Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Today's Golfer... Not Today, Thank You

The Carlow GC landscape (and 6th green)
I know only too well that there are times when you should shut your mouth and keep your opinions to yourself. Don't speak until the brain has engaged - it has always been a problem for me. But sometimes... sometimes you just have to get things off your chest.

The current issue of Today's Golfer has a five page spread on Irish golf. It's entitled Undiscovered Ireland. Now, the magazine is one of the better golfing reads so giving it some stick is regrettable... but some stick is deserved.

The article is a missed opportunity. It's misdirection, too, as some poor courses are included while some beauties are omitted.

When it comes to promoting or discussing golf on this island I am opinionated, often belligerent, but always passionate. I want golfers visiting this country to know where they will find the best golf experiences. That way, when they go home they will rave about it to their friends. If they play average or dull courses then they are far less likely to spread the love.

The 16th at Bunclody, a par four and Index 1
The article focuses on the four counties of Carlow, Kilkenny, Waterford and Wexford - Ireland's 'Sunny South East'. It includes places to stay, golf packages and non-golfing places to visit. Twelve courses are covered, and this includes one from Dublin. Without any hesitation whatsoever I would swap five of those listed and replace them with courses that offer considerably more entertainment.

The 12 courses in the article are:

Co. Carlow:

Co. Kilkenny:
Mount Juliet

Co. Waterford:
Waterford Castle

The 18th at Seafield - back uphill to the clubhouse and hotel
Co. Wexford:
St. Helen's Bay

Co. Dublin:

The five not making my cut:

1. Callan GC
Gowran Park and Kilkenny golf clubs are far superior to Callan. It's a decent parkland track but doesn't pack in a whole lot of punch. Gowran Park, inside and around a race track, is packed with intrigue and many different types of hole (shape and length). Kilkenny GC, despite the February storms which felled some 400 trees, is a flowing tree-lined parkland with real class.

The 8th hole at Gowran Park - a par five through trees to a
green with plenty of water
2. Seafield GC
No, no, no.
Why was this ever built? It's name is perfect - it's sea views and fields and there is very little interest to any of the holes once you've played the opening three. Right next door (literally, a drive and a six iron) is the excellent Courtown GC, with big trees, short and long par fours, good changes in elevation and everything you could ask for from a country parkland.

Courtown's 4th - green to tee. A short downhill par four
3. St. Helen's Bay GC
The toughest call for a number of reasons: one, the final stretch of 16, 17 and 18 is very strong, with holes sitting on cliffs above the sea; two, the rest of the course is perfectly decent - it's just a bit barren and open; three, there aren't any alternatives in the area (the closest two are Rosslare and Wexford, which are already on the list). I'd suggest a shift across to Co. Carlow and add Mount Wolseley Golf & Hotel. Now that's a big quality course.

Mount Wolseley in Co. Carlow. The 2nd hole is a tough uphill par four.
4. Wexford GC
Since you're down at Rosslare (a quality, unheralded links), Wexford and St. Helen's Bay golf courses make sense, but neither really pushes the excitement button for long enough. Wexford GC sits on a hilltop overlooking the town and the sea. It's a nice location and the holes maintain a consistent level (even if they are of different styles) but you never get overwhelmed. Since you're going to be in Waterford city anyway, an hour west, why not add in Faithlegg Golf Club instead.

The right to left opening hole at Faithlegg. A short par four

5. Castleknock
A slightly sneaky inclusion since the article talks about accessing the south east region from three points (Rosslare ferry port and Dublin and Waterford airports) and then suggests Castleknock as a stop-off near Dublin Airport.

Besides, Castleknock is highly over-rated - IMO: I was back there recently and I remain distinctly underwhelmed - and there are far better choices en route to the airport, especially in Wicklow. If another course is to be added to the list then it should be chosen from the four south east counties, and that course could be Carrick-on-Suir, Gold Coast, Castlecomer or, even better, West Waterford. Three of these are lovely, under-stated country parklands, while Gold Coast sits on the ocean with several holes playing alongside the water.
The par three 11th at West Waterford
The par three 4th at Carrick-on-Suir
Also on the Today's Golfer list is Mount Juliet, which is your perfect trophy course. This would be the most expensive course by far, followed by the timeless Carlow. After that, you're unlikely to be paying over €30 for a round.

When you read the article you'll understand why these courses were chosen, but that doesn't change the fact that there are better and more interesting courses for English golfers to consider.

Sorry TG - I'm not getting on your case... honest... I'm just trying to spread the love.


  1. Hi Kevin good read as always might I just add from 3 visits , I love the course but Kilkenny GC is the unfriendliest ive ever played & ive played a lot ..

  2. That's disappointing to hear... that said, you'll always hear of a few that can turn golfers off. Have you played it since the February storms?

  3. I have to agree with Anonymous that posted on the 8th. Played about five weeks ago and you get the impression you're not really welcome and if so begrudgingly. It's a pity as it's a nice course.