island Resort Golf
Fota Island's long par three 17th
13. Five players have played all four rounds in the 60s:
- Sergio Garcia, Druid's Glen, 1999
- Colin Montgomerie, Fota Island, 2001*
- Soren Hansen, Fota Island, 2002*
- Jamie Donaldson, Royal Portrush, 2012
- Bernhard Langer who has achieved the feat twice - Royal Dublin in 1984 and Portmarnock in 1987. No wonder he was seen as the perfect choice to design Portmarnock Links.

14. Only one player has won without a round in the 60s. Ken Brown at Portmarnock, in 1978. He still finished -7.

15. Nick Faldo is the only player to win the Irish Open three years in a row: 1991-1993. His wins in 1992 and 1993 were both in play-offs.

16. Nick Faldo also has the most top 10 finishes - something he achieved 10 times.

The view over the 5th green, back down the fairway
17. When Shane Lowry won at Co. Louth in 2009, he became the 3rd amateur to win in European Tour history. Pablo Martin won the Portuguese Open in 2003, and Danny Lee won the Johnnie Walker Classic in 2009.

18. The Irish Open was first played in 1927. In all, 14 Major champions have won the event, including Seve, Langer, Crenshaw Woosnam, Faldo, Olazabal and, of course, Padraig Harrington.

19. The Irish Open has been decided 11 times by a play-off. This is a European Tour record.

20. In 2014, the Irish Open will be contested by 156 players, battling for a prize fund of €2 million. All the big Irish boys will be there, as well as one of the greatest rising stars (Matteo Manasero) and one of the most distinguished (Olazabal).

* With such low scoring at Fota Island in 2001 and 2002, you can be sure of some fireworks at The Irish Open this June.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Golficity Podcast #034 & Hooked

The 3rd at Royal County Down
It's 12.20 a.m. and my internet connection has just crashed. In 10 minutes I'm due to speak to Frank and Mike, in the States, recording a podcast for Golficity. I'm not 'as one' with technology at the best of times so, after midnight, when the only intelligent and technologically capable person in the house (my wife) has gone to bed, I go into blind panic mode.

The computer decides to heed my threats and comes back online, just in time. A few minutes later I'm talking to the lads on their Eastern Standard Time.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

The Word Is Golf

Articles/Contributions to four magazines this month: one Irish, two British... and one Russian. A very strange sensation looking at a page of indecipherable (Cyrillic) lettering and only recognising your name. I wrote the piece for Silk Way Tours, based in Cork, who are luring Russian golfers to Ireland.

I was honoured to be invited on to the Golf World panel to contribute to their Top 100 Golf Courses in Britain & Ireland. 19 of our courses make the cut, with Royal County Down sitting very comfortably in top spot. Lough Erne is the only parkland to make the cut, at 98.

In Golf Monthly there's a piece about five 'hidden gems', namely Arklow, Carlow, Galway Bay, Scrabo and Strandhill.

In Ireland of the Welcomes, a magazine aimed mostly at Americans, I get to talk about the beautiful golf experience of playing the west coast, the north west and Donegal.

And then of course, May sees the publication of my second book: Driving the Green.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Driving The Green - The New Book Arrives

A second book. Is that like a second album? The one bands struggle over to get right, to avoid losing credibility, to cement their reputation?

Fortunately 'Hooked' and 'Driving The Green' are very different animals. There was no struggle... not unless you count numerous rounds of golf at 6am a struggle... which it was, on occasion.

No, Driving The Green is the story behind Hooked. Forget the golf courses and the rating system; forget the par, the favourite holes and the course length. Think camper van; think driving almost 7,000 miles, the people met along the way, the scenery, the highs, the lows, the food, the drink... the leaks, the breakdowns, the police, the Born Again Christians (yes, plural) and Yoda's mum.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Just Treat Yourself at West Waterford GC

West Waterford Golf Club, Dungarvan, Ireland
The par 3 11th
Trying to find the words to describe a hidden gem... without using the term 'hidden gem' is not easy. It's the perfect description, but not a popular one. It's a cliche after all... as is 'jewel in the crown'.

But, when it does exactly what it says on the tin, why fight it! West Waterford Golf Club, outside Dungarvan, is a hidden gem of Irish golf. I recently did a top ten of such gems and West Waterford was on the list (here's the review) and now that Just Treats and West Waterford are offering two green fees for €29, valid any day of the week, you have the perfect opportunity to find out why.

West Waterford Golf Club, Dungarvan, Ireland
Views over the 9th green
I dropped by on the way back from Cork a week ago and snapped a few photographs. It is in one of the most peaceful, country settings you can imagine and it's every bit as good as I remember. There are some really good holes here and the hospitality is superb. Dungarvan is also a 'foodie' town so you'll find great places to stay and eat. Nearby golf courses include Gold Coast and Dungarvan.

West Waterford Golf Club, Dungarvan, Ireland
The par three 13th

Try it and see because this is enchanting Irish golf.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Donald Hears A Harp

What did you make of that fiasco? You know, when Donald Trump arrived in Ireland last week... and was met by Ireland's Eurovision entry on the runway... and if they weren't perhaps they should have been.

Who decided that the harpist, the violinist and the singer were a good idea, a 'Hello Mr Trump and welcome to Ireland'?  Seriously, who was it? I can't decide if I want to shake their hand for making Donald Trump squirm with embarrassment - as he surely must have - or if I want to beat them to death for making Ireland look so bloody stupid. Talk about grovelling.

In this country we blame lots of things for the negative publicity we get... when really we can only blame ourselves.

Trump knows he can do what he likes with his Doonbeg golf course and the protected snail in the 51 acres of dunes that are off-limits, because the Irish government doesn't really have a clue about the environment if it means jobs and money. Hell, if Donald asks, I imagine Enda and his gang will send over the entire troupe of Riverdance to stomp their way over the dunes and kill off every one of those 1.8mm snails.

Sure, they're so small, would anyone care. Donald doesn't.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Photos of Cork's Golf Clubs

The drive down the 10th at Fota Island
A recent visit to the Fota Island Resort, for the launch of the Irish Open 2014, gave me the opportunity to take some photographs of the courses down that way. See below

Buy tickets for the Irish Open, June 19 - 22, at:

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Old Head of Kinsale - New 13th Hole

From the Black tees... close to the edge
What were they thinking! As if golf in Ireland needed any more drama. But they've never done things in small doses at Old Head of Kinsale Golf Links. Drama is what it's all about and, with the addition of the new par three 13th, all four par threes now cling to the cliffs.

The hole is 168 yards from the back Black tees and 121 yards from the Reds. If anyone finds a baseball cap down in the ocean, it's mine. It was howling a gale and my cap flew off in under a minute of standing on the tee. One of my favourites, too! More photos below.

Oh, and check out the colour of that ocean.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Good Week, Bad Week... for Irish Golf

The good news for Irish golf is that Moyvalley Golf Club has re-opened. The place was wrapped up in NAMA for quite some time but it was bought by race horse trainer and businessman, Oliver Brady who has provided a much needed financial injection. It opens officially today (Friday 9th) and, to celebrate, it is offering free golf over the weekend in an attempt to attract new members and to put itself back on the map. For further information contact Brendan Mackey on 046 954 8080.

Views across the course from Moyvalley's 1st tee
This is a Darren Clarke-designed course so it would have been a terrible shame to see it returning to pasture... which, unfortunately is the 'bad news':

Killin Park golf course, outside Dundalk, got a real kick in the teeth when its 170 members were told that the course was closing... not next year, not next month... but at 5pm that evening. Here's the story from the Irish Independent. It's not a course that would ever set the world alight for its quality, but it was charming country golf that fulfilled the needs of many, and the mature landscape is quite stunning. Here's the approach to the 1st hole. It may yet survive... but the land was sold to a local farmer.

The Moyvalley story is thanks to

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Druh Cup - Buckle Up at The Heritage

Views back down the 18th at The Heritage
The Druh brand is well known and highly regarded in the golf world, so it's little surprise that Druh Belts & Buckles has a growing presence in Ireland.

They're now hosting the Druh Cup on the Ballesteros Course at The Heritage, in June, and it is an event open to all golfers.

Macreddin Golf Club Ablaze With Gorse

Approach to 12
Are words even necessary? Here are some photos taken last week of the Paul McGinley designed Macreddin outside Aughrim in Co. Wicklow. A beautiful course, in superb condition, and a green fee of just 20-40 euro. More photos below...

On Sunday 18th May, Macreddin is holding its Junior (4-9) & Intermediate (10-18) Scratch Cups. Booking available online or by calling 0402 36999. If these photos don’t inspire you to get out and play this excellent course, then reconsider golf! Green fee is a snip at €25... and buggies are allowed.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

That's Gotta Hurt... Holes In One at Greystones Pro Am

The par three 16th at Greystones... pin on view is the one played in the
Pro Am, directly in line with the smaller of the two trees behind the green.

 Greystones Golf Club hosted its annual Pro Am on Friday (May 2nd). The course was - quite literally - littered with cars from the key sponsor of the day: Newcastle Motorswhich is the main dealer for Peugeot and Mazda, and it was the smart Peugeot 208 sitting by the 16th tee that generated the most fuss. Not because it was parked on the tee, but because one of the amateurs in the 1st group of the day aced the hole with a 6 iron. Just like that a new Peugeot had been won.

But that wasn't the end of it. A while later there was another hole in one, on the same hole. And another car had found a new owner. The retail price for the 208 is €16,500. Reports by the official representative who was assigned to watch the green... all day... suggested that there was very nearly a third hole in one. The odds of two holes in one on the same hole are something like 17 million to one. 

At Greystones there are five par threes. The 16th is the 2nd toughest (after the first). It may only be 139 metres, but the slopes on the green are wicked and there's a steep slope off the back, as well as the bunker in front and to the right. It needs to be a high shot to get the ball close. Watching those two shots soaring down towards the green must have been a joy, only surpassed by the rattle of the flag as the ball dropped into the cup.
More cars from Newcastle Motors (there were six in total
 by one of the practice greens)
Not sure what this all means for Newcastle Motors' premium for next year, but they'll certainly be getting some coverage on the back of it. And out of pocket to the tune of €33,000, they're going to need it.

Thursday, May 1, 2014 Receive 'Golf Business Community Award for Innovation'

I have written about before. Their's is an exceptional and ever growing business, supplying top class golf clubs to golfers travelling abroad. Now their services and innovation have been recognised... here's a Press Release I received a few minutes ago.

Congratulations to the team at

I am pleased to announce that we were awarded the winner of the inaugural ‘HSBC Golf Business Community Award for Innovation’ at The HSBC Golf Business Forum in Abu Dhabi yesterday (Wednesday 30 April).

The award was presented at The Westin Abu Dhabi Golf Resort & Spa as part of the three-day HSBC Golf Business Forum.