Sunday, June 24, 2018

Miracles at Belmullet - Carnage and Celebration at Carne

As the Atlantic Coast Challenge draws near (9-11 July) it's time to post a wonderful tale of golf that was emailed to me by American, Mike Considine. Mike has some special memories of playing in Ireland and playing at Carne in particular. As you'll deduce from the opening sentence, Mike and his friends met the South African golfer, Wayne Westner, in Belmullet. Here is Part 1:
The 8th green at Carne (clubhouse to the right)
The recent passing of the South African golfer Wayne Westner prompted a search of dusty boxes containing materials from old Irish golf tours.  I was looking for a particular file.  The year was 2000, and, in our new springtime tradition, I and a few college friends were preparing for a golfing trip to Ireland, the Green Isle.  Unlike many links purists, we had not included Scotland on our itinerary.  Scotland was never our focus.  With a nod perhaps to our Irish heritage, our group's links lust centered on the courses introduced to the world by the siren call of Herbert Warren Wind in Sports Illustrated, and the stirring prose of Irish writer Dermot Gilleece. Ballybunion, Lahinch, Waterville and regal Royal County Down -- these were the courses that lit our imagination.  My very first round of Irish golf had been at Ballybunion Old in 1987, where I was greeted in the unassuming clubhouse by a friendly dog, and escorted around the course by an affable caddy named Eric Glasper.  The modest old clubhouse, now replaced by an imposing edifice, featured a large wall

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Mount Juliet - The New Hunter's Yard Hotel

It’s not often you’ll find two hotels in one resort… but then again, it’s not often you’ll find somewhere as astoundingly beautiful as Mount Juliet
Hunter’s Yard is a ‘new’ four star hotel of modern flourishes and calm sophistication. It will complement the five star luxury of Mount Juliet House, perfectly. The distance between them is a few hundred metres but Hunter’s Yard is right next to the new clubhouse and golf course. It surrounds the old courtyard and is a combination of renovation and inspiration. If you remember the leisure centre or the

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Irish Kids Golf Tour Hits it Big

Charlie Symth (10) & Erin Symth (8)
The more the merrier, I say. It is excellent news for Irish golf that we continue to focus on our younger golfers and, alongside training camps during the Easter and summer holidays, various competitions and Get into Golf type programmes, there are efforts to give kids a competitive environment in which to challenge themselves, enhance their skills and make new friends.  It’s all part and parcel of helping these kids fall in love with the game. If we can generate that kind of passion and commitment early on, then we will see many of them playing golf for decades... and that's

Carton House - Media Day Sunshine

The short par four 13th on the O'Meara.
I have now played the Media Day at Carton House, three years in a row. The weather has been erratic and gone as follows:

Year 2016: a scorcher (O'Meara)
Year 2017: strong winds, lots of rain... and played from the back tees (Montgomerie)
Year 2018: a scorcher (O'Meara)

It's hard to believe that two courses so close together can be so different but it does mean visitors have considerable choice and variety. That said, the Montgomerie is a tough course and you don't need

Monday, June 11, 2018

Co Kerry's Best 18 Golf Holes

Waterville's 'Tranquility' (par five 11th)
It’s never easy picking an ‘18 best holes’ selection… or the top 100 courses for that matter. There are so many factors involved and it’s a real scrum when it comes to pulling out the final 18.
Co. Kerry is a perfect example of this. I mean, Ballybunion, Tralee and Waterville are three links rated in the top 100 courses in the world, so how do you choose holes from anywhere else? And yet there’s Dooks, Killarney’s two courses, Ceann Sibeal and Hog’s Head to add to the mix.
Fortunately, the Irish Examiner gave me the opportunity to produce two 18s: the overall

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Carnoustie Country in Destination Golf

Sometimes you get lucky. Trips to Scotland are a bonus of monumental proportions for an Irish golf writer and visiting Carnoustie Country was particularly special as things ramp up ahead of the Open Championship, this July.

When we visited in April, the stands were already going up and golfers off the 1st tee were rattling their drives into the notorious Barry Burn, on the left of the fairway, or into the stands on the right, behind the 16th green (seen on the left in the photo below). It's nothing like as generous as the 1st hole at St Andrew's but those butterflies in your stomach as you prepare to make your first swing are just as busy.

To read about the area, the beautiful courses on offer (many you won't know) and some of the best gin and whiskey you'll ever taste, take a look at this month's edition of Destination Golf. Click on the link and the

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

World Amateur Team Championships 2018 - 100 Days

The countdown is on to the world’s biggest amateur team golf event… and it’s in Ireland.
It is just under 100 days until the World Amateur Team Championships tee off at Carton House on 29th August. The Championships are coming to Ireland for the first time in their history and the two tournaments – the Eisenhower Trophy (men) and Espirito Santo Trophy (women) – will see top amateur golfers from over 72 countries competing over the Montgomerie and O’Meara courses.
The view of Carton House from the 18th green (Montgomerie)
These Championships are the breeding ground of many for the most famous names in golf. Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods, Sergio Garcia, Colin Montgomerie, Martin Kaymer and Rory McIlroy have fought for the Eisenhower Trophy, a tournament which dates back to 1958. The Espirito Santo Trophy came a few years later, in 1964, and Suzann Pettersen, Paula

Friday, May 18, 2018

Flogas Irish Amateur Open Royal County Down

Royal County Down
Views back down the par four 5th at Royal
County Down at sunrise
I have been extremely fortunate to play Royal County Down twice in the past month. Both times it was a fine day and the gorse was in full bloom. I took photographs by the dozen - if you follow me on Twitter or Instagram you'll have seen numerous shots - and played some half decent golf. This is, after all, not a course where you want to be playing anything less than half decent golf because balls disappear into deep rough and gorse in the blink of an eye, and blind shots will bamboozle you.

On the other hand, if you're the No. 37 ranked amateur in the world you're unlikely to be worrying about losing balls and be far more concerned with making birdies.

On Tuesday, I played with Kristoffer Reitan, from Norway. Accompanied by Marcus - his caddie, coach and former Pro golfer himself - they are aiming for big things by year end. Kristoffer is 19 years old, is long off the tee (he drove the par four 16th, 337 yards) and has the short game to make it if his ambitions bear fruit. It was a privilege to play with such a talented young man. He made three birdies and few mistakes... and those he did make he recovered from. His first visit to one of the dreaded bunkers was followed by a 150 yard shot from the sand onto the green.
Kristoffer Reitan tees off on the par four 2nd at Royal County Down
And after Round 1 of the Flogas Irish Amateur Open he's in a strong position. A 2 under par 69 has him in joint 4th. A certain Robin Dawson, from Tramore, blew the course away with a 65, but there's a long way to go yet... starting today. (All Round 1 scores are below.)
Kristoffer tees off on the par three 4th.
Round one scores 

Flogas Irish Amateur Open
Royal County Down

65 R Dawson (Tramore)
68 A Fitzpatrick (England); A Gleeson  (Castle)
69 J Skov Olesen (Denmark); M Saulez (South Africa); D Hague (England); M Jordan (England); D Rauch (Germany); R Cannon (Balbriggan); K Reitan (Norway); A Wilson (England)
70 G Collins (Rosslare); J Hapgood (Wales); B Gill (England); S Watts (Cairndhu); C Thornton (England); N Bachem (Germany)
71 P O'Keeffe (Douglas); C Woollam (South Africa); R Mullarney (Galway); G Bloor (England); A Hill (Athenry); J Fox (Portmarnock); J Gough (England); T Nel (South Africa); G Chevalier (France); J Wilson (Scotland); D Langley (England); P Brennan (Belvoir Park); P Melching (Netherlands)
72 L Sanges (Wales); E Walker (Scotland); L Shepherd (England); M Hammer (Germany); C Barrow (Scotland); C Strickland (England); E McIntosh (Scotland); M Mitchell  (South Africa); J Sugrue (Mallow)
73 C Mansfield (South Africa); T Carter (England); J Brady (Rosslare); T Vaillant (France); Q Debove (France); J Cope (England); R Williams   (England); R Brazill (Naas); J Yates (Naas); J Mc Donnell (Forrest Little); N Poppleton (England); D Brophy (Castleknock); B Hutchinson (England); F Hanisch (Germany); C Denvir (Elm Park); B Chamberlain (Wales); J Schaper (South Africa); J Pierse (Portmarnock)
74 C Lamprecht (South Africa); F Carr (Kirkistown Castle); R Neergaard-Petersen (Denmark); M Norton (Belvoir Park); J Mis (England); A Maguire (Laytown & Bettystown); T Vahlenkamp (Germany); A Edwards-Hill (England); A Petit (France); C Rafferty (Dundalk); J Sundborg (England); S Done (England); B Anderson (The Royal Dublin); K Cantley  (Scotland); S Easton (Scotland); T Clements (England); J Davies (Wales); B McKenzie (England)
75 B Jones (England); M Waite (England); C Farr (England); R Williamson (Holywood); D Germishuys (South Africa); J McMahon (England); D Howie (Scotland); J Johnston (Scotland); G Lenehan (Portmarnock); R Foley (Switzerland); A Flanagan (England); A Grant (Dundalk); M Martin (England)
76 S Locke (Scotland); A Plumb (England); O Huggins (England); R Moran (Castle); D McAleenon (Edenmore); J Glenn (England); R Pierse (Grange); T Thurloway (England); D Brown (England); J de Bruyn (Germany); H Goddard (England)
77 J Madden (Royal Portrush); J Whelan (Newlands); P Coughlan (Castleknock); M Ryan (New Ross); N Muller (France); W Nienaber (South Africa); J Bolton (England); M Power (Kilkenny)
78 A McDougall (Scotland); A Laussot (France); K Egan (Carton House); T Plumb (England); J Gaunt (England); H Foley (The Royal Dublin); L Abrial (France); R Dutton (Tandragee); G Petrozzi (England); E Farrell (Ardee); P Mullins (Wales); T McLarnon (Massereene)
79 R Black (Hilton Templepatrick); D Coghlan (Portmarnock); J Fletcher (Warrenpoint); D Mary (France); T Sloman (England)
80 E Smith (Laytown & Bettystown); O Crooks (Bushfoot); D Kitt (Athenry); W Porter (Scotland)
81 J Walsh (Castle); W Small (Tandragee); G Frimodt (Denmark); M Lamb (England); T Shin (England)
82 D McNeill (Scotland); J Paterson (Scotland); C Woodroofe (Dun Laoghaire)
83 R Knightly (The Royal Dublin)
86 M d'Harcourt (France)

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Which is Ireland’s Best Golfing Bar?

The Wicklow Wolf Golf Championship at Druids Glen aims to answer that question.
Now, this is a smart gem of a marketing idea. What better way to promote your beer – and Wicklow Wolf is one of the best craft breweries out there (if you haven’t tried the Elevation Pale Ale, it’s heaven) – than doing a tie-in with Ireland’s most thrilling parkland course. For golfers, it’s the best of both worlds. 
Approach to the par four 15th
The first ever Wicklow Wolf Golf Championship will be held at Druids Glen Golf Club on Thursday 26th April.
The competition has been set up to find Ireland’s best golfing bar and is open to teams of two, male and females over the age of 18, who will represent their local bar or pub. The maximum handicap allowances men 28 and ladies 36.
The par three 17th. You might need a touch of Wicklow Wolf to calm your
nerves before teeing off on this beast.
On the day there will be two separate shotgun starts one at 9am and one at 2pm. I don’t envy those golfers who find themselves starting at the 13th or the 17th… or the 18th for that matter. All brilliant holes but utter knee-tremblers too.
The entry fee is €200 per team which includes complimentary range balls, a goody bag including Wicklow Wolf Pale Ale, dinner and prize-giving.
The par three 8th at Druids Glen
The winners will receive a special Wicklow Wolf Golf Championship winner flag to fly from their local bar, the Championship Trophy (to be held for one year), a golf outing for 20 people at Druids Glen, complimentary PGA professional golf clinic and three kegs of Wicklow Wolf Pale Ale for the local pub or bar entered.
Tasty prizes, yes!
To enter contact Druids Glen Golf Club, 01 287 0812 or email aaron.byrne@druidsglenresort.com.
Participants will be notified of their starting hole following the draw that will take place on 25th April. Fingers crossed it’s not one of the three mentioned above.

Friday, April 6, 2018

Masters 2018 Day 1

A few bits and pieces from the opening days of the Masters.
Par three tournament
Tom Watson is the oldest winner by seven years (over Sam Snead, 1974), at 68. He birdied the first four holes and doesn’t have to worry about the curse that befalls the winner of the

The Appeal of the Sports Capital Programme

Slade Valley Golf Club appealed successfully and received
€97,760 for grass cutting equipment.
Do you ever have one of those days when the news just gets your blood boiling - especially when it's something you're so very passionate about. 
But there are two sides to every story.
The Sports Capital Programme appeal process was finalised last month and, immediately afterwards, Sinn Fein Deputy (Imelda Munster) started banging her drum about how unfair the funding allocations had been. Golf clubs was a key target of her ire. What was so infuriating was that she was tarring every golf club with the same brush: namely that they are elitist establishments not deserving of tax-payers money. It is clear from

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

County Cork's 18 Best Golf Holes

County Cork has 24 eighteen hole golf courses... picking the best 18 isn't easy... but in today's Irish Examiner that is what I attempt to do. You'll find the full article/rationale here, but here are some photographs to give you a taste

1. Mitchelstown, par four 4th, 357/340 metres














2.  Douglas, par four 17th, 360/351 metres
 













3. Castlemartyr, par three 5th, 211/189 yards
 













4. Old Head, par four 2nd, 388/376 yards
  













5. Skibbereen, par four 13th, 350/335 yards















6. Old Head, par five 12th, 554/537 yards














7. Cork, par four 16th, 322/300 yards
















8. Cobh, par three 10th, 167/149 yards
















9. Lee Valley, par five 15th, 535/525 yards
10. Monkstown, par four 10th, 315/284 metres














11. Cork, Par five 5th, 552/510 yards














12. Fermoy, par four 13th, 420/390 metres














13. Fota Island, par four 6th, 357/330 yards
 













14. Macroom, par four 9th, 369/357 metres 
15. Mallow, par five 3rd, 448/439 metres

16. Mahon, par four 5th, 336/325 metres



  











17. Water Rock, par three 12th, 219/155 yards














18. Fota Island, par five 18th, 507/479 yards



Friday, March 23, 2018

Masters Magic, Irish Style

Dooks... and a whole lot of spectacular scenery. 
As the Masters approaches and the golf world goes wild we have all established how, when and where we’ll be watching the first and – let’s be honest – the most exciting of the four Majors.

Irish golf clubs have embraced Augusta with their own Masters magic and here are three events that you can participate in… at Esker Hills, Galway Bay and Dooks.

Esker Hills
The event started three years ago in 2015, to celebrate Shane’s first appearance in

Thursday, March 22, 2018

King's Cup 2018 - The Qualifiers start at Westport

Westport's par three 9th.
The International King's Cup is kicking off again this weekend with a qualifier event in each province. If you’re free to play as a pair you should seriously consider entering as the ‘final’ is a Ryder Cup styled three-day match-play event between a team from the United States and a team from Ireland. The tournament, in honour of golf’s greatest ambassador, Mr. Arnold Palmer, will be played on the Faldo Course at the 5-star luxury Lough Erne Resort, in County Fermanagh, from Monday 14th to Friday 18th May.
A unique feature of the competition is that it gives players of all ages and abilities an opportunity to play for Ireland. The road to qualification for Irish Golfers begins by qualifying from the first of four provincial qualifiers, with the Connacht event staged in Westport on Saturday 24th March. From this event, 16 golfers (8 pairs) will go forward to compete in a final qualifying stage to be played on the Lough Erne Resort in County Fermanagh on Sunday 15 April, where all 32 pairs from the four qualifiers go head-to-head. From this a 16 man Irish team to play the USA shall be selected.
There are two age brackets from which the two-man teams can qualify to secure a spot on the Irish team: Age 18+ and Senior 50+. See Rules of Play below.
Westport's par three 14th hits straight at Croagh Patrick.
Liam Friel and John Collins are two players who went on to qualify for the final from the Westport event and they played a significant role in helping Ireland retain the Cup in 2017.
Amateur golfers from across Ireland should really get involved for this year’s qualifiers as the final is a grand affair. Full details are on the Westport Golf Club website at www.westportgolfclub.ie. Booking can be done through BRS or by contacting the clubhouse at 098 28262.

The other three provincial qualifiers are:

Munster Qualifier – Ennis Golf Club: Saturday 31st March

Leinster Qualifier – Dunmurry Springs Golf Club: Sunday 8th April

Ulster Qualifier – Lough Erne Resort: Saturday 7th April

Visit the club websites or make a call to book your spot.   

Rules of Play

Format: The format for play is fourball stroke play as defined in Rule 31 per the USGA® Rules of Golf in which two players play as partners, each playing their own ball. The lower score of the partners is the score for the hole. If one partner fails to complete the hole there is no penalty.
Amateurs Only: International Kings cup is open ONLY to amateur golfers holding an official GUI handicap.

Teams: Teams in the Irish Team Qualifiers may be formed by any combination of male participants (18 years or older).

Divisions: There are two divisions - Open Division and Senior Division.  The Open Division is open to all ages. The Senior Division is for Players 50 years of age and above prior to the provincial qualifier. A player that is 50+ is allowed to compete in the Open division, but a player that is under 50 is not allowed to compete in the Senior Division.

Flights: Each Division has four flights. Championship, A-Flight, B-Flight and C-Flight.
Flight Handicaps 
·       Championship 4.9 or less
·       A Flight             5.0-9.9
·       B Flight             10.0-14.9
·       C Flight            15.0 and above

A Team Handicap is determined by totaling the handicap index of player A and player B together and dividing it in half. Example - Player A is a 10 handicap and player B is a 15 handicap totaling 25. Divide the total of 25 in half and the Team Handicap is 12.5. That team would be in the "B" Flight.

No team can have a handicap differential of more than 8 strokes between teammates. For example - a player that is a 10 handicap cannot play with a player that is a 24 handicap, unless that player drops his handicap down from a 24 to 18. Their team handicap would be 10+18=28/2 = 14.