You are viewing: August 2007
Shoe Count: 2007 Deutsche Bank Championship (Fedex Cup Playoffs)
Nearest Competitor- 18%
2007 Year to Date Total- 66.3%
O'Tooles of the Trade - Familiar Places
Tralee Golf Club is one of my favorite places in the world. My visit this year is my 4th time playing the course and if I had to play one golf course for the rest of my life, this could be one I would choose. Located outside of Tralee town, it is an absolute gem designed by Arnold Palmer. This course is a tale of two nines with a relatively gentle and rolling front nine that leads into a back nine that snakes its way through towering dunes. My favorite holes being the 12th and 13th which is a long par 4 followed by a par 3 that is a complete carry over a grassy chasm hundreds of feet deep. I get teamed up with a father and son from Wales for my round and have the pleasure of having a caddie who is a 3 handicap at the club. He quickly learns that my game has many deficiencies and gets quite a few laughs as I beat the ball around in the rain. The finishing hole at Tralee is a par 5 that climbs to the clubhouse and provides a birdie opportunity to finish your round. Unfortunately for me, it is an opportunity missed.
After a night in Tralee, I head out to the Dingle Peninsula. This is an area of Ireland is one that I always make a point to visit. The town of Dingle is a fishing village that boasts a vibrant nightlife and some fantastic seafood restaurants. Heading past Dingle out to the end of the peninsula, you take a road called Slea Head Drive which provides views unparalleled anywhere in Ireland. Also located at the end of the Peninsula is the Dingle Golf Club. This 18 hole links course boasts to be the most westerly course in Europe. It is not a links you will see mentioned with Royal County Down or Ballybunion, but I find it a wonderful test of golf in a setting that truly makes you feel like you are in god’s country.
From Dingle, I made a stop at a little known 9 hole links course, Castlegregory Golf and Fishing Club. I catch a wonderful sunny day and this course is a hidden gem. After a relatively flat par 5 along a lake filled with swans, you head into the dunes and play 8 wonderful holes. The beach along the course is massive and filled with people enjoying one of the rare sunny days of the summer. I enjoy the round as the course provides two par 3’s around 200 yards as well as a couple of drivable par 4’s. Castlegregory is as fun a 9 as I have played to date. After speaking with some members I find out the course has gotten approval for another 9 holes so I look forward to a return visit in the future.
I spend the night in Castlegregory and it is a good choice as I have one of the most entertaining nights of my trip. I get to attend a fantastic music session that includes customers throughout the night singing and dancing about the club. It is a slice of life here in Ireland and one that makes a trip to this country so unique.
From Castlegregory, I take a ferry across the Shannon River and make my way to the Doonbeg Golf Club. Open for business in 2002, Doonbeg has already vaulted itself among Ireland’s top links courses. Designed by Greg Norman, Doonbeg provides one of the most complete golf experiences in Ireland. From the main road, you take a long driveway over a mile long to the clubhouse and lodge. You arrive under a large, stone archway into a courtyard where you a greeted by multiple representatives from Doonbeg. You are truly made to feel welcome. I am partnered with a father and 2 sons from Arizona for my round and they provide great company. We all struggle as there are 40-50 mph sustained winds and gusts to 65 mph. Even in such tough conditions it is tough not to enjoy the 18 holes Norman has laid out. It is a unique course that provides five par 5’s, five par 3’s and eight par 4’s. It is a course that forces you to use all the clubs in your bag as well as most of your balls. The first hole at Doonbeg is in my opinion the best opening hole I have ever played. It is a par 5 that plays out to a green surrounded by towering mounds on 3 sides giving it a sort of amphitheater feel. Doonbeg also has probably the toughest 100 yard par 3 you will ever play. The shot is directly into the wind as you are hitting straight out to the ocean. You have to hit the green as trouble surrounds all 4 sides and if you miss, you are almost guaranteed a 4 at best. After my round, I share a few pints with my new friends from Arizona and we look back on a tough but enjoyable round at Doonbeg.
I am off to Ballybunion tomorrow and will check back in a few days.
- MikeLink to this entry!!!!
Shoe Count: 2007 The Barclays (Fedex Cup Playoffs)
Nearest Competitor- 18%
2007 Year to Date Total- 66.4%
O'Tooles of the Trade - Feels Like Home
I have begun my journey through the southwest and it is everything I remember it to be and more. It is here I have always felt most at home during my visits. It may be that the folks here are even more friendly than normal or that I have always had great times during my previous visits. Either way, it is good to be back.
The Old Head of Kinsale is a course that in just a period of a few years, has built it’s reputation as one of the “must visit” courses in the world. I had seen the pictures and heard about the course from others who had been so I was anxious to see if it lived up to it’s billing. Luckily for me it did just that and more. The previous night and during much of the morning it has poured and poured. When I left for the course it had slowed to a slow mist so I was hopeful to get out. After arriving at Old Head, I found out the course was closed for much of the morning but the golf gods smiled on me as the course was open and the sun appeared to making it’s way out. I was partnered up with an American couple that by chance is from CT as like myself. They had just arrived into Ireland and this was their first round of a weeklong trip. The wind was howling for much of the round but that is par for the course here, as you are 300 feet up on a peninsula with no protection from the wind.
Now I am not going to spend time trying to describe to you what the views are like here. Words, especially mine, would not do them justice. The plain truth is that they are the best I have ever seen and I am not alone in that line of thinking. Now the course is very good with some spectacular holes, especially the 4th that is a long par 5 along the cliff to a narrow approach into a tiny green. The course combines elements of links and parkland on its holes and it is a golf experience one should aim to undertake at least once. My caddy is a 6 year veteran but seems to more concerned with making sure we finish before 4PM because Cork is playing Waterford in the Hurling quarterfinals and it is a replay of game from the week prior in which they tied. Nonetheless we all enjoy the experience and each others company and yes, we did finish in time for the match.
From Kinsale I headed west along the coast road that is a beautiful drive meandering along the coast and over the mountains into County Kerry. Waterville is my desitination. I had visited this course six years prior but had not been there since Tom Fazio redesigned the front 9 here and I was eager to see the results of his work. Not surprisingly, it is a gem. I had thought that the back 9 here was one of the best 9 holes stretches I had ever played and now he has transformed the front to mirror the quality of the back. I had the best day of my trip weather wise as the sun was shining and there was just a light breeze. My caddie was a young lad named Niall who seemed to be about as big as my golf bag, but has been caddying here for 3 years. He is a great kid and is a wonderful caddie for his age. I joined up with 3 Americans for the round and they were good fun. Now, I know I am playing a lot of golf but these boys are crazy. They were playing 36 holes that day at Waterville finishing around 730 or 8PM and then getting the car and driving 3 ½ hours to Kinsale where they are playing 36 the next morning. These lads love their golf. None of us play all that well but you couldn’t help but enjoy yourself in these surroundings. The 18th at Waterville is one of my favorite finishing holes playing right along the beach with the waves crashing on the shore feet away from the tee box. After play, we toast the round in clubhouse with a pint and a bite to eat. They asked if I would like to join them for the next 18 and I politely declined as I had my eye on a Cuban cigar and a pint on the patio in the sun.
Following my successful campaign at Waterville, my next stop was to a lesser known links, the Dooks Golf Club. This course I had also visited 6 years prior and it to had undergone some major renovations designed by Martin Hawtree. It is not on anyone’s list of great course in Ireland but I found it to be a great little links, even better than my last visit. Again, I was blessed with a warm, sunny day and was off alone but get partnered with a fine young caddie named Conner. He is actually from Scotland but spends his summer in the area with his family and had been caddying for a number of years. While Conner still has some learning to do, he supplied great company and was eager to learn how he could be a better caddie. My game was a roller coaster once again but the Dooks supplied a great variety of links holes in a sparkling setting. After the round Conner joins for me for lunch in the clubhouse and we have a good bit of craic. After catching up on a little sleep, I catch a great bit of music at Matt Murts Pub in Caherciveen. This place is half fishing shop/half bar with kegs lined up with cardboard over them for seats. Good fun!
I am off to explore the rest of the southwest and will check back soon.
Shoe Count: 2007 Wyndham Championship
Nearest Competitor- 14%
2007 Year to Date Total- 66.4%
O'Tooles of the Trade - The Sunny Southeast
The “sunny southeast” is what they call the southeastern part of Ireland as this area receives more sun than the rest of Ireland and is well known for its long stretches of beach. For me however, it is not blessed with the world-class links land found in the rest of Ireland. So rather than bypass the area completely I decided to play some of the area’s finest inland courses as well as some out-of-the-way spots. These rounds provided me great golf, new friends and an introduction to Stableford scoring.
Druids Glen was my first stop and I found this to be just a ton of fun to play. My game has degenerated into a series of slices and mishits but the course is much too good not to enjoy. It would make sense that my game would improve with all the golf I have been playing but somehow I am going in the other direction. The 12th and 13th holes are memorable. The 12th is a par 3 down the hill and over water. Druids Glen has to be one of the most colorful courses I have ever seen. There seems to be every color of flower or bush throughout the course. The face of the tee box on 12 is one many have seen in pictures, as it is a large Celtic cross made from a series of bushes. 13 is a long par 4 measuring around 460 yards and you must hit a very accurate tee shot just to have 200 yards into the green which is made all the better by the fact that you must carry the shot over the pond in front of the green. All in all, a pleasurable round to say the least.
I then met 3 Irishmen playing golf at Faithlegg Golf Club. These boys immediately pull me into their match and I am told we are playing a game similar to nassua using the Stableford scoring system. I say no problem, just let me know what I owe at the end. We spend the next 4 hours giving each other the needle and I am told I owe 10 Euro once complete with the round. The good thing is the winner has to buy the pints in the bar at the end so I think I actually made out in the deal. We all have a good bit of craic and the boys invite me to join them in a 4 ball tournament in 2 days time which I gladly accept.
Between then I make a stop at Mount Juliet, which has been home to the American Express Championships on 2 occasions. I am paired with a member for the day and neither one of us put up a score to boast about in the pub afterward. I manage a smooth 10 on one hole dropping 3 balls in the water yet I can’t help but have fun as I just think of where I am.
The next day I join the lads once again for the 4 ball tournament at Enniscorthy Golf Club. Most clubs in Ireland have Open weeks where they hold tournaments every day open to anyone with a handicap. The best part is the greens fees are usually half of what they normally are. Gerry, Gerry, Tom and I have another enjoyable 18 holes although it would seem our scores were not the type to bring home any of the prizes. Tom is in his 70’s and hits the ball as good as most men 25 years his junior. His one problem is the putter and after 16 holes of terrible putting, he is lining up a birdie putt from about 25 feet. Gerry is holding the flag and pulls it out to which Tom says he can’t see the hole so put it back in. Gerry immediately tells Tom he is probably better off if he can’t see the hole. When you have friends like that, who needs enemies. After a pint in the bar to cheers the good company, I bid the lads adieu and head further south.
I spend the next few days playing a number of courses including a singles competition at Dungarvan Golf Club, which I found to be a surprisingly good course. Once I arrive in the area of Cork city I play a round at the Cork Golf Club and Fota Island. Both are worthy tests of golf and if in the Cork city area, worth a visit. I spend a memorable evening in a pub on Plunkett St. in Cork city. An Bodhran is the name and this tiny pub had one of the most eclectic groups of customers I have run across in my travels. It seemed every language was represented here but everyone was chatting and telling stories. Spontaneous sessions of dance and song break out which I find to be quite entertaining. I am there for a few pints too many but fortunately for me it is a short walk home.
Well, I am heading now to what some people would consider the crown jewel of Irish golf…the southwest. I’ll check back after a few rounds there.
- MikeLink to this entry!!!!
Shoe Count: 2007 PGA Championship
Nearest Competitor- 21%
2007 Year to Date Total- 66.3%
O'Tooles of the Trade - To The Open and Back
What can I say about the British Open this year that has not already been said? It has been a tournament that I have always wanted to attend and thanks to the hospitality of Fairways to Heaven Golf, my wife and I had the best seats in the house; on the balcony above the 18th green at the Carnoustie Hotel. It was surreal to be that close to all the action as the drama unfolded. Despite the weather, fans turned out in the thousands ready for the weather with umbrellas and rainsuits in hand. It was a once in a lifetime experience and one that I will never forget. I never fully appreciated the difficulty of an Open set up until I got to see it in person. It was never more clear to me just how good these guys are.
After attending the Open in Scotland I returned to the Dublin area for a few more rounds of golf before heading south. My first round back had me at the Island Golf Club located just north of Dublin. In May of 2005 this course was ranked number 26 in the world by Golf World magazine. I had the pleasure of playing with the 3 members of the club who provided great craic and some interesting background on the club. One note I found very interesting is that the course was only reachable by boat all the way up until 1973. Being located on an estuary, the members would take a short boat ride from Malahide to get to the course. The old clubhouse had a white disc on the side and when the members wanted the boat to return, they would turn a flap to make the disc half black and half white indicating the boat man to come get them. Being that this club was established in 1890, they did this for 83 years! Now that is dedication.
A few days later, I had the pleasure of playing the Links at the Portmarnock Hotel. This links course, designed by Bernhard Langer, is located right next to the more well known Portmarnock Golf Club. While the Links at Portmarnock Hotel does not get the publicity that its more storied neighbor does, I found it to be every bit the test of golf. Langer's placement of pot bunkers in the fairways and around the greens is well thought out. Accuracy and not length will keep your score down on this links. I am paired up with a fellow from Germany for the day and we have good fun on the links. Prior to teeing off the first tee a fellow comes out of the starters hut and greets us before the round. We get a slight interrogation as to where we are from and where plan on going this evening after the round. After we give our answers, he gives us a warning. “Be careful of the Guinness. It will
make you see double and act single!” A character no doubt. While my playing partner for the day struggles, he is good company and always has a smile on his face even if he has just hit his second ball off the tee into waist high rough. With about 4 holes left in our round, the sun disappears and a strong and windy rain rolls through. In order to stay dry we had to hold our umbrellas sideways! 5 minutes later, it was gone and the sun came out again. You certainly can get 4 seasons in 18 holes in Ireland.
I headed out of Dublin south into County Wicklow. The O’Tooles of Ireland made a name for themselves here in Wicklow along with the O’Byrnes. Back in the day apparently both families were a bit of a thorn in the side to the English. Living up in the Wicklow Mountains both families regulary raided the English and basically made things unpleasant for them. O’Toole is still a name found frequently throughout the county. I made a stop into the Bray Golf Club which is a little parkland course that has recently moved from one side of town to the other. I received a warm welcome and enjoyed a round on a course that is setup a little more like what I am used to at home. While Bray is not on the level of the Mount Juliet or Druids Glen, it is a fun round of golf nonetheless. It was in immaculate shape and the view from the 11th tee down into Bray Harbor is as good as you’ll find in Ireland.
For my next round, it was back to a links course and one that really is somewhat special to me. The seed for this whole project was planted seven years ago when I played my first round of links golf at the European Club. It was here I first experienced true World Class links golf and it set me on my path to today. Since it has been seven years since I had been here I looked forward to coming back. The European Club is owned and designed by Ireland leading golf course architect, Pat Ruddy. The course only opened for play in 1993 after Ruddy discovered the property while surveying the coast by helicopter. Golf Digest has ranked the European Club number 2 in the top 100 courses in Ireland and I may argue that it is the best. Ruddy’s design is superb and offers a golfer a stern test of links golf. Ruddy makes wonderful use of his bunkers which are unique in their construction as they are framed with wooden railway planks so you get some interesting bounces should you hit one of these planks. Another interesting facet of this course is that in most days there are 20 holes in play. During my round, all 20 were open however you were told to throw out your scores on 6 & 14 as those greens had been recently aerated though I found them to be in rather good condition considering. I had a sparkling, sunny day for my round with the usual strong winds you get along the Irish Sea. The European Club was also host to the Irish PGA Championship the week before the British Open this year. The European Club was everything I remembered it to be and more. This course is a “can’t miss” while golfing in Ireland.
Well, I am off to the Southeast and will check back in a few days.
O'Tooles of the Trade - The Northwest
The links golf in the northwest of Ireland is an area that is crying out to be discovered. The links are magnificent, affordable and offer you a glimpse of the past. These courses are located in little villages that offer you a sense of welcome and a slower pace of life. The scenery is striking and you can drive on some of these roads seemingly forever and not see another car. Just recently a new direct air service from NY and Boston has been started into Knock Airport in County Mayo. This new service combined with the marketing initiatives of companies like North and West Coast Links should only help these gems to be unearthed by those outside of Ireland
County Sligo Golf Club is a splendid links course located just outside of Sligo town. Aside from a few holes located up on a hill, it is a flatter, more traditional links. The tee for the second holes offers one a view of the 15 holes below as well as a long stretch of beach. It is a view seemingly from a postcard and I had it all to myself. I made my way around the links in fine fashion shooting a personal best 74 (+2). I used the bump and run to perfection as I got up and down no less than 9 times that round. It may not have been pretty but a 74 is a 74. I decided to celebrate my round by taking in a music session at the Anchor Bar in Sligo town. I got there around 8:30 and there is barely a soul in the place. An hour later and the bar was packed. What follows is a 2-hour music session as good as I’ve heard in Ireland. By the end of the night there were 4 tables pushed together and 15 of us buying pints for each other. It was a night to remember and a morning to forget.
My hopes for better weather did not come to fruition as I got rained out of my round at Strandhill the next day. Upon arrival into the parking lot it was POURING sideways and I counted 2 cars in the parking lot. Rather than walk to the Pro Shop I called from the car stating who I was and that I was thinking of coming back in a little while to see if the weather improves. He paused and said, “Well, the sheet is pretty booked up today so I don’t know if I can get you out.” I waited a second for him to tell me he is kidding, but he is dead serious. Since I knew I wouldn’t be back anytime soon, I put on every stitch of DryJoys raingear I could find and headed out. A few people huddled under an overhang looked me over like I was out of my mind (I was thinking the same thing as well). I went out into the worst weather I have played in on this trip or any of my previous 6 visits. I made it through 5 holes and there was so much standing water they had to close the course. I know Ireland is known for it’s rainfall but this was starting to border on the ridiculous.
I played the next day at Enniscrone and I was paired with 2 guys from Sweden who offer great company for the day. It was an enjoyable links, but certainly one to test any golfers mettle. We spray golf balls over most of the property and one of the boys decided to pull out a few cans of Carlsberg and enjoy the round in another fashion. My golf bag is filled with rain gear and golf balls so I had wait to until the 19th hole for my pint even though I could’ve used one at the time. This course was originally a 9-hole track but the great Irish golf course architect Eddie Hackett designed the extension to 18 in the 1970’s and he has produced a true gem not to be missed.
A visit to Carne Golf Links followed. The course is located in the extreme northwest of Ireland outside of Belmullet, Mayo. The course was built with the purpose of attracting tourists to the remote area of Ireland and is owned and operated by Erris Tourism, a community owned and controlled company. The course played like a fine symphony. It starts relatively tame, but each hole is better than the next. The back nine builds to a fever pitch through some of the most intimidating links land Ireland or the world has to offer. During my round I catch up with 2 members and play a few holes with them as they are only out for nine. I notice one of the fellas is wearing a Red Sox hat and in his American accent he asks me where I am from as we are introduced. I tell him I am from Red Sox Nation and a wide grin come across his face. In talking with him I find out this area had such a profound affect on him 9 years ago, he quit his job and moved here for good. “I found paradise”, he said. I think I may agree.
My last round before my week off and a visit from my very understanding wife was played at Connemara Golf Club. It was a sparkling day; finally the weather gods smiled down upon me. I have the good fortune of being teamed up with a group of 11 Americans looking for one more player. I am immediately made to feel part of their group and we have a grand time on the course. Connemara Golf Links is a course that grows on you as you play. The landscape differs from most links courses as rocky formations dominate the landscape. From the tee box, the course looks pretty straightforward and not overly difficult. Yet, Eddie Hackett has produced a links that will jump up and bite you in the behind if you go astray. The views of the bay are spectacular. Even from a good distance, you can see how crystal clear the ocean is. It’s quite a sight to see.
The 13th hole is a 200-yard Par 3 and is one of the most enjoyable holes I have played in Ireland. It’s a beautiful sight from the tee and an intimidating tee shot to say the least. None of us make a birdie but it is a hole you could play over and over again. After the round, the 12 of us sit out on the deck overlooking the course at the brand new clubhouse at Connemara. We salute the round (and the sunshine) with a few pints. Cheers to the Friends of Mark (FOM)!
Well, it’s time for some R&R. I’ll check in once back on the Emerald Isle.
- MikeLink to this entry!!!!
Shoe Count: 2007 World Golf Championship
Nearest Competitor- 20%
2007 Year to Date Total- 66.5%
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