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.

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