Saturday, July 11, 2015

Atlantic Coast Challenge - 2015 Recap

The Irish Golf Blog - Atlantic Coast Challenge Recap
Enniscrone's 12th.
It’s never a good sign when you’re playing a three-day tournament and your wedge breaks on the first hole of the first course. It was a simple approach from the middle of the fairway at County Sligo, but as the clubhead dug into the turf I could feel it twisting backwards.

Bad Luck & Trouble
Bad luck for sure, but on links courses there are always other shots you can play, using any number of different clubs. Oddly, I didn’t feel the loss of the wedge at either County Sligo or Carne, but on
the third day, at Enniscrone, I reached for it on half a dozen occasions and felt frustrated by its absence. Why Enniscrone should be any different I do not know – perhaps it is the size and shape of the humps that rise into so many greens – because my golf was no better or worse than at the other two courses.
Views down the par five 16th at Enniscrone (from 17th tee).
But there was a real dose of bad luck the following day and no golfer wants to experience it.

It happened on the 1st hole at Carne, on day two. As we stood on the tee, a spotter (Gerry) waited on the dune to the right, watching our drives. Ronan and I teed off first, but for some reason Gerry wasn’t watching as Fin teed off. The wind caught the ball and sent it in the spotter’s direction. We yelled ‘Fore’, causing Gerry to turn and face us, and the ball hit him square in the chest.
Tee shot on Carne's 6th
Gerry staggered about as we headed up the fairway towards him. He assured us he was OK, but it rattled Fin badly and has, undoubtedly, left Gerry with a bruise that will linger for weeks.

5th Anniversary
As the event evolves (this was its 5th year) so the organisation improves and runs more smoothly. The faces around the place become more familiar, too, as many of the golfers return to play these three great Irish links courses every year.

For €130 for the three rounds there can be no complaints about the value. We stayed at the Diamond Coast Hotel, in Enniscrone, and for €110 pps, for two nights B&B and one Dinner, you can’t complain about that either.
Approach to the par four 11th at County Sligo (golfers on 12th tee to left).
Why would you want to got to Portugal or Spain when you can play courses like these?” It’s a question you hear time and again, and Ronan was asking it as we walked between rain showers at County Sligo. It rains in Ireland. So what? There’s just as much sunshine. Get over it. It rains in lots of places… and while many of Portugal’s courses are excellent they can’t be compared to the links of Ireland’s north west.
The par three 16th at Carne... it looked nothing
like this, this week (think wind and rain).
I won’t bore you with the golf… much. Fin came within three inches of a hole in one on Carne’s 16th. Ronan hit a drive probably 350 yards and reduced the Index 1 17th at Carne to a drive and a lob wedge. He drove it even farther on the par five 5th at County Sligo, leaving a wedge to set up a 20 foot eagle attempt. There were birdies and quadruple bogeys, lifetimes spent in bunkers, a dose of spotteritis (Finbarr had a close call with the spotters at Enniscrone, the day after the Carne incident), a tranche of lost balls, soakings and sunshine in equal measure, and just a very enjoyable time with friends. Isn’t that golf as it should be.

We never threatened the prizes and that was never our goal (33 points was the highest score over the 3 days). As so many of the golfers who come will tell you, it’s not about the winning… it’s enjoying good company, playing great golf courses and having a chance to switch off. You could stop and chat to anyone in the bars and clubhouses because we all shared similar experiences. It is a great camaraderie.

The par five 5th at County Sligo. The JCB was not in attendance for
the Atlantic Coast Challenge.

Top Ten Links
The courses of Carne, County Sligo and Enniscrone remain three of my top ten Irish golf courses, so you’ll hear no serious complaints from me (I don’t regard the cock-up at Enniscrone (see previous blog) as anything serious). I know that some were querying the quality of Carne’s greens and compared to those at Co. Sligo and Enniscrone, they weren’t as good… but they ran true and people have to remember that Carne’s resources are not in the league of the other two. Enjoy a magnificent and enthralling game of golf and embrace Carne’s raw and natural beauty on Ireland's Wild Atlantic Way. That's all there is to it.

The tough par four 9th at Carne. The green is just under and to the
left of the clubhouse.
Almost 400 people played in the event this year, the highest so far, and you can expect that to grow again next year. If you're interested... keep an eye on Carne's Facebook page in the coming weeks.

Finally, a very special mention for Laura, in the Diamond Coast Hotel. The hotel is a perfect base for golf in the region but with the Atlantic Coast Challenge running throughout the day, and Carne being a good hour from Enniscrone, it isn’t always easy to get back to the hotel before the restaurant closes (at 9.30pm).  We called from the road at 9.15pm and were told the restaurant would be kept open for us. Half an hour later we piled in and Laura looked after us perfectly. Fifteen minutes after that, another bunch of stragglers arrived and she looked after them, too. I’ve stayed at the hotel a few times and the customer service has always been of the very friendly, no-airs-and-graces variety. It's the sort of welcome that puts golfers right at home.

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