Thursday, July 2, 2015

Hooked on Golf – The New Third Edition (and a bunch of prizes)

The Irish Golf Blog - Hooked Third Edition
Today sees the official launch on my blog of the new 3rd edition of Hooked… still the most comprehensive guide to the golf courses of Ireland.

I’m giving away prizes, so don’t hit the snooze button quite yet.

The previous edition came out in 2011 and the first edition was published in 2009. Between then and now the Irish golfing landscape has endured many changes.

Courses have closed, re-opened, re-named… clubs have built new clubhouses, introduced new holes, new routing, new greens, new bunkering. Storms have flattened trees and stolen dunes and fairways. So here are the six key changes to Hooked and Irish golf courses in the last six years:

1. Shifting Irish Green Fees
Perhaps the most striking change is the divide in green fees between the premier clubs and… the rest. While those links courses at the very top – the Royals County Down and Portrush, Ballybunion, Portmarnock, etc. – have either increased their green fees, stayed the same or reduced them marginally between 2008 and 2015, almost everybody else has implemented substantial reductions. There is the odd top tier exception (Lahinch dropped from €165 to €125 – it is now at €165 again) but even the top parklands (Druid’s Glen, Adare and Mount Juliet) adapted to the recession. Our links have the benefit of golfing tourism on their side, where price is less important than other factors.
The par five 18th at Adare
The picture at the other end of the scale, at those courses most Irish golfers play weekly, is quite different. Green fees fell by over 50% in plenty of places and while the past two years has seen some stabilisation it will be a long time before they return to the heady (and daft) heights of 2008. It is now easy to find exceptional golf for under €30 a round.

‘Value for Money’ is one of Hooked’s rating criteria - this has changed considerably throughout the book.

2. Entrance Fees
While this is not covered by Hooked, the removal of entrance fees has made joining (and leaving) a club easier than ever. With reduced annual subs and low green fees, there has – clichés aside – never been a better time to take up and play golf.
The opening par four at Spa, Co. Down.
3. Changes to Ireland’s Golf Course Landscape 2007-2015… Part I
Since I started my travels, eighteen 18-hole courses have closed… or are no longer 18-holes. These are as follows:

1.            Ballinlough Castle (reduced to 9 holes)
2.            Bodenstown
3.            Bodenstown (Lady Hill)
4.            Carnbeg
5.            City West (Lakes) (turned into a car park)
6.            Dublin City (now footgolf)
7.            Glebe
8.            Harbour Point (closed 2007)
9.            Kilkea Castle (due to re-open April 2015… but remains closed)
10.        Killarney Lackabane (reduced to 16 holes)
11.        Killin Park
12.        Leinster Hills
13.        Navan
14.        Rathsallagh (although now back on the market)
15.        Ringdufferin (Co Down)
16.        Scarke
17.        Turvey
18.        Woodlands

On the flip side, six new 18-hole courses have opened fully since 2008.

1.  Bunclody  
2.  Cobh
3.  Killeen Castle
4.  Mount Bellew (from 9 to 18)
5.  Rathfarnham (from 15 to 18)
6.  South Meath (from 9 to 18)

The number of golf courses has fallen from a peak of 351 to 340 in the new edition. This number has now fallen further, to 338, as both Rathsallagh and Scarke closed earlier this year (after Hooked went to print).
The 12th green at Killeen Castle.
4. Changes to Ireland’s Golf Course Landscape 2007-2015… Part II
In all, there are 170 new and updated reviews – it is sheer coincidence that I ended up returning to exactly half of the island’s courses… and it certainly shows what I’ll have to do for the next edition!

As tough as the recession has been on Irish golf, most clubs have refused to sit on their hands. Courses have steadily been implementing small or significant changes to improve their facilities and the number of courses now boasting ‘the best greens in Ireland’ is a testament to the dedication and efforts of green keeping staff everywhere.
Approach to the 8th on Carne's new nine.
The biggest change – and the only substantial new development since 2009 – is a new nine at Carne. And you will never play nine bigger, more explosive holes in your life.

5. Top 18 Holes (and Photographs)
I have changed these in the book for the simple reason that I decided to split them into two 18s: one for parkland and one for links. Besides, we have so many great holes it was good to mix things up.
The terrifying and glorious par three 17th at Druid's Glen.
6. Maps
There was an issue with the Maps, and I’ve had several people contact me about these over the years. It turns out the solution was as simple as could be – so the third edition now includes an Index alongside the map pages.

The Prizes (worth over €500)

Let’s call it a golfing goody bag, containing:
  1. A signed copy of the new edition of Hooked
  2. A fourball to my favourite Parkland (Druid’s Glen) *
  3. A fourball to my favourite Links (Carne) *
  4. Golf balls, tees, golf cap and a mish-mash of other golfing bits and pieces to keep you amused.
To be in with a chance to win, please Tweet or Share this blog, and/or leave a Comment below with your email address (these won’t be published and I won’t be spamming you till Eternity… or Tiger Woods’ comeback – whichever comes first). Draw on Sunday 19th July, after the final round of The Open.

* And thanks to both courses for their generosity – as always.

The 17th green at Galway Bay - The Burren in the distance.
You’ll find the new third edition of Hooked on the shelves of most book stores (in Ireland). Or you can buy it direct from my publisher, Collins Press, or through the usual online retailers.

There’s also the little matter of over 11,000 photographs, of 370 golf courses, on my Flickr page, so you can use these as a reference as well. Some of them are actually rather good and might inspire you to try something new and/or something great in Irish golf.


  1. Really interesting read , glad to hear Rathsallagh back on the market , Word on Kilkea Castle (Castledermot Kildare) keeps changing but no sign of reopening that I know of .
    Best Regards Bill M

  2. good man kev , should fly off the shelves

  3. Well done Kevin - another treasure trove of golf info to look forward to. cheers

  4. Excellent. Looking forward to picking up a copy.

  5. Great to have updated book with all the latest course details. A must for any golfer wishing to plan in some trips.

    Best of luck Kevin.

  6. Good luck with the new book Kevjn

  7. Best of luck Kevin with the 3rd edition - already looking forward for the 4th!

  8. Enjoyed reading your comments about the move to 18 holes in Rathfarnham GC

  9. Well done Kevin, looking forward to reading this.

  10. Might you also consider reviewing the 9 hole courses at some stage?

    1. Pick up a copy of Ivan Morris's book - he's done the hard work on the 9 holes of Ireland: "Ireland's Best 9 Hole Course" - published in May of this year. (

  11. Might you also consider reviewing the 9 hole courses at some stage?

  12. Great read. Good to see where our course, Cobh has come since we opened a new 18 hole course in 2009

  13. Have the original edition, great to have a read up on any new courses in advance of playing them, looking forward to reading the latest incarnation of Hooked!

  14. Keep her lit Kev, great books and enjoyable courses

  15. Keep up the good work Mark. Fingers crossed for your great competition. Lowry to win the Open....