Friday, January 15, 2021

McGinley Making Changes at Grange Golf Club

2020 might have been a year to forget but there were some positives for golf clubs. Memberships showed big gains which is a massive momentum shift for Irish golf but, behind the scenes, golf clubs also continued to invest in their courses, clubhouses and facilities. We’re talking a lot of money here, and while much of it would already have been committed (pre-Covid) it still shows confidence across the board that so many projects continued during the year.

I wrote an 8-page article for Irish Golfer Magazine outlining many of the investment projects that have taken place – Click Here – but there are others that I didn’t include simply because I hadn’t heard about them (or they were too small). One was the new website for Cairndhu while one that most definitely should have been included is Grange Golf Club, where Paul McGinley Golf Course Design has been carrying out a considerable amount of work. Grange is dear to my heart as I played it many, many times during my teenage years. Once, in the Leinster Schoolboys (a fourball matchplay format where you play to the 18th regardless of the win/loss), we came up against Col√°iste √Čanna. My partner and I won the first hole but after that it was one-way traffic as one of the opposition pair dismantled us hole after hole. We were 8 down walking off 18 and we like to believe that the individual concerned was Paul McGinley… it helps us sleep better at night.

Despite such a hammering I retain very fond memories of the course and the club, so here’s an update from Paul McGinley Golf Course Design on what’s been going on:

Grange Golf Club engaged the company to create a masterplan to update its enduring James Braid course to make it fit for decades to come. This masterplan is the second phase of a programme of development which has seen the club invest €570,000 in the past five years in its Love, Sheahan and Academy Courses, as well as its new integrated short game complex. There are 24 holes here with the holes forming different routings.

The objective of the masterplan from Paul McGinley’s standpoint is to enhance and improve the facilities at Grange Golf Club. A particular focus is being placed on the new lands with the aim of better blending these holes architecturally with the current Love course… and especially the two holes which are part of the Sheahan routing. The works will include improving the movement of members and guests around the current site, while adhering to health and safety procedures. Paul is going to work to ensure the enjoyment and playability for all levels and standards of play. Key will be protecting, enhancing, and future proofing the Grange’s DNA… as a beautifully tree-lined, parkland course.

Some of the options under consideration in this second phase include:

  • reviewing tee box locations in order to offer a better mix of challenges for the full range of handicaps;
  • providing alternate layouts to the Academy Course to increase golfing options for members;
  • making further additions to the practice facilities including a warm-up area;
  • bringing the bunkering back to a traditional style, with modern construction to reward strategic golfers and improve year-round playability.

Investment to date, much of which has been designed and overseen by Paul McGinley and his project coordinator, Joe Bedford, has included the creation of a championship-sized integrated putting and short game practice complex; the redevelopment of the 1st hole and green; completion of a project to bring all putting greens to USGA standards; bunker improvements; and new course signage and other developments. The construction works have been completed by DAR Golf. 

Saturday, January 2, 2021

Irish Golf in 2021 - what the year has in store

Now more than ever is a good time to look ahead to 2021… and the positives that await in the world of Irish golf. Because heaven knows there aren’t many people thinking about the positives right now.

Mount Juliet's 4th green

 Pro and amateur golf aside – and there are plenty of big stories there with Padraig captaining the Ryder Cup team, Shane Lowry defending his Open Championship, Stephanie Meadow and Leona Maguire making strides, and Rory McIlroy still striving to complete the grand slam … not to mention the likes of James Sugrue and Olivia Mehaffey taking their next steps – Irish golf courses have plenty going on, too. True, we remain at the mercy of Covid and lockdowns but that didn’t stop things happening last year… and it won’t stop them happening this year either.


Highlights of 2021 will be:


1 The opening of the St Patrick’s Links at Rosapenna. It is the first ‘new’ course in Ireland since 2008 (Cobh Golf Club) and it has been designed by Tom Doak. Due to open in the summer the buzz is mighty and I am officially enthralled at the prospect of Doak designing a course in Ireland… let alone a links. There are photos of the course on Instagram. Take a look; get excited. Donegal is becoming the hottest destination in Ireland… the world maybe… as it will now have all of its existing stock as well as courses designed by Tom Doak and Gil Hanse (Narin & Portnoo). Expect golf writers/reviewers from around the world to flock to Ireland as soon as it is safe to do so.


2 There are lots of courses making investments in their courses (my 2020 investment article for Irish Golfer is here) and that will be continuing in 2021. Castlebar Golf Club will officially open its updated course in the spring, even if it was being played by members last summer. Malone Golf Club has been doing a lot of work to holes on its back nine as well as a new practice area. This will open this year. But the biggest job on course upgrades is still underway at Glasson Golf Club, where the closing five holes have been revamped entirely. These were the course’s best holes so it will be fascinating to see how they have evolved… and whether David Jones, the designer, will then be asked to turn his attention to the holes on the other side of the entrance road.


3 The Dubai Duty Free Irish Open will be played at Mount Juliet… a year late but still showcasing the beauty of Irish golf. On the downside, the Rolex mantle has gone; on the upside the event has been moved back to the more attractive July date (July 1-4). That date should also help with the anticipated roll out of the vaccination programme… in this country at least… and the likelihood of spectators being allowed to attend. Register your interest for tickets here

4. Have you heard of Clandeboye Golf Club, outside Newtownards? Most Irish golfers have but not many have visited this lovely rich parkland. There are two 18-hole courses here and the championship course, the Dufferin, will host the PGA EuroPro Tour in August (18-20). Tullamore Golf Club is celebrating 125 years this year and will be hosting the Irish Am Close as part of what will undoubtedly be a busy year.


Those are the big stories to look forward to but there is much more going on – at Ardglass, Dingle Links and Bandon, to name a few – and many clubs are celebrating anniversaries.


It’s not going to be dull that’s for sure. Happy golfing for when we can get back on the fairways.