Monday, February 15, 2016

Ireland's Golfing Augusta

The par three 8th at Druid's Glen
For golfers, the word 'Augusta' evokes visions of lush, sweeping greens, greener jackets, perfect water features, blazes of colour and instantly recognisable golf holes. And so many great golfing memories.

Perhaps that is why golf courses around the world are so eager to boast their own Amen Corner. Ireland has several* and
it is understandable that clubs will use this as part of their marketing efforts. But taking the next step up and claiming to be the Augusta of Ireland is a bold, bold statement.

And here's the quandary... for not only are there two Irish courses already claiming the Augusta title, there will soon be a third. Let's rate the claims of each:

1. Woodenbridge. The mighty J.B. Carr called the club "Ireland's Augusta" and "the most scenic course in Ireland". The course’s designer, the late Paddy Merrigan, must have been delighted with such high praise and there’s no doubt that Woodenbridge boasts a beautiful setting in the Avoca Valley: the hillsides are drenched in trees and the Aughrim and Avoca rivers complement the bucolic setting. The club's Twitter feed even plays on that Augusta reference: Irelands Augusta.
The par three 8th at Woodenbridge
Augusta Claim Rating: 3/10. Augusta is a surprisingly hilly course whereas Woodenbridge is mostly flat. Augusta’s beauty is on the course itself and while Woodenbridge is a charming parkland it is the valley setting that creates the club’s unique selling proposition.


2. Druid’s Glen. As one of Ireland’s top parklands, with four Irish Opens cementing its reputation, what stands out is the impressive variety of holes and the colour on and around the course… old stone walls, a suspension bridge, the druid’s altar and colourful plantings around greens. Water features abound (the par threes drenched in it) and the back nine are both brilliant and tough.

The wickedly difficult par three 17th at Druid's Glen
Augusta Claim Rating: 6/10. Druid’s Glen doesn’t have Augusta’s constant undulating changes in elevation or dark pine corridors, but it does have plenty of colour and intrigue around greens as well as the best par threes in the country. And let’s not forget the 13th! The rating would have been 7/10 but for the Glen’s claim to be the ‘Augusta of Europe’… which is a touch too imaginative for me!


3. Adare is now closed for 18 months as the resort and golf course are being revamped, with Tom Fazio upgrading the course. The resort (aka JP McManus) wants the course to become the ‘Augusta of Europe’… perhaps to pip Druid’s Glen to that title… and it certainly has the trees and the shape on several holes: 12 to 14 have many Augusta-like features and it will be fascinating to see what Fazio does with the rest of the course.

The par five 18th at Adare Golf Club
Augusta Claim Rating: 6/10. Adare has a moodier atmosphere than Druid’s Glen, thanks to the evergreens shadowing several holes, but not as much colour. And, apart from that fine stretch on the back nine there are many level holes, which are in stark contrast to Augusta. Something tells me that rating will increase when the course re-opens.

For many of us, Augusta comes down to the moments that make late night TV viewing so addictive on the Saturday and Sunday of Masters week: Phil Mickelson’s shot off the pine needles at 15; Rory’s disaster on the 10th; Tiger’s outrageous chip-in on 16; and Sandy Lyle’s bunker shot on 18. Yes, the golf course is special and sublime, but what would it be to you and me if we didn’t see the greatest golfers working their magic!

Calling yourself the Augusta of Ireland, or Europe, is a fun claim but there’s a giant pinch of salt in there, too. This is Ireland after all, not Georgia.

* Ashbourne, Athlone, Beech Park, Carrick-on-Shannon, Carton House, Clonmel, Druid's Glen, Fota Island, Mannan Castle, Skibbereen, Slieve Russell, Woodstock all make the claim - and that's just the list that the lads at Boards.ie



3 comments:

  1. The big difference between your courses and augusta, is, yours are playable by all golfers, augusta is only played by the memberscans guests.

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    1. If only that was the only difference!! But yes, we are lucky that no golf course in Ireland is the sole preserve of the members.

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    2. The real answer is Cork Golf Club.. Alister MacKensie - just look at the bunkering, sloping greens, undulating course, length and variety of holes

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