Saturday, November 28, 2015

Golf News... Episode 1

2nd green at Enniscrone
Sorry, I don't mean to excite you with thoughts of a global round up of golf news - it's just a small round up of things that caught my eye.

And yes, Donald Trump looms large.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Them’s The Oaks… at Moyvalley

The 2nd hole at Moyvalley
All in all, it has been a positive year for Irish golf. The professional and amateur ranks have delivered impressive performances, golf tourism is up, course maintenance is returning to its best and struggling golf courses have found light at the end of the tunnel. Beaufort Golf Club is back from the brink, St Margaret’s is thriving under new management, Rathfarnham opened its three new holes (to make it 18) and Castlemartyr was acquired by a British businessman… something that will benefit the entire Cork

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Scotland’s North Coast 500… The Top Ten

The opening hole at Durness Golf Club
Nineteen days, 920 miles, 26 golf courses… this day last week I rolled home with  Scotland’s North Coast 500 under my belt… done and dusted… finished… never to be forgotten. What started out as a golfing odyssey to play these courses (Royal Dornoch and Brora in particular) turned into something so much bigger. The landscape is majestic, the history haunting (the Highland Clearances have refrains not dissimilar to

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Scotland as a Bucket List Destination - An Infographic

The nice people at Links Golf Ireland sent me this infographic a couple of weeks ago, while I was travelling... and seeing as it's all about Scotland - and what makes the country a must-visit destination - take a look.

I hope it shows up OK and is readable on your screen/device.

The only thing I'd disagree with is the number of courses. My 'research' indicates that there are 660 courses in Scotland. Tom Coyne played golf with a man who is playing every single one of them... expect a book, soon!

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Irish Golfer Magazine and the K Club

Approach to 17 at K Club Palmer
It feels as if normal service has resumed after my three week golfing stint in Scotland, and the arrival of the new issue of the Irish Golfer Magazine brought that home loud and clear.

This is the 7th issue of the magazine and it continues to go from strength to strength. Its focus on Irish golf - at all levels - makes it unique in the market and John Shortt and Peter Finnan have

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

North Coast 500 - A Scottish Golfing Tour. Day 19 The Final Blows

Monday (yesterday) was the last day of this amazing journey. The North Coast 500 and the Scottish Highlands in their entirety are an enchanting and – at times – mystical place. It’s not hard to see why the NC500 route is already so highly rated. The scenery is stunning. As I said a couple of days ago, it’s a great driving route… especially if you’re a passenger. But the driver gets plenty to experience, too… you’ll just need to be prepared to pull over time and again.

It is fitting, I feel, that it rained on my final day. I stayed at a converted croft house (some 150

Sunday, November 8, 2015

North Coast 500 - A Scottish Golfing Tour. Day 18 Lochcarron and Strathpeffer Golf Clubs

I played three holes of golf today. Well, two and a half. When you hit your wedge and you get a faceful of water, mud and moss in your eyes and nostrils you tend to declare a course unplayable. That was Lochcarron Golf Club. I was still spitting out the moss and dirt on the 7th.

It rained during the night. Big, big rain. I didn’t realise until I walked out of the hotel and the road was flooded. It was so wet it looked like the road was part of the loch alongside. I drove the half mile to Lochcarron GC and after assessing the

Saturday, November 7, 2015

North Coast 500 - A Scottish Golfing Tour. Day 17 Gairloch to Applecross

Just a slice of the beauty of Loch Maree.
Travelling around the Scottish Highlands at the beginning of November has its upsides and its downsides… the downsides are that the weather will probably bring rain and that a lot of places are going to be closed for the season: hotels, restaurants, museums, tourist offices and tourist attractions – they’re hardly going to stay open for the one or two people who might trickle through. Many of my stops have proved

Friday, November 6, 2015

North Coast 500 - A Scottish Golfing Tour. Day 16 The West Coast

Sunrise at Durness Golf Club (and no photoshopping!)
My tee time at Ullapool was 12pm. At 11.57am the heavens opened, dropping all of the rain that I have managed to avoid for the last 10 days.

Fortunately, I was nowhere near Ullapool when the rain arrived. I was driving from Lochinver, 30 miles away, the birthplace of Alister MacKenzie’s father, and a place

Thursday, November 5, 2015

North Coast 500 - A Scottish Golfing Tour. Day 15 Durness GC and the Cocoa Mountain

The par three 7th.
Straplines are a wonderful thing, aren’t they! Just Do It, Coke Is It, Vorsprung Durch Technik… it’s something I do for a living – among other things. So when I play a round of golf somewhere very special, I tend to work on a strapline for the course as I go around.

I was standing on the 7th tee at Durness Golf Club, greatly enjoying the course and

Moyvalley GC Upgrade by O'Connor Junior

A quick non-Scottish golf blog as this appeared in my inbox a few minutes ago:


The recent news that Irish golfing legend, Ryder Cup player and prolific international golf course

North Coast 500 - A Scottish Golfing Tour. Day 14 Reay to Durness

There is something very strange indeed about driving these single lane roads and coming across one house every few miles… and one red telephone box opposite. 

It puts population density into perspective, that’s for sure.

I played Reay Golf Club this morning, an

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

North Coast 500 - A Scottish Golfing Tour. Day 13 Thurso... and back to Wick

The 'double' bunker on Thurso's 8th hole
Somebody pinch the meteorology service. Another day in the Scottish Highlands and another 15 degrees and non-stop sunshine along the North Coast 500. You wouldn't believe it is you weren't here.

When I started this North Coast 500 adventure I set myself three non-golfing

Monday, November 2, 2015

North Coast 500 - A Scottish Golfing Tour. Day 12 Wick to John O Groats

The par three 9th at Wick.
Someone once told me that you can tell what kind of man you are by your reaction to walking through a cobweb. Real men, apparently, carry on as if nothing has happened; the rest of us lurch backwards and claw at our faces as if a tarantula has leapt on board.

I fall firmly into that second category.

Wick Golf Club, on November 2nd, was

Sunday, November 1, 2015

North Coast 500 - A Scottish Golfing Tour. Day 11 Stanes

Views back down the 4th, showing off the fairway shapes.
An early morning start, back out on the beautiful Brora Links. The morning was due to be glorious and I had failed to get the necessary photographs yesterday… so, come sunrise, I found myself walking the course with an elderly lady and her very enthusiastic King Charles spaniel. The lady was striding along… the dog either running alongside or flying through the air if it failed to keep up.

Watching the light and shadow form over the fairways and through the hollows is always one of the joys of photography, and being on one of the best courses in the country just adds to the occasion.

Here are a couple of shots (above and below).

Side view of Brora's par three 6th green (named 'Witch')

Helmsdale Golf Club 

The road north led to Helmsdale, the site of the next golf course on the North Coast 500 route. The sun was out so how bad could it be … hmmm … after being spoiled in recent days, Helmsdale was a definite drop in momentum. There was no one at the clubhouse – I was told in the village that the course was probably closed on Sunday – and the nine-hole course was deserted. Can you imagine a course at home being empty on a sunny Sunday morning?

A panorama of the course from the 9th tee at Helmsdale
I made my way around the course and admired the views. There’s not much more to be said than that. Helmsdale Golf Club is not designed for golfers from abroad.

 Lybster Golf Club

Lybster Golf Club was next, along the coast road that rose and fell like a heartbeat. It was mountains to the left, ocean to the right, the two seemingly joined by the white ribbon of waves. In Lybster, another small town,  the Waterlines Museum introduces you to the history of this fishing community and the harbour over which the museum sits.
The Lybster Waterlines Museum. The sea comes up those steps.
Pier and Lighthouse at the end of the harbour.
 The golf course at Lybster is nothing to write home about. I walked into the clubhouse and chatted with three of the members. They waved me on my way and I discovered a course that had been described to me as sitting in an area 600 yards long and 200 yards wide... which is exactly what it was. There are nine holes here, squeezed in on a gentle hillside overlooking the sea. As at Helmsdale, it will not attract touring golfers, but is sufficient for the local population.

It does have one interesting quirk, however... the par three 4th may be the only par three in existence that deceives you... by placing a green directly in your line. Stand on the tee and you will see a flag over some heather. But that's not your green (it's the 6th). The green you want is 40 yards directly behind.
Look closely and you will see a red flag. You are now on the 4th tee.
Look more closely and you will see a red flag beyond (just to the right)...
that's the green you're playing to.

The Hill O Many Stanes

Having had my fill of the golf courses I headed on towards Wick, a larger town on the east coast. How large? you ask. It has a Tesco and a Lidl, and two curry houses. But before I got there, I had one stop I had been looking forward to making. The Hill O' Many Stanes sits off the road, a quarter mile up a track. It is exactly what it says it is... a hill of many stones. Planted in 22 rows, 196 flagstones rise out of the earth. They are not tall, or huge, but their reason for being is still unknown. They may have been buried to commemorate loved ones, some 3,000-4,000 years ago, or to signify burial plots of slain Picts... either way, the place has a serene calm to it and the setting is beautiful.

The Hill O Many Stanes
The Hill O Many Stanes gave me a stain all of my own. Walking the paths I trod in dog shit but didn't notice until I got back to the car. I proceeded to smear it on the car floor before I got that oh-so-familiar smell. Oh well, at least it covers up the smell of sheep shit that I have all over my golf trolley wheels from yesterday. I'm a glass-half-full kinda guy.

Next up, is Wick Golf Club... but I have to be honest and say that there are bigger things in the near future: there is a faint hint of some Northern Lights tomorrow night, and I'll be as far north on the UK mainland as it is possible to get.