Friday, December 31, 2021

Golf’s Highs and Lows 2021

Some thoughts on those 2021 moments that highlight what's great about golf... and what's not. 


Co. Cavan’s Leona Maguire received a wild card pick for the European Solheim Cup team. She was the first Irishwoman to be selected and she played imperious golf to deliver 4.5 points from a possible five. A record scoring rookie debut and she had some superb performances during the year, which bodes extremely well for 2022.

Leona Maguire tees off at Rathfarnham Golf Club, in
December. She is a Kastus Global Brand Ambassador. 

At Augusta, after Matsuyama had sunk his final (winning) putt his caddie, Shota Hayafuji, replaced the flag and then bowed to the course. Respect. 


Phil Mickelson became the oldest Major winner at 50, claiming the PGA Championship in May. Improbable, remarkable and a victory that emphasises the longevity of golfers everywhere. The only disappointment was that it wasn’t the US Open, giving Phil the career slam.


Clandeboye’s Jonathan Caldwell shot a closing eight-under-par 64 to earn an impressive first European Tour victory, winning the Scandinavian Mixed tournament by a single shot. His final approach shot, out of rough, was a thing of beauty, leaving him with a three foot birdie putt.

After the ‘low’ of Tiger Woods almost killing himself in a February car crash, the greatest golfer of all time (IMO) made an astounding comeback in December, alongside his 12 year old son (also, see ‘lows’ below). Fans dare to dream of 2022 and Tiger’s pursuit of Jack’s major tally.


The ISPS World Invitational was played at Galgorm Castle and Massereene. It was the second time the event had been played at these venues but July’s tournament was co-sanctioned by the European Tour, Ladies European Tour and LPGA as a top-tier event with equal prize money ($3 million pot) for both men and women. The event returns in 2022.

Rory in tears after the Ryder Cup singles. Who didn’t feel for the guy!

Back home, the July opening of Tom Doak’s St Patrick’s Links, at Rosapenna, set the world aflutter. It has already broken into’s top 100 courses in the world (My review is here) and it will bring tens of thousands of golfing tourists to the glorious golfing outpost that is Donegal.

The 8th hole at St Patrick's



At the other end of the scale to Matsuyama’s caddie’s sign of respect at the Masters, Wayne Player proved himself to be an entitled plank when he was caught blatantly promoting a brand during the starters’ ceremony at Augusta. On the day when we should have been talking about the honour for Lee Elder (far too late, IMO) of hitting the opening drive, we instead found ourselves discussing an insignificant prat who has now been banned from the Masters.


Patrick Reid continues to push the boundaries of acceptable behaviour with his interpretation of the rules. And the Tour continues to let him get away with it. 


Saudi Arabia continues its attempts to ‘buy’ golf, thereby sportswashing its disgraceful human rights record. The Super Golf League reared its head again and while that particular project still flounders, Saudi Arabia’s LIV Golf Investments appointed Greg Norman as CEO and proceeded to agree investment of $200 million in the Asian Tour, over the next ten years. That’s how the country continued to host the Saudi International event, which attracts the world’s best golfers, after both the European Tour (now DP Tour) and PGA declined to sanction the event. The world’s best mutter feeble excuses that human rights are for politicians to deal with, not sports people, while happily taking the millions on offer. We know you don’t care… at least be honest about it. 


The Player Impact Program (PIP) is designed to reward the top 10 golfers who ‘move the dial’ in the world of golf social media. $40 million will be shared between those golfers. WHAT A WASTE OF MONEY. Support lower tours, invest in junior programmes… do anything other than pour more millions into the pockets of multi-millionaires. Phil Mickelson claimed in late December that he had ‘won’ this particular category, thus receiving an $8 million award.


Tiger Woods and the February car crash. Initial reports suggested he might have to lose a leg.


The media obsession over 12-year old Charlie Woods’ appearance with his father in December, at the PNC Championship Pro-Am, was – in a word – unhealthy.   


Brooks vs Bryson. Really? Did this really have to become a thing that the PGA Tour then exploited with a 12-hole matchplay event that no one gave a damn about? Whether the animosity was real or made up it was all rather sad in the end.


Harrington’s decisions at the Ryder Cup. This may be a more controversial view (i.e. it’s mine) but mistakes were made across the entire event. Padraig claims he wouldn’t have changed anything in hindsight and, to be blunt, Europe would have lost whatever Padraig decided, but there were some bizarre decisions that cost Europe points. Rory and Poulter remains, in my mind, one of the oddest combinations I have ever seen, and leaving Fleetwood out of the foursomes was bizarre… especially when you saw how badly Rory was performing.


McIlroy’s brilliance continues to be undone by Rory himself. That said, he was extremely unlucky during the final round at the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai, when it looked like he would win, when a perfect wedge shot to the 15th deflected off the flag into a bunker. McIlroy imploded thereafter and ripped his shirt in the scorer's hut at the end of the round. Perhaps that sums up his year… several years in fact.

Sunday, October 24, 2021

Golf? Just Shake It Off

Celebrities and golf have always been interesting bed fellows. You have people like Justin Timberlake, Alice Cooper, and Catherine Zeta Jones, as well as sports stars including Michael Phelps, Gareth Bale, and Brian O'Driscoll all proclaiming their love of golf. 

And then you have those on the dark side... those who have no time for the sport, its players or its play grounds.

David Mitchell is an intelligent and erudite comedian, actor and writer. And he does not like golf. His recent column in the Guardian makes that clear, even if the column feels rushed and lacking direction. In fairness, his dislike is more a mild disdain - something many non-golfers feel about a sport that makes no sense to them - and you feel you could sit down with David over a nice hot cup of cocoa and talk some sense into him. It is a conversation I've had before with those from the dark side. 

Not so with other naysayers.

If you want to know how a lot of people feel about golf and golfers, I recommend you watch Hannah Gadsby's 'Douglas' show on Netflix... but bring the swear jar and plenty of soft items you can throw at the screen. You'll need them after you hear what she has to say about us. In a way, I don't disagree: there are still plenty of golf clubs full of the type of people Gadsby despises.

Friday, October 8, 2021

I recently read a review posted on TripAdvisor. It complained that Ben Nevis was ‘too high’ and ‘too steep’ and that the individual in question was hacked off that he had to walk back down afterwards. The fact that it was a mountain made the reviewer appear idiotic.

It got me thinking about the ‘quality’ of golf course reviews on sites like this. I did some digging. 


Complaints about golf clubs focus on friendliness of staff (Pro Shop, Starter), cleanliness of changing rooms, quality of food, sand in bunkers and hollow-tining of greens. Elsewhere the complaints about slow play and lack of rangers doing their job are to be expected and demonstrate the continuing problems in the game.


People are all too eager to make their complaints known on sites like this but you often get the blatant liar: I read one which was clearly from someone who had never played the golf course in question. But once the comment has been posted you have to live with it - it takes blood sweat and tears to get the offending review removed.

I have omitted the club names because some reviews are old, I want to avoid complaints from golf clubs and because some comments don’t make much sense.



We played 5 championship links golf courses last week including XXXXXX, Royal Portrush, Castlerock, The Island and The European. I would highly recommend them all except for XXXXXX. The condition of the links is appalling. Hollow-tined throughout the course with no growth, some newly turfed greens in different grass. I understand the weather has been poor, and spring has only barely arrived. However the course appears distressed. We were not warned in advance. You have no idea what green will greet your approach shot.


Recently played this course, the sun was shining and I was looking forward to playing this course as I had played it a few times over the years and always enjoyed it. The greens and fairways were in good condition as expected, but not being a Pro I'm going to be in bunkers and the rough. Never have I seen a course go so downhill in 12 months. The bunkers are scandalous more to the point the lack of sand in them and this was the same in every one on the course, the grass around the bunkers is unkept. The rough has been left go so bad that finding a ball in the first cut is difficult, a lot of the cut grass is just left there not being taken away. Walkways, paths, bridges etc all look so shabby. I played as part of a large society and all agreed how much of a let down it was. 

A real let down time to pull your socks up.



Played this course yesterday. The whole ambience of the place and the scenery are excellent. From tee to green it was very fair and challenging. Our problem is with the greens. I don't think we had a flat putt in the whole round. Too undulating with ridiculous runoffs if you miss the cup. Some greens had USPGA type pin placings behind bunkers. I would not be rushing back.



This course is set in a beautiful place and the views are stunning. However the course is set up badly for amateur players and the trek around it is off-putting. If you are off-line at all you are losing a golf ball. All players, even pros, stray off line when they play but for your ball to be un-findable is just daft. There's either gorse where you can't find or get at your ball, which has no place being used to divide holes, or there's rough so severe and sometimes impossible to get to that you can't even look for your ball. Also, there is a strange design of having bunkers surrounded by knee deep rough so that if you are off-line, you are calling for you ball to go in the bunker, at least you can find it there. I understand in the professional game and majors that players are expected to deal with these challenges but a green-fee fourball out for a social game is ruined by this. It's a very hilly course and you can either like that or not. I think it's too much, but the chance to enjoy the course is ruined by the severe set up.



This must be one the most over rated, over hyped golf courses in the entire world.
Whoever created the website, deserves an oscar. The course bears no relation to
the site. We drove over an hour and a half to get there, expecting a champioship
course, what we got was, a goat track. In winter, it would make great slalom course.
The course was in very poor condition, greens were awful, the bunkers have putty
in them, not sand, you cannot get club under the ball, it knife's out every time.
It is very rough all over, and it is the most penal walk you will ever take. Get a buggy,
your head is touching your toes, on a lot of the holes, and the walk from the 18th green to the clubhouse is almost vertical. Call the paramedics, when you leave the 18th. just in case. 



On a recent trip in our motor home my husband and I wished to play this course which we have done many times when in the area and it’s not far to travel for a couple of days as we live in Bangor. We were shocked to find that it now costs £50 to play this course. I find this is ridiculous fees to play this course, we are not Americans these courses are becoming far too expensive for local GUI MEMBERS to play. What a pity these courses are increasingly becoming less and less accessible to locals we will not be playing there again



After playing at Old Head, Ballybunion, Lahinch, Tralee and Waterville, my group ended our week at VVVVVV. What a letdown. Ballybunion gives you a free leather scorecard hold with a scorecard in heavy stock paper and a free course guide, VVVVVV gives you a little scorecard and will sell you the course guide. No caddies, few electric carts that aren’t available unless you pre-book. Every course offers free range balls, except VVVVVV. Waited on every shot and then after seeing the backup at the 10th tee box, we walked off the course. We will return to Ireland to play golf again, but will definitely take VVVVVV off the rotation.


We found the resort’s outside and front desk staff to be less than hospitable and not the traditional Irish ambassadors one expects to find on the west coast of Ireland. In a word, we found them to be snobby. Regarding the food, while it was acceptable, given the price, the wait staff was polite but less than friendly. Perhaps all of which could be explained by the caliber of the guests that this resort seems to cater to. During our stay we witnessed multiple guests on the golf course yelling at their caddies to find their ball, bring them their club and bring them more drinks. Then in the clubhouse, we witnessed multiple guests in intoxicated states acting out and demeaning the staff. Rest assured that we will never be back, and we will make sure to share the misery of our experience with AAA, our friends here in the US and our family there in Ireland.



A jumped up rabbit run, €35 to play a really really poor golf course, bar the staff in the clubhouse, everybody else was unwelcoming to the point of hostile, visitors are NOT wanted here, this club is for a certain membership only and it's made pretty obvious from the moment you arrive that you don't belong, the course itself is extremely poor except for a couple of holes, the opening hole is truly awful, if you gave me free membership I wouldn’t take it. There are plenty of far better courses nearby.



Saturday, August 21, 2021

Druids Heath - a €1 Million+ Investment

Many years ago I met a fourball of elderly gentlemen in a Greystones bar. They looked beat, despondent, even distraught. They had played Druids Heath, and they were drowning their sorrows after their round. It was their first visit to the course and, they said quickly, their last.

Up until this year, Druids Heath was not a kind course to high handicappers, short hitters or those of a gentler age. It was punishing, long, dressed with 97 large bunkers and big, fast greens. You couldn’t always see the landing zones and when the gorse shone bright it set off fire alarms in a golfer’s head.

It was a brute that required your ‘A’ game for 18 holes because the Heath showed no mercy. It was never high on my list of favourite courses.


I’m not for a second saying it was a bad course… just too tough for a ‘fun’ round of golf.


But things have changed. New owners (the Neville family) have pumped €1 million into the Heath, calling on the skills of one of the original architects, Peter McEvoy, and (re)Golf, alongside Turfgrass.


“We are re-landscaping the existing bunker footprint (over 30,000m2), adopting a more handcrafted bunker and landform layout, each with their own individual function and character, while maintaining diverse strategic values which engage golfers of all abilities,” said a recent press release.


That’s all fine and well but until you see what has been done it’s impossible to visualise. I visited last week and was amazed at the changes. The holes and the routing are the same but there is a very different feel to the place thanks to new bunkering and a new approach to fescue grasses. There are other unseen elements too, but we’ll get to that.


The key here is visual accessibility and visual appeal. The 97 big bunkers have been reduced to 36. Many of the greenside bunkers have been removed entirely which makes the greens more accessible targets. The greens, after all, are an essential highlight here… and they have always been one of the most testing aspects of the course. 


The change to the bunkering is massive. Consider what happened recently at the Hermitage. It was a major upgrading of the course’s bunkering but it still fitted with what was there before. At Druids Heath that is not the case. From big, open bunkers there are now smaller, deeper and sharply shaped, with high sides and a high penalty tariff for hitting your ball in one. That reduction of 63 per cent seems like a huge shift… and yet there are more than enough bunkers to keep you on your toes. With fewer bunkers protecting the greens it also means that low shots, of a bump-and-run nature, present themselves on several occasions. That’s an entirely new aspect to the course. 


Some of the new bunkers are positioned where old bunkers had been… but by no means always. On the par-4 18th one single, new bunker occupies less than half of one of the old bunkers. Some bunkers have been nudged into fairways: on the par-5 2nd a small lone bunker awaits in the middle of the fairway, a serious threat to your second shot as you lay up short of the ponds. It calls for a different game plan… although the fairway has been widened down by those ponds. 


On top of that the bunkers will use Sportsbond, all sand will be replaced, and Ecobunker has been used in several places where bunkers are cut tight to the greens. The brows of these bunkers will be blanketed with golden fescue grasses and a texture like sun, adding to the difficulty (see photo of 18th: those dark green edges will burn gold in the future) and, undoubtedly, drawing the eye. The final comment on the bunkers is this: avoid them. They are deep – the famous par-3 14th now has a bunker tucked in hard to the green which that will leave you five feet under the pin – and you may find some awkward stances. 


This is the most obvious change but not the only one: the back Blue tees have all gone, making the course some 400 yards shorter; certain fairways have been widened; some fairway shoulders have been removed to enhance hole visibility – on the 9th and 10th most noticeably; small fescue-covered mounds appear on some holes, adding aesthetic appeal, and blending with the blazes of fescue chaperoning fairways; and a lot of gorse has been removed to speed up play and, again, to improve aesthetics. I won’t go through every hole but there are plenty of subtle and less subtle differences. One honourable mention must go to the quirky and difficult par-4 13th which has lost a tree defending the fairway on the left while the lake beneath the green will be reduced in length by 20 yards to create the hole’s only level landing area. The tree fronting the green has also gone.


I mentioned the unseen elements. There are several. The 28,000 metres of slit drainage across 15 sections of the course for starters. Playability was never an issue but this drainage will add extra bounce! There’s the Sportsbond in the bunkering and the grasses on greens have all been swapped for Crystal Blue Bent grass… which looks every bit as good as it reads.


Once it is all completed – laying the bunkers finished in late July – Druids Heath will be a more friendly course to play… and members are already expressing their approval at the changes. It is no longer overwhelmed with sand, it offers different strategies for golfers of all abilities, it is more playable and the efforts to give it a more links-like appearance have given it extra bite.


My ‘Hooked’ review of the course will certainly be changing.

Saturday, July 3, 2021

Abbeyleix Golf Club and 70 Years

Life, love and longevity… every one a legacy when it comes to Abbeyleix Golf Club and a membership that has lasted 70 years.

[Caption: L-R Mel Flanagan (Golf Architect), Andy Cole, Anthony Collins (Men’s Captain)]


The Early Years

When Andy Cole joined Abbeyleix in 1951, he was barely interested in the game. He and his brother were hurlers and they used to peer over the fence of the recently moved (1948) Abbeyleix Golf Club, in Rathmoyle, and wonder why grown men were searching through the long grass for small white balls. They soon found a couple of balls on the road and took them home. They fashioned clubs out of branches from a hedge and started hitting the balls around the yard.


A family friend, John Baggot, drove into the yard one day to visit the boys’ father but after watching the two boys hitting balls he drove out of the yard without getting out of the car. He was the 1951 Captain of the golf club at the time and he returned a short time later with a bag of hickory clubs and gave them to the boys. Then he drove to the club and signed them up as family members. Andy was 15 at the time and he has been a member at Abbeyleix ever since. In 1952, he was beaten to the Captain’s Prize on a count-back.


It will come as no surprise to read that at the age of 86, Andy has been a Captain (1970) and a President (2000) of the club, been on the Committee for many years, and won the coveted Captain’s Prize. Even then, 70 years hold a rich history… and not just for Andy, but the club too.


Being a paid-up member at one club for 70 years is a feat in itself when you consider what life throws in your path. I doubt many – if any – of us know someone who can claim the same. It certainly inserts you into the very fabric of Abbeyleix, a cog that turns with many others to ensure the life and success of the club. 

The 8th Hole at Abbeyleix


Playing Away

“I played golf wherever I went,” says Andy, listing various clubs around Dublin, after graduating with Honours in Agricultural Science. He started working in Dublin, for the Institute for Agricultural Research (which became Teagasc, in 1998). In 1965, he became Head of Peatland Research, before going on to lead Department of Foreign Affairs Agricultural Research Projects overseas, particularly to Lesotho. He worked with the European Commission in Brussels, for 20 years, and his work for the European Land Use & Development Research Programme took him across Europe. Of his many achievements, one was to publish the first Soil Map of Europe. Even after finishing with the European Commission, he wasn’t actually done: Brussels asked him to do a further two years in Belarus… which turned into six.


And all that time he remained a paid up member of Abbeyleix, where his scientific knowledge proved a bonus for the club.


“My fondest memories of Abbelyleix would be winning the Captain’s Prize in 1964,” Andy says, “and also the extension of the course to 18 holes when the club honoured me by appointing me President in the year the new course opened (2000).” 


From 9 To 18

Andy was Captain during the club’s centenary year (1995) and he promoted the idea of extending the course to 18 holes. This set the wheels in motion and additional land was purchased and planning permission sought. Mel Flanagan, who has designed many golf courses, was awarded the project (beating three other designers to the job) and cleverly crafted 18 holes into an area of just 99 acres. That might read as a small space, but it never feels like that when you play here, and Mel used the boundaries and natural undulations to maximum effect, constructing 11 new greens, 3,050 yards of new fairway and even a wildfowl sanctuary.


I am a big fan of Mel’s work (Rathcore is one of my favourite Irish parklands and the recently closed Dunmurry Springs was always under-rated) and he showed me around the course a couple of weeks ago (with Andy Cole alongside). Mel outlined how he had rerouted the course and the smart design elements he had introduced to give the course some oomph, and to ensure holes didn’t simply go back and forth.


Andy was invited to name the new 18 holes.


“But it’s mostly the people you’d meet that create the memories,” he says. “I remember in my school days when I’d be out messing about when someone would call me from the clubhouse to make up a fourball. And that would end with us in the clubhouse bar afterwards where I’d be bought soft drinks. So I started standing around waiting for a game and because I was a schoolboy I never had to buy a drink afterwards, even though my dad gave me some money.”


His lowest handicap was 4, where he stayed for a number of years, and he held a single figure handicap for over 20 years. It was only in later years that the figure started to soar. He’s now a 20 handicap but he knows he can still compete in the club competitions. Indeed, he was runner up in the Captain’s Prize only a couple of years ago.


What’s Special

What does he find special about Abbeyleix?


“The convenience and accessibility, but the golf course itself is absolutely a credit to all. The layout, on 99 acres, promises a challenge on every hole and a different challenge on every hole. It’s an excellent mix whatever your handicap.


“I love the par-3 17th, looking down on the Slieve Blooms. I have a thing about tourism in Laois, which attracts the lowest tourism in Ireland.” Over the years, Andy has worked to try to correct this, including being Chairman of Abbeyleix Heritage Company, which successfully campaigned to have Abbeyleix designated as a Heritage Town.


At 86 he’s not playing as frequently as he used to when he was young. “How I got through secondary school I don’t know, as I was out on the course every evening.” But his enthusiasm for the game and especially the club hasn’t waned one bit.




Monday, June 28, 2021

3D To Adare Manor

A recent Top 100 Best Golf Resorts in Britain and Ireland ranking by Today's Golfer saw five Irish resorts make the Top 10. Adare was the best of these, coming in at number 3. Above it are Gleneagles and Turnberry, with three and two golf courses respectively. Adare Manor has one golf course... but it is a piece of art and has elevated the course up golf rankings everywhere.

Most golfers know the story behind the course's regeneration - who hasn't seen the photos showing off the velvet fairways and silky greens - but know less about the

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Big International Flavour for ISPS HANDA World Invitational

 With five weeks to go until the ISPS HANDA World Invitational presented by Modest! Golf, a strong international field across the three sanctioned tours has currently entered to play in Northern Ireland from the end of July.

The ISPS HANDA World Invitational stands out as the only tri-sanctioned event in the northern hemisphere where the European Tour, LPGA Tour and Ladies European Tour (LET) have come together in an innovative and inclusive mixed event.

A total of 288 players (144 men, 144 women) will arrive at Galgorm and Massereene for tournament week from July 28 – August 1, 2021 to compete in two separate 72-hole Stroke Play events at the same time at the same venues and for equal prize money in the US$3 million event. Official Suppliers GreenAware will fittingly plant 288 trees for each player in the field as part of their support of this year’s event.

With so many players competing from the men’s and women’s game, there is genuine depth in the field; Ryder Cup players, multiple tour winners plus former Irish Open champions.

Denmark’s Søren Kjeldsen and Wales’ Jamie Donaldson are entered to play, and both know how to win on Irish soil. Kjeldsen won the 2015 Irish Open at Royal County Down, while Donaldson took the spoils at Royal Portrush in 2012 in front of record crowds.     

Those with experience competing in the cauldron of pressure of the Ryder Cup are also entered, such as Victor Dubuisson (France) and the English pair of David Howell and Andy Sullivan, who have all played Ryder Cup.

When it comes to proven tour winners, Scotland’s Richie Ramsay and Stephen Gallacher may be lamenting last evening’s soccer results at the Euros, but the Scottish pair stand out on the entry list. 

An international theme of tour winners on the men’s side continues with the likes of Spain’s Pablo Larrazabal or Dubuisson’s compatriots, Gregory Havret and Raphael Jacquelin. Go further afield and players such as Australia’s Scott Hend or South Africa’s Richard Sterne are also entered to play. Recent Tour winner Richard Bland from England, who made a fast start at last week’s the US Open, is also entered. 

A number of these players will arrive at Mount Juliet in the coming days ahead of next week’s Dubai Duty Free Irish Open before they make scheduled returns to Ireland for the ISPS HANDA World Invitational in a few weeks.      

There are so many exciting narratives on the women’s side of the draw from both the LPGA and LET Tours. Slovenia’s Ana Belac competes on the LPGA Tour in her rookie season after being crowned the 2020 Symetra Tour Player of the Year. The LET’s Lee-Anne Pace, who has won 22 professional events, recently added the Investec South African Women’s Open after winning on home soil.

There is also the exciting Jutanugarn sisters, Ariya and Moriya, from Thailand to keep an eye out for. Ariya is currently eighth on the LPGA money list with Moriya closely followed inside the top 20. Ariya is a two-time Major winner and has won 11 times on the LPGA Tour, while Moriya is also a proven winner and was Rookie of the Year in 2013.

And if marking your card for big hitters, keep an eye out for the Netherland’s Ann Van Dam or Bianca Pagdanganan from the Philippines, two players who are also entered and would complement the bit-hitting Belgian Nicolas Colsaerts in the men’s draw.

“We are delighted with how things are shaping up at this stage with five weeks to go until tournament week,” explained Gary Henry, ISPS HANDA World Invitational Event Director.
“We have some great names in both the men’s and women’s lists, who are currently entered to play.

“With players now finalising their plans after the Olympic qualifying cut-off we are starting to get a clearer picture of who will be able to join us at the end of July. We continue to work within government guidelines around COVID restrictions and plan to make some big-name announcements in the coming days and weeks as momentum builds ahead of another special tournament week here in Northern Ireland.”
Tickets for the ISPS HANDA World Invitational are currently on sale and can be purchased through the tournament’s official ticket platform EventBrite.

Friday, April 23, 2021

Druids Heath Dances to a Different Beat

Anyone who has a copy of Hooked only has to turn to the entry on Druids Heath to know I’m not the course’s biggest fan. Druids Glen, absolutely… Druids Heath less so. It’s a course I’ve always felt was difficult just for the sake of being difficult. Rippled fairways hide much of what lies ahead, the big and numerous bunkers are everywhere, gorse appears often and the sprawling greens are some of the most lethal you’ll encounter in this country. It has been designed as a hybrid of traits, combining heathland, parkland and links into a challenging round of golf. Talk to anyone who has played it and, as complimentary as they might be, there’s bound to be an element of battle fatigue too.

I’ve played it several times and that’s certainly how I feel. Don’t get me wrong, there are strong and attractive holes here and a good rhythm within the layout… but it’s not the most relaxing affair.


That though is about to change as the resort has issued a press release spelling out the major changes to be made to the course this year. At the top of the list is a massive reduction in the number of bunkers. 


Here’s the press release:


The Neville Family, as owners of Druids Glen Hotel & Golf Resort are pleased to announce a significant investment into Druids Heath Golf Course will take place from this April, in advance of further investment and renovations to Druids Glen Golf Course in 2022.

Since purchasing Druids Glen Hotel & Golf Resort in 2019, the Neville family has committed to reviewing all aspects of the golf business to ensure that correct decisions are made for the future success of a high-quality golf experience for members and guests in the resort.

To assist the owners in these long-term ambitions for golf, they have liaised with some of the golf industry’s leading experts during this review process; Jeff Lynch - Golf Course Architect with (re)GOLF DESIGN working in conjunction with renowned Course Designer, Peter McEvoy and John Clarkin of world renowned agronomists, Turfgrass.

“Peter McEvoy & (re)GOLF are delighted to be working with the Neville Family in Druids Glen Hotel & Golf Resort with the renovation of Druids Heath. Already a fabulous layout, we are re-landscaping the existing bunker footprint (over 30,000m2), adopting a more Handcrafted bunker and Landform layout, each with their own individual function and character, while maintaining diverse strategic values which engage golfers of all abilities.

Parallel with this, as the great Jack Nicklaus stated, what makes a successful golf course “Drainage, Drainage, Drainage” we are incorporating over 28,000m of drainage across 15 sections of the course”.

“Turfgrass are delighted to work with the Neville Family and (re)Golf Design on the renovation of Druids Heath. As Project Managers, our goal from the outset is to improve playability and reduce the level of difficulty for high handicappers without compromising stroke index, health or safety.

Working with Jeff Lynch & Peter McEvoy, we have drastically reduced unnecessary bunker area and relocated bunkers, grass hollows and runoff areas to maintain the strategy of the course. The bunker renovation will give Druids Heath a new identity. In addition, a large scale drainage programme will commence as part of the works programme on selected holes.”

Upon completion of this investment plan, the greenkeeping team will continue to build on the good work already completed on the course since July 2019. The approach is very much to preserve all that makes Druids Heath the wonderful course that it has been and will be again.

Druids Glen Golf Course and the historic clubhouse, Woodstock House are part of a further investment plan in 2022.

The course will be upgraded to return Druids Glen to the pinnacle of Irish Golf with the owners’ ambition to bring back Championships tournaments such as the Irish Open. While the renovation will not be a complete course redesign, the key natural features of the course will be retained and enhanced through the programme of works to ensure that the history and magic of Druids Glen is maintained while upgrading the course to championship standard.

The existing facilities at Woodstock House, will be upgraded along with the addition of a new members clubhouse, housing new male and female changing rooms, bar and dining facilities and a new pro-shop and café area. The development will also include the provision of luxurious sleeping accommodation.

I very much look forward to seeing the changes and how it alters the course’s DNA and its playability. It will certainly single out the greens as the course’s core defence… while also making them that much more accessible to golfers of all abilities. That can only be a good thing and will also bring in one essential 'links' element... the art of bump-and-run. Good luck to all involved.


Thursday, April 8, 2021

Sportswashing in Saudi Arabia - and shame for the sport of golf

 I think it's a shame...

... actually, scratch that, I think it's a disgrace that on the day the Masters tees off in 2021 there's an announcement that the nine-time Major champion, Gary Player, has joined Golf Saudi as its latest and most influential ambassador. Player will work with Golf Saudi "to help implement a shared vision for golf and its future development within the Kingdom". 

Alternatively, you could also read that as 'helping to implement a sportswashing campaign that has seen Saudi Arabia spend $1.5 Billion to paint themselves as a global sports player... while expecting the world to ignore their human rights abuses." 

It sticks in my craw that the announcement was made shortly before Player took up his traditional role as the honorary Masters starter, alongside Jack Nicklaus and Lee Elder. On a day when the world welcomes its first Major of 2021, and Irish golfers get to enjoy Major golf on TV as we wait to get back to the fairways, I'm now forced to think about Saudi Arabia and the crap that country is pulling. Maybe this is of no interest to you but it shames the sport to play any tournaments in this country. In my opinion, it also shames Gary Player, one of the all time greats.

I wrote an article about Saudi Arabia's sportswashing back in November 2020, ahead of the first Aramco Saudi Ladies International (LET) and, this past March, The Guardian produced another outlining the money involved. 

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Carton House Set to Re-Open After Major Refurbishment

There has been a lot going on at Carton House in the past couple of years and a new chapter is set to begin this summer as a multimillion-euro refurbishment will be unveiled. This covers a magnificent refurbishment of the original house, the surrounding hotel and the grounds. Carton House itself is a Georgian estate dating back 250 years but it will soon reopen its doors as a Fairmont Hotels & Resorts property.


Carton House O'Meara's famous 16th par-3

The refurbishment has renewed the beauty of the estate, sensitively blending past and present. It has been carried out under the creative guidance of McCauley Daye OConnell Architects, with exquisite attention to every aspect

Sunday, April 4, 2021

A Seed of an Idea for Golf Investment

Here’s an idea with a difference. An Irish golf company is offering a chance to get in on the ground floor… so to speak. You can now buy a share in the success of Seed Golf. If you haven’t heard of Seed, then, to put it simply, they produce golf balls … and they are very very good. 

Seed has launched a unique crowdfunding campaign as part of its ongoing expansion plans. The campaign offers its key audiences and its customers an opportunity to invest a total of €250,000, which will be matched by Seed’s planned €1 Million seed investor round. This will be managed via crowdfunding platform TheStartUp Crowd, with Seed giving its customers the first chance to register early to secure investment. 

How much can you invest, you ask… you might as well know upfront that the

Thursday, March 25, 2021

The St Anne’s Centenary Challenge 2021

St Anne’s Golf Club are celebrating their Centenary Year this year, having first played over the linksland of Bull Island in 1921. As part of their celebrations they will be staging a Centenary Challenge, taking in four days of great links golf. Running from Tuesday 7 – Friday 10 September there will be two rounds played at St Anne’s Golf Club, and one round each at Portmarnock Links and County Louth Golf Club. 

Killarney based Tour Operator, Experience Ireland Golf & Travel, will be Event Managers for the Tournament. The event will be welcoming golf clubs from home and abroad which are also celebrating their Centenary Year in 2021. The event is open to all golfers, with interest already received from Irish and International teams alike since the launch in December 2020. 

The low, weaving rhythm of St Anne's

- Day 1 of the St Anne’s Centenary Challenge will take place at Portmarnock Links on Tuesday 7th September. Designed by Bernhard Langer, the course has played host to GUI, PGA and Ladies European Tour events over the years and is a superb venue for the Opening Round. 


- The second round will be at St Anne’s Golf Club, the following day. Situated on North Bull Island, the only Biopshere located entirely in a Capital City, St Anne’s is a low-running crafty links that plays around a remarkable clubhouse. A recent bunker upgrade programme has given a relatively short links some real bite and you can always expect wind to influence strategy.


County Louth 8th green with views down the 12th

- Day 3 will see golfers heading to County Louth Golf Club on Thursday 9th September. The Baltray links has been the long-time annual host to the East of Ireland Amateur Championship and also hosted the 2009 Irish Open, won by amateur Shane Lowry. It’s a big links and renowned for its ‘second shot’ qualities. It is also one of Ireland’s great natural links, with Tom Simpson and Molly Gourlay designing beautiful holes that have remained relatively untouched for decades. 


- The fourth and final round returns to St Anne’s, on Friday 10th September where the Champions will be crowned. 

Approach to the 15th at Portmarnock Links

The first 100 years of St Anne’s Golf Club have been steeped in history, from the early days of Marmaduke Devitt & Tussy Murray to the exploits of Golf Professional Paddy Skerritt. The club developments in the 1960s including a new clubhouse and focus on an 18-hole course which became a reality in 1989. The recent years have been headlined by the unfortunate burning down of that clubhouse, in 2000, which was replaced by a new and superbly designed building with views over Dublin Bay. It was opened in 2003, along with the redesigned course that golfers enjoy today.  


The Tournament Format will be a team of 4 with two scores to count on each hole. Event Packages are as follows (all Packages include Final Day Dinner): 

               • Golf Only – €469 per person 

               • 3 nights’ Play & Stay – €755 per person sharing B&B 

               • 4 nights’ Play & Stay – €845 per person sharing B&B 

               • 5 nights’ Play & Stay – €935 per person sharing B&B 

               • Accommodation will be at the Grand Hotel Malahide 


Full Event Details are available on the Experience Ireland website with Online Entries available: