Golf writer & photographer. Author of ‘Hooked’, the most comprehensive guide to Ireland's golf courses, and ‘Driving the Green’. Published by Collins Press. Editor for Destination Golf Ireland, feature writer for Irish Golfer Magazine freelancer for Irish Examiner. Golf is in the blood. http://www.kevinmarkhamphotography.com
Friday, September 4, 2015
Ivan Morris & Nine Hole Happiness
Let me ask the simplest of questions: when
you’re playing golf, how often do you look at your watch… or ask a partner what
time it is? And does it become more frequent the closer you get to the end of
the round… or the longer you have to wait on the group in front?
It is sad but true that the pace of play is
killing the game. The days of going around in under three hours are now limited
to those first two groups who head out with nothing but the rabbits and deer
ahead of them. And these golfers are prepared to be on the tee at 7am because
the thought of 4.5 hours or more fills them (and many of us) with dread. In the
US it is even worse… at some clubs you can play as a five ball which means six
hour rounds have become almost acceptable.
There are ways around it and one of those
ways is to play nine holes instead of eighteen. There are many 18 hole courses
where you return to the clubhouse after nine… but what about Ireland’s dedicated
nine hole courses?
According to Irish golf writer Ivan Morris,
there are 85 nine holers on the island, from those that trip off the
tongue (Mulranny, Carrickmines, Sutton) to those many of us have never heard of
(Virginia, Templemore, Mahee Island). Ivan
has played them all and he published a book earlier this year - Ireland's Best 9-Hole Golf Courses - about the most
significant courses he played. There are 30 in all, divided into three
'divisions', and each course receives a story, a nice slice of history or an
encounter with the locals… or all three. It sets the scene and many of the
stories are captivating, outlining how courses came about and who were the key
figures in their creation. The one about Charles Valentine Browne (Castlerosse) is just one example of Ivan's sharp and witty writing style.
Mulranny's views over the 3rd hole
he describes the course and offers some tips on how it can best be played. It
is a simple and effective formula and his language gives you a good
feel for what you can expect from the course.
I turned to the three that I know: Carrickmines,
Mulranny and Cruit Island. I imagine other golfers will look for those familiar
to them. Then I looked up those that are so often discussed: Sutton, Lisselan,
Borris, Spanish Point, Castlegregory, Connemara Isles, Blessington Lakes. Ireland boasts many 9-hole courses that should inspire and it makes you realise
that there we are spoiled for choice.
He’s honest about each course’s strengths
and weaknesses and he leaves you with plenty to think about and whether you’d
enjoy playing it… which is the core purpose of this book. Yes, he is pushing
hard for golfers to go back to the roots of playing golf in two hours, but he
prefers to give you a reason for doing so… these 30 courses are as good a
reason as any:
Mulranny's barbwire-enshrined 1st green.
“Peter Alliss was so struck by the beauty
of the place that he wrote about the golf course in the most complimentary
terms in the Sunday Times…” Glengarriff Golf Club.
“… there must be better than average
golfing brains at Carrickmines because somebody has designed one of the best
second nines on a 9-holes course that I have ever seen through the clever
placement of alternate tees…” Carrickmines Golf Club.
“… we cheated a little here by going up ‘upstairs’
onto the more elevated 17th tee in order to appreciate the full excitement and
beauty of the hole.” Rush Golf Club
There’s also a very tasty few pages of ‘best
of’ at the end… from Best Greens (Foxrock) and Best Restaurant (Killiney) to
Most Fun (Conemara Isles) and Best Bunkering (Helen’s Bay).
If Ivan had his way, much about the modern
game would change. Club and ball technology for starters, but one of golf’s
biggest problems going forward is how to play golf in a short amount of time.
Ivan has found the simplest of solutions: play 9 holes.
Views down the 7th at Cruit Island
I like the idea but I admit that playing 9 holes makes me feel like I’m being short-changed… and I imagine many others will feel the
same. Playing 18 holes has been ingrained into us so it’s hard to break the
habit. I’ll surely go and try some of Ivan’s favourites (Blessington Lakes
sounds like a must-play course and Rush has long been on my radar) but it all comes down to how much time you
have. I’m blessed to have the time and opportunity to play 18 holes on any day of the week, but if you work hard, have kids playing all manner of sports and
musical instruments at weekends, and a partner who is a non-golfer (and
therefore doesn’t understand your cravings), slipping away for 5 to 6 hours is
probably not an option. Try 2 to 3 hours, whet your appetite with nine holes
and go from there.
To order Ivan’s book, Ireland's Best 9-Hole Golf Courses… click here.