|The 6th green at Rathcore Golf Club.|
That is hardly surprising as the process this year was seriously undermined.
Panelists did not visit all the courses and, as someone who has been
fortunate enough to play every 18 hole Irish course, I know how much a course can change over the course of a year or two. St Margaret's is one that has taken less than a year to get back to its pristine best; Cregmore Park, a course I really liked the first time around, was not looking nearly so healthy the second time I visited. Things change. If you'd played Mount Juliet three years ago you would have been stumped that it was rated as one of Ireland's top parklands.
|St Margaret's Golf Club, 8th green.|
Now, I have no proof of this either way, and that is not the point of my blog... but there are two key issues to be considered:
|Views down the 13th at Athy Golf Club. No marketing budget here...|
all resources go into the course.
1. Golf Club BudgetsWhat is clear is that golf clubs who have money to advertise in magazines and promote themselves more widely will be more readily noticed - both by prospective golfers and the GDI panel. Small clubs, with extremely restricted budgets and fighting for survival do not have the resources to focus on such arbitrary things as golf rankings.
People debate the importance/relevance of these rankings all the time, but believe me when I say that such rankings can be extremely beneficial to small clubs. The likes of Royal County Down and Ballybunion are the 'big whales' - pretty much indifferent to Golf Digest Ireland's Top 100 - but the 'little fish' such as Portarlington, Athy, Rathcore and Scrabo could see a marked difference in green fee revenue if they were to be included... and certainly three of those courses would make my top 100.
|The opening par four at Portarlington Golf Club|
|View over the 9th green at Cruit Island.|
2. Golf Club SizeIf you have a big course stretching over a wide acreage then you can be pretty sure you'll be included in the top 100. That's not a universal law - Bantry Bay, Nuremore, Blackwood, for example, aren't in there - but certainly if you're small and tight your chances of inclusion are far slimmer. North West and Castletroy are Top 100 courses which are good examples of courses with restricted space. But there should be more. Just because you're limited in scale doesn't mean you're limited in fun and enjoyment. Ivan's home course of Limerick would be a case in point... as would mine (Greystones).
In fact, take a look at GDI's ranking and you'll see only a handful of 'little fish' included on the list - certainly fewer than 10. How many of the panel have played Rathcore; how many have even heard of Scrabo? Is it any wonder these small courses can't even get considered for the top 100?
|The par three 6th at Corballis Golf Club - a terrific public links.|
Ireland's Hidden Golfing GemsAt the beginning of 2014, I produced a list of the Best Hidden Golfing Gems in Ireland... 10 parkland and 10 links. Of those 20, eight appear in GDI's list and six of them are Irish links. The only two parklands are Portumna and Esker Hills.
As for GDI's Top 100 Irish golf courses... as much as this year has shown it up to be highly suspect, the ranking list still has its place... but there needs to be another list: a 'Top 30 Irish Golf Courses Playing Under The Radar.'
I'm working on it.