Saturday, December 24, 2016

Top 10 Golf Course Photos of the Year

The famous 'bath tub' green on Cruden Bay's 14th
In no particular order…

1. Waterville

A trip to the south west took me to Waterville and Killarney for articles for Irish Golfer Magazine. It was early in the year and snow capped the MacGillycuddy’s Reeks above

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Golf Gifts and the Joy of Christmas

Macreddin, where the Destination Golf Premier Golf
Card offers visitors 4 green fees for the price of 2.
December has arrived and that can mean only one thing… no, not temporary greens and chilblains… it’s Christmas. What joy! An entire month of listening to Christmas tunes older than Attila the Hun… or Mick Jagger. If there was one shop – just one – that decided not to play Christmas music from dawn till dusk, day in, day out, I reckon that shop would be minting it.

Anyway, you didn’t come here to read the thoughts of a grouch so here are 12 Christmas ideas:

Monday, December 5, 2016

15 Key Golf Questions for Trump

Shortly, we will have the magnificent Donald Trump in the White House... and given his love of golf what can the game expect in the next four years? More to the point, how long before he:  

1. Declares who he thinks should Captain the 2018 US Ryder Cup team? Nigel Farage must fancy his chances.

2. Removes the USPGA from power and places all golf decision-making under Presidential control? (His two sons are put in charge so they can introduce endangered species to every golf course… that the sons can then hunt to save them travelling to Africa.) 

3. Claims that one of his many courses is the best course in the world… again?

4. Tries to influence the R&A to move the Open Championship to Aberdeen or Turnberry?

Monday, November 28, 2016

County Louth in Irish Golfer Magazine

The approach to the 3rd green
When you sit down and start writing a golf course review, your focus will usually settle on the key thing that overwhelmed you... or underwhelmed you. I confess to being disappointed when I hear people say they didn't like a course because the greens were in poor condition (in January) or that the round took too long because they got caught behind a slow four ball. I have often been asked how I set about reviewing a course and the answer is simple: I ask the question: how great an

Thursday, November 17, 2016

World Golf Awards 2016 - the Irish Winners

The World Golf Awards have just been held at the Conrad Resort, in the Algarve’s Quinta do Lago. It’s the 3rd year of the awards and the Conrad is becoming the host venue… which is not much of a hardship since it’s wall-to-wall five star luxury. (I’ve been lucky enough to sample it.)

In all, there are dozens of awards spread across the different continents and Ireland

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

The 'Algarve Golf Challenge' from Golf Voyager

With only two weeks left to go to book your place (single or two-ball) for this golfing challenge, things are warming up nicely for the Golf Voyager event in the Algarve.

You can play in this event for just €315pp -and there are over €4000 in prizes to be

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Society Golf in Ireland 2016-2017

If you're passing your clubhouse in the coming days pick up a copy of the Irish Golfer Magazine. The new issue is just out and is distributed free to most golf clubs. Alternatively, you can read it online, here.

It's a fantastic magazine... but then I would say that.

There are two of my articles in the mag this month: the first is a course feature on the links at Co. Louth; and the second is a lengthy review of over 40 Irish golf courses and the society offers available over the next 12 months.

The current changes being made at Co Louth focus on a new short game area around the clubhouse.  The article talks about what makes this links so special.

The par four 14th at Co. Louth - short, no bunkers and lethal.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Ireland's Hotel Happiness

Waterford Castle
Condé Nast has bestowed on the Irish tourism industry – and Irish hotels and golf resorts in particular – an important mantle. Following publication of the magazine’s Best Hotels of the World and Top Resorts in Europe awards, Ireland can boast several of the best hotels/resorts… and the number one hotel in the world.

Take a bow Ballyfin Demesne. Condé Nast’s 300,000 readers awarded the hotel a score of 99.11 out of 100.

Conde Nast Best Hotels of the World

For those of you who don’t know Ballyfin, it’s a few miles outside Portlaoise. With only 20 rooms and a 614-acre estate this is serious hideaway luxury. The hotel is a former Regency mansion which took eight years to renovate.

Ballyfin’s guests might not be too interested in golf but there are some excellent/fun courses close to hand - Mountrath and Portarlington most notably. Not surprisingly, however, the Ballyfin website only lists the glamour courses, with the nearby Ballesteros course at The Heritage mentioned alongside the K Club (81 km) and Mount Juliet (78 km). It’s all about luxury, darling.
The K Club's charming par three beside the River Liffey.
The other two hotels in the top ten have stronger ties to golf. In 9th place is The Lodge at Ashford Castle, Co Mayo, which enjoyed a €68 million makeover in 2015. It is separate to the renowned and multi-award winning Ashford Castle next door, but it is owned by the same group (Red Carnation Hotels Collection). Far more importantly, they share a 9-hole golf course on the castle grounds – designed by Eddie Hackett, no less. What better way to warm up for dinner than with a quick spin round the course. Golf is complimentary to hotel guests, although the links at Connemara may prove irresistible as the drive through the Connemara landscape and the scenery on offer from the course are breathtaking.
The 2nd green at Waterford Castle
In 7th position is a resort far more familiar to golfers: Waterford Castle has been investing heavily since being taken over in March 2015, and the golf course has benefitted as a result. Yes, the hotel receives all the plaudits (including the Michelin-starred Munster Room restaurant) but the 18-hole golf course is stretched across this 310 acre island and you have to take a private ferry to get here.

Ireland is the only country to have multiple winners in the top 10 Best Hotels of the World:
1. Ballyfin Demesne, Co Laois, Ireland
2. COMO The Treasury, Perth, Australia
3. Hotel Matilda, San Miguel de Allende, Mexico
4. Umaid Bhawan Palace (Taj), Jodhpur, India
5. Summer Lodge Country House Hotel, Dorset, England
6. Virgin Hotels Chicago, Illinois, US
7. Waterford Castle, Co Waterford, Ireland
8. Hotel Unique, São Paulo, Brazil
9. The Lodge at Ashford Castle, Co Mayo, Ireland
10. Hotel Il Pellicano, Tuscany, Italy

Conde Nast Top Resorts in Europe

Of the top 25 European resorts, four are in Ireland… and all four have their own golf course!

In 5th place is Ashford Castle – see The Lodge at Ashford Castle above.
The new 6th hole at Trump Doonbeg
In 20th place is Trump International Hotel & Golf Links. Investment is the name of the game for most of the Irish hotels and resorts on these two lists… and Doonbeg is no different. The Greg Norman-designed links course received the Martin Hawtree treatment over the last two years, opening for full play a few months ago.

In 21st position is Adare Manor Hotel & Golf Resort. I rate the course as the best parkland in Ireland, but let’s not forget that the entire resort is currently closed as it enjoys a multi-million makeover. Talk of Fazio’s redesign has golfing pundits salivating. And when it re-opens (2017 is planned) the resort should rise up these rankings.

The final resort is Dromoland Castle, at number 24. Personally, I think the parkland course which wraps around the castle is hugely under-rated. It has everything you could ask for in terms of variety and challenges and beauty.

These Irish winners are luxury destinations and are therefore beyond the reach of many Irish golfers, but if these awards make international travellers sit up and take notice of what Ireland has to offer then that can only be a positive thing. After all, Condé Nast carries a lot of weight. And, even if you don’t stay, there’s nothing to stop you playing the golf courses.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Dan the Man... Wins Golf For Life

Golf for Life...
When was the last time you entered a prize draw for anything… and won? A car, a holiday, a cuddly toy… I once won a tee shirt when I was 14, and then a Sega Megadrive thing some 25 years later. My guess is that I’ve done better than 95% of the population when it comes to winning ‘free’ stuff.

Do you ever wonder if the whole

Friday, October 28, 2016

Autumn Colour at Druid's Glen

The par three 12th... high tee, lots of water, sloping green...
what else do you need to know?
I’ve never had an issue admitting that I’m wrong about a golf course… some courses which I simply loved a few years ago have waned slightly as I have played them again or played their peers and – how shall I put this – rebalanced my opinion. Of course, the same is also true: a course I was distinctly tepid about has warmed my heart the more I have played it. 

Surely you feel the same way yourself!

And then there are the courses where your feelings never change. You love ‘em, or you hate ‘em and nothing’s going to alter your view.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

IGTOA 2016 Award Winners

The Irish Golf Tour Operator Association (IGTOA) had its annual shindig in north Dublin earlier this week… culminating with a black tie gala dinner and awards at the Grand Hotel in Malahide. So here’s a list of the winners who can bask in a little home-grown love for the next year.

Monday, October 24, 2016

The Magnificent Six

Swans causing slow play at Rathfarnham... tsk!
It’s not often you get to visit six Irish golf courses in a day… the fact I was trying to make it to seven is beside the point… but needs must. And visiting Ireland’s finest is hardly a hardship. A 550 km tour from Wexford-Dublin-Baltray-Mullingar-Kinnegad-Dublin-Wexford.

Here are some photos from the tour:

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Irish Golf News October 2016

Views to the MacGillycuddy's Reeks from the 17th
green on Killarney's Killeen Course
There have been numerous interesting developments in recent weeks as the summer/autumn golfing season begins to wind down. No question, we’ve had a great couple of weeks and for those lucky enough to have been on the golf course, many have been basking in sunshine. It should inspire the warm-weather golfers to keep going a bit longer.

Here are a few bits and pieces worth talking about:

Ryder Cup 2016... Questions and Blame Game

Who among us doesn't love the Ryder Cup? Seriously, if ever golf needed to stir passions all the powers-that-be need to do is look at and learn from the Ryder Cup. Every hole is a win or lose scenario... if only the Olympics would pay attention. This is the way to show the world what golf is all about.

True, a portion of the American fans proved PJ Willett 100% right, which is an omen of things to come. Those powers-that-be need to do something to stop the craziness because someone's going to get hurt. Stop serving alcohol at 7.30am perhaps?

I've written two articles in recent days - one for the Irish Examiner and one for the weekly online Irish Golfer Digital+. The Examiner piece focuses on the desire of the golfing world and media to generate a 'Blame Game' mentality. All the reasons for potential failure and who's to blame get lined up like dominoes... just waiting to be knocked down as soon as the winning putt drops.

The other article is more tongue-in-cheek and addresses some 'questions' which get me riled up about the Ryder Cup... such as WAGS, merchandise, slo-mos and mashed potatoes.  

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Ryder Cup - an A to Z

I wrote a piece on the Ryder Cup for yesterday's Irish Examiner... it's an A-Z of facts and moments. It was fun to research and revealing too... who knew a replica Ryder Cup waterproof outfit by Galvin Green would set you back €900!

Here's the link:

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Ireland's 100 Best Golf Holes 2016

Yes, it had to happen... and happen it did in the current issue of Irish Golfer Magazine. A list of Ireland's Best 100 Golf Holes has been published and the nit-picking has begun. Is anyone surprised? No, of course not. Everyone has their favourites... which is as it should be.

The list was devised by Ally McIntosh (golf course architect) and me (gobby, opinionated golf writer) and after reducing over 7,000 holes to a mere 200 the real work began. It is frustratingly tough to get to that 100 number. Several of my favourite holes didn't make the cut for one reason or another - Druid's Glen par three 8th, Athlone's par four 13th,

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Cruden Bay Photoshoot - Day 2

The bar at the White Horse Inn, Balmedie.
A 5am start is bad enough without the hotel fire alarm going off at 1.30am.

We all sulked out of our rooms, muttering and then we waited for the fire brigade. At least they were quick (15 minutes) and in and out in another five. The lead fireman was none too pleased with the resident of the offending room.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Cruden Bay Photoshoot - the joys of Scotland

Five minutes… that’s all it takes to be immersed in the beauty of the Scottish countryside. Heather falls like a shawl over the shoulders of mountains, flooding between the pines as the road winds along the valley floor. Cairnryan Port is left behind, to the south, and now the five hour journey to Aberdeen begins.
The 4th hole at Cruden Bay - a gem of a par three.
It’s a long drive, especially with the additional three hours from Wexford to Belfast, but this is all about the beauty of Scotland… and the convenience of having your own car. An Aer Lingus flight from Dublin to Aberdeen would have been simpler, no question, but the convenience of having your own car makes it worthwhile. Besides, I wouldn’t have fit the ladder on the plane.

This is a photography job – my first outside Ireland – and trying to figure out what to take and what not to take on the plane was doing my head in. The ferry was the obvious answer and the ladder fits easily in the car boot.
Approach to the par five 6th. Under 500 yards... but Index 1. Yep,
it's a brute to get at the green.
After the heather-strewn glens the road drops down to the ocean and Ailsa Craig makes its presence known… and that means only one thing… Turnberry is a few miles ahead. But that’s another story.

It was 7pm by the time I arrived at Cruden Bay Golf Club, north of Aberdeen, and the sun was out. I met Les Durno, the General Manager, and he took me out on the course, to the well loved 4th hole. There’s only one buggy here… for the Ranger... so do what you’re supposed to do on a golf course, and walk.
The panorama from the clubhouse bar - whets the appetite, eh!
"From June 4th we’ve had rain every day… for 66 days in a row,” he told me, pointing out the lush, silky fairways. “Golfers are complaining it’s too green!

As a photographer, I certainly wasn't.

My room for the night is at the White Horse Inn, in Balmedie, halfway between Cruden Bay and Aberdeen. The bar and restaurant are really rather chic  and funky. I’ll get a pic up on here tomorrow. For now – it’s a 5am start so I’m hitting the sack.

Concra Wood Winner

Gerard Doolan... you're the man with a shiny ball marker/medal coming your way. Drop me a 'Comment' with your address and I'll send it on.

Thanks to all who entered. Be sure to pay Concra Wood a visit in Co. Monaghan

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Charlesland Golf Club Makes More of its Land

The old par three 2nd at Charlesland
Charlesland Golf Club has made a few changes to its course and its facilities in recent months. Two new holes and a three-hole golf academy opened at the end of July, and I finally got a chance to go and see them on Friday.

The club is currently being managed by Carr Golf, on behalf of the owners - the Evans family. These golf developments are part of a wider €1 million refurbishment the Evans family have undertaken to strengthen

Friday, August 12, 2016

Concra Wood... where the rain matters not a jot

The par five 13th curls forever right around Lake Muckno.
The green is on the far right of this photo.
There’s been a lot going on at Concra Wood in the past few years: new clubhouse, new entrance driveway, new car park, three years of hosting the Europro Tour. One thing that hasn’t changed is the golf course and the glorious surroundings. This is what you might call a ‘knockout’ round of golf.

I hadn’t been back to the course in far too long, so on Wednesday I headed up with my dad for what

Monday, August 8, 2016

Portstewart - The Irish Open Venue for 2017

The most spectacular opening tee shot in Irish golf.
It gave me no pleasure to watch the Irish Open snatched from the grasp of Lough Erne earlier this year… when just about everyone believed it was a done deal… but, similarly, now that our national Open has been handed to Portstewart in 2017, and given such a peach of a date (6 to 9 July), golf in Ireland can look at new ways to bear fruit.

The European Tour has made a significant move by rearranging the

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Ten Years of Carton House... and now they're celebrating

Francis Howley on the par three 14th 
... with a month long festival of celebration offers in August.

An interesting, little known fact about Carton House… it’s a 1,100 acre walled estate. And when I say walled, I mean its perimeter is a wall measuring over 5.5

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

The K Club Adds the Cherry on Top

Staff and guests form a 25 to celebrate quarter of a century
in business at the K Club.
It's been a good year for the K Club - Rory McIlroy winning the Irish Open in such thrilling and dramatic fashion helped to showcase the Palmer course as one of Ireland's top parklands - and it follows on from an investment of some €20 million in the past couple of years, which saw the addition of a new 70 bedroom hotel wing, a new restaurant and bar.

It's all made the resort's 25th anniversary celebrations rather easy... and what better way to celebrate than with a

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

The Grateful Eight... Golf Open Weeks Ireland 2016: Batch 2

The green on Castlemartyr's par three 12th.
So who got out there over the last two days and got baked? I was at Rathsallagh to take photographs and I left the club at 9.30am as a man walked down the 1st hole, an umbrella over his head. It was 25 degrees.

The weather over the next couple of weeks looks to be interchangeable but that shouldn’t stop you from getting out and

Monday, July 18, 2016

An Open Championship Dogfight

I don't write about the professional game very often but this year's Open Championship was truly special. The final pair of Mickelson and Stenson finished, respectively, 11 and 14 shots clear of the chasing pack with rounds of 65 and 63. That's phenomenal and puts them in a class apart... it made Rory's next-best-of-the-day 67 look almost trifling.

Jordan Spieth had this to say:

Talk about a heavyweight bout as they punched and counter-punched, hole after hole. I'm delighted for Stenson... and gutted for Mickelson, even moreso as he lipped out for that history-making 62 on the first day.

I wrote a piece on 10 Open Championship Facts/Moments for the Irish Examiner last week - you'll find it here: - but it's safe to say that this Royal Troon dogfight will be added to item number 9 (Greatest Moments), right alongside the famous Watson/Nicklaus 'Duel in the Sun'.

It's worth noting that Watson (-12) and Nicklaus (-11) were so far ahead of the field at Turnberry that Hubert Green, who came third with a score of -1, declared: "I won the tournament I played in".

JB Holmes, who came third yesterday on -6, will probably feel the same way.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Golf and A New Kind of Hazard

Is anyone else sick and tired of the rules of golf, how they’re applied, when and by whom? I know I am. This past weekend at the US Women’s Open was another example – following hot on the heels of the men’s US Open – of how badly officialdom

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Ireland vs. Scotland... the golfer's conundrum

Killarney Mahony's Point 18th green
Well, there's little doubt that following Brexit and the slump in Sterling's value against the dollar, American golfers will be licking their lips at the prospect of a 15% discount (maybe more) in the cost of their golfing trip to the United Kingdom.

It certainly gives the famed Scottish links an edge over their Irish brethren... for now. There's a

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Atlantic Coast Challenge Day 2 - Carne

The 8th green (LHS)
The big question for me was: how good are Carne's greens?

Last year, the feeling among ACC participants was that they were not good...

... this year, they were top notch. I've played here many times and the greens this time around are as good as I've seen them. On that point alone, congratulations to the

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Atlantic Coast Challenge Day 1 - County Sligo

Views over the 15th green to Benbulben
It's no surprise that Atlantic Coast Challenge chatter was dominated by weather on the first day of the 2016 event. There was a brutal morning of rain and by lunchtime (when I arrived at County Sligo GC), sad and sorry-looking golfers were trudging off the 18th green, no doubt relishing the hot shower to come... and the not so savoury prospect of getting their kit dry before the next round.

The group I passed were discussing the 38 points one of them had scored. Given the conditions, that was an impressive score to say the least. We may have been off the forward tees but the wind was up - a 3 club wind, I reckon - and the rough is heavy and thick and wet. I was in the heavy stuff on the 3rd, moved the ball about five yards and never found it.

Top tip of the day... avoid the rough at all costs!
The Index 1 7th has a tricky ditch just shy of the green

My buddy Finbarr, back from New York to play in this event - alongside Ronan and myself - for the 5th consecutive year, scored 22 points... on the back nine... helped by a brilliant birdie on 18 where he almost drove the green (325 metres). Downwind it may have been but it's a blind drive. He had 37 points in all so he may, just may, be in the prizes. We'll find out later.
The par three 13th
You really won't find a better 'classic' than this. Carne and Enniscrone are two of my top three Irish golf courses in the country, and County Sligo is only just behind (top 10 certainly). All for under €140, with the prospect of winning a share of the €6,000 prize fund.  What's not to like about that.

The only thing that constantly fooled us was the speed of the greens, which were slower than expected. Downhill putts simply weren't running out and you could afford to be a touch aggressive on your shots around the green. In the past, the greens have been far slicker.
County Sligo is a beautiful course in one of the most remarkable of settings. Benbulben is visible from almost every hole and the views stretch endlessly to distant mountains and ocean.
Views up the 17th fairway to the green, from the 16th green
The course is having an 'upgrade' at the moment... and I'll nail my colours to the mast by saying I'm not happy about that. Pat Ruddy is making the changes so you can decide for yourself when you play here what you think of the extended greens (the Harry Colt originals remain untouched) and the new bunkers which appear on a few holes. My feeling has always been that you don't mess with greatness and, for me, that's what County Sligo has.