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
experience was it? Then I try to describe it.

Now, for all those golf writers who like to focus on a course's design and its evolution, a course review is unlikely to change unless the course further evolves. I have discovered that this is not the case when you focus on the experience. Portmarnock and County Louth are two telling examples. Portmarnock I will leave for another day, but County Louth is definitely front and centre at the moment as I reviewed the course for this month's edition of Irish Golfer Magazine (pages 76-80).
Co Louth's short par four 4th has not a single bunker on it.
I have played the course four times and each time I play it I enjoy it more. I admit, it is not a course that blows me away as I favour big dunes which promise bigger thrills, but when you play a classic like this you begin to understand and appreciate its subtleties more and more on every visit.
The par four 8th at Co Louth. The green is over the 2nd bunker, to the
right of the golfers (who are on the 12th hole)
From the clubhouse and from the 1st tee you can see that the course appears to be low-running without many distinctive dunes - other than those close to the sea and farthest away from where you're standing. Perhaps that is a bit disappointing, especially given the big space which the course covers, but spend some time studying the hole and the beautiful greens and that disappointment should vanish. This is a masterclass in old-school design values and the greens really do capture your imagination... and maybe your heart.
A delicate approach required to the 6th green at Co Louth
Yes, my feelings towards Co Louth Golf Club are growing ever fonder and while I will always find the biggest thrills in that sweet run of heaving dunes (holes 12-16) there is such a strong mix of holes that  you are tested every step of the way.
Co Louth's signature hole is the short par four 14th... and like the 5th
it is bunkerless. Sheer class.
However, in the interests of transparency I am going to add a series of comments from the golf forum on There wasn't enough room in the Irish Golfer Mag article for these even though that had been my original intention. Here they are:

"Its a really excellent course. I've played it twice in the past two years and, once you get over the history of it and the "Jaysus, this is where Lowry won it eventually"-type feeling and settle into it, then its a really, really good course. Yes, its pretty flat and no, there aren't a huge amount of sea views, but I'm there to play golf and not look at the waves. Its no Waterville for sure, but its a massive test of golf, its always in great nick and the facilities (apart from the short driving range) are excellent."
Approach to the tough par four 9th
"Baltray generates adulation from golf purists, whose praise for a layout that changes direction on every hole is trumped only by their love of the fast and tricky greens. But most golfers aren't purists. They play for fun and for excitement, not for education. As a flat and featureless course with only a solitary, fleeting sea view, and (I would argue) suffering from a seemingly endless succession of 420 yard par 4s with a gentle dogleg, it just doesn't deliver the memorability or provide the entertainment of the other courses I have played that co-reside in Ireland's 20 top courses. It's a solid 7/10, maybe even a 6 when you bring value for money into the equation. There should be a wow factor associated with a 3-figure green fee, and it doesn't exist here."

"Played it a lot over the years and always enjoyed it. Good links course but not as exciting as the better ones - Portmarnock, European, Tralee, Waterville etc. Stopped playing it a good few years ago as it got very expensive for what it is. Played adjoining course Seapoint recently which was a good experience."
The par three 7th... not a hole to come up short on!
"Quite simply one of the finest courses I've ever played. Beautiful. Fair. Challenging. A pleasure. 

"7.5 out of 10 for me. A great links course but missing the dunes of the west coast and a poor cousin to the big 3 courses in Dublin and the European club. Too hard in summer with the meadow style rough rather the wisp style rough where u can find your ball."

"A pretty good track, but probably over-priced for what it is. Good value during their open week, but the walk-up price is steep. 6.5 to 7 out of 10."
The par three 5th
"Played it only the once but I loved it. It doesn't have the large dunes of the west coast links or the sea views but the holes all have character and plenty of variation to them and as it is not a traditional out and back you encounter more variation with regards wind direction. My preferred links course is one set within huge dunes such as Carne and Enniscrone however the more I play the more new found respect and appreciation I have for the flatter links and the subtleties that come with it and even the slight elevation changes at play in Baltray really add to the holes. Some of the green complex's here are as good as you will find anywhere, especially the 14th. Condition of the course was very good the day I played. Personally I don't give a damn about the clubhouse or even the putting green and range, it's all about the course as far as I'm concerned therefore I rate it very highly. As another poster said, it is pretty expensive to play but then again aren't they all. 8 out of 10."
The blind taste test on the Co Louth clubhouse bar...
Can you tell the difference between white and
red lemonade?
A good mix of opinions and one that shows the two sides of the debate. Read the full review here and then stick it on your itinerary for next year. Go judge Co Louth for yourself.

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