Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Sister Courses in Ireland and Oregon to Host Golf Championships in 2021

When Carne Golf Links first told me about their twinning with Gearhart Golf Links, in Oregon, I thought: now that's a brilliant idea. Two courses that help each other, swap ideas, promote the other locally and nationally, field teams against each other, and generally just create a positive channel of communication between them. What's not to like? Joint membership? Yep, that too.

Though separated by thousands of miles, these two courses with a unique connection will celebrate their alliance in the summer of 2021 by hosting national championships: The US

Hickory Open will be held at Gearhart on the north Oregon coast from Sept 12-14, while Carne Golf will hold the prestigious Irish PGA Championship on August 4-7. 

Carne Golf Links, one of the the youngest of the great links courses in the UK and Ireland, formed an unusual partnership in 2015 with Gearhart Golf Links, the oldest US golf course west of the Mississippi. These celebrated sister courses, one on Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way in County Mayo, and the other just south of where the mighty Columbia River roars into the Pacific, joined hands to celebrate their kinship and commonalities. Carne members enjoy the privilege of membership at Gearhart, and vice versa. Members of both clubs have enjoyed traveling overseas to play golf and socialize with their overseas partners. A delegation from Gearhart, led by course owner Tim Boyle, whose Irish ancestors came from County Mayo, inaugurated this enduring fellowship with a visit to Carne in 2015, with return visits made in 2016 and 2018. 

Each of these two great courses anchors the community life of its small local town. Both have active and engaged member clubs but are open to public play. Carne is a muscular, spectacular links, built among some of the largest dunes course designer Eddie Hackett ever had the pleasure of wandering about in search of ideal green sites. Gearhart’s native landscape is modest in comparison, but the course makes splendid use of its gently rolling dunes and deep deposits of sandy soil. 

“The twinning of Carne and Gearhart was a match made in heaven,” noted Gerry Maguire, the Chairman of Carne Golf Links/Erris Tourism. “Our two courses share the same values of friendship, welcome, and excellence in hospitality. Add to that the world class golf and you have a very special experience at both courses.” 

Hackett’s wonderful work dots the Irish landscape, and like many of the great course architects of golf’s Golden Age, Hackett was first a golf professional, working full time at Portmarnock as he put his deft touch on an extraordinary portfolio of links courses. On their original journey to Ireland’s west coast links, the Gearhart delegation played several other Hackett designs as it worked its way north from Mayo to Donegal, among them Enniscrone, Murvagh, and Ballyliffin. The saga of Carne’s creation, which dates to the early 1990s, is brilliantly chronicled in the American writer John Garrity’s memoir, Ancestral Links

“We’re delighted to share the honor of hosting a national championship with our friends at Carne,” says Gearhart’s GM, Jason Bangild. 

Gearhart grew from modest beginnings in 1892 into one of Oregon’s premier courses, evolving from its original four-hole layout into a full 18-hole course by 1915. It is appropriate that Gearhart will host the US Hickory Open, given that hickory shafts were standard gear during Gearhart’s first forty years. And just as Carne’s layout was the work of a distinguished designer, Gearhart enjoyed the benefit of design work by Chandler Egan, a great amateur player of golf’s Golden Age who is credited with the redesign of Pebble Beach as well as original work on numerous west coast courses, among them Oswego Lake and Eugene Country Clubs in Oregon, and Indian Canyon in Spokane, WA. 

In addition to welcoming international visitors, Carne attracts players from Dublin, a bit over three hours’ drive away from Belmullet. Many Gearhart regulars live in Portland, seventy miles to the east across the Coast Range mountains. Led by owner Tim Boyle, GM Bangild and superintendent Forrest Goodling, with assistance from golf course architect John Strawn, Gearhart has enjoyed an extraordinary renaissance over the last ten years, restoring the full character of its original design and adding touches borrowed from Irish links. 

Gearhart’s delegation was so taken with Hackett’s approach to design that when it harvested sand to build new tees and add berms to highlight the course’s original links style, it called the resulting depressions 'Hackett pits.' 

“We are very lucky at Gearhart Golf Links to have found such true friends who have embraced our course’s restoration,” said Gearhart’s Bangild. “The inspiration we found in Ireland prevails not just on our golf course but in social atmosphere at Gearhart.” 

“The alignment of the hosting of two prestigious events in 2021 is a testament to the hard work of the teams at Gearhart and Carne,” says Carne Chairman Maquire, “and gives both courses an opportunity to showcase their facilities to a wider audience, and hopefully lead to bigger things in years to come.” 

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