Saturday, November 17, 2012

Rosapenna Golf Resort acquires St. Patrick's 36 holes-Future Bandon Dunes Of Ireland?

The recent news of  Rosapenna's Golf Resort's (45 holes) acquisition of St.Patrick's Golf Links (36 holes) has finally motivated me to write an article on this slice of heaven in northwest Ireland. On my first Emerald Isle excursion in 2011, I had opportunity to play the Pat Ruddy design Sandy Hills course at Rosapenna Resort. Up until that point I had walked all the previous rounds and it was my intent to walk Sandy Hills as well. Fortunately for me, Director of Golf, Frank Casey Jr insisted on me taking a power cart this day. I was one of only a few people playing and half way through my round I was hit with a cold front of rain that lasted for a couple of hours. I had already played through a whole round of drenching rain at Ballyliffin and wasn't looking forward to playing in another soaker, so I backed my cart up against a dune out of the wind near the 11th tee and was ready to wait it out. After about 45 minutes of continuous wind and rain, dropping temps, and a short nap I headed back into to the Golf Pavillion for some hot tea and cookies. After another hour the weather finally cleared up and I went back out to finish my round. The round surely wouldn't have been as enjoyable if not for the kindness of Frank giving me a cart to use.

Before arriving at Rosapenna I had been on my trip for 15 rounds and had talked a lot of golf with the ever friendly Irish and the consensus was that you should play Sandy Hills once, but it might not be your most enjoyable round due to its design difficulty. Having previously played Glashedy, Portsalon, and most recently The European Club I have to agree that Sandy Hills is the most difficult of these Ruddy courses. Pat Ruddy has done a marvelous job tweaking the European Club over the past 20 years and I bet if he had opportunity that he might have some ideas to soften Sandy Hills a bit. When I visited with Mr.Ruddy I asked him if he had any plans of doing any new courses, and he told me he was too busy fixing what he had already designed. Much like Pete Dye, who seems to be forever tweaking his courses, I find it very refreshing that Mr. Ruddy is always looking for ways to make his creations more enjoyable. The day I played The European Club was also not the best weather, in the mid 40's with the usual wind, clouds, and sprinkles. I felt it was in the top 5 of any courses I played in Ireland. Sandy Hills nestled along Sheephaven Bay is one of the most beautiful dune lands you will find in all of Ireland. I found it challenging and would have liked to have time to have played it again. It is a course that you really need to play more than once.

I put the Rosapenna Hotel and Golf Resort in my top 10 places I would want to return to in all of  Ireland. The rooms where some of the most spacious and luxurious, the dining and view of the bay outstanding, and the golf ,spa, and pool facilities great. Everything physically is already in place to seamlessly incorporate another 36 holes. So what would I do with Sandy Hills? I really believe that perception is reality and ones first and last impressions are the strongest.

I am an advocate of easing one into a round but the first two holes at Sandy Hills are two of its toughest. I doubt very few golfers are even par after those two and may be somewhat discouraged with their start. I would lengthen the opening hole a few yards and change it to a short par 5, making the course par 72, which would still be a challenging hole as it plays uphill. The second hole I hit two good shots but didn't get the usual run out of my approach that I would expect on a true links course. I would contour the front right portion of the fairway to allow a better chance of a shot ending up on the putting surface. I must admit this links course felt like it was on steroids compared to most of the others I played in Ireland. I am sure Mr. Ruddy could make a few more tweaks over the next several holes but the view on the final approach shot I felt was out of character of the isolation and sense of serenity which I felt throughout the round. What distracted me was a parking lot behind the 18th green. A large berm producing a punchbowl effect would nicely hide that view behind the green and soften up the hole a tad. Maybe those playing Sandy Hills in the future will feel they have a more enjoyable experience which should dispel its current too difficult reputation. Like The European Club has over the years, Sandy Hills could benefit from a few tweaks and ascend the worlds golf rankings.

In the press release, I read that Tom Doak was interested in possibly being involved in the redevelopment of the St. Patricks parcel. If I had to pick one firm to construct me a course, it would be Renaissance Design. From a selfish standpoint I am hoping that when Spring rolls around they are breaking ground for a new layout and possibly another outstanding architect gets involved in the parcel. Like Bandon Dunes Resort if you build great links courses golfers will come in droves. I found that it is actually less money to come to Ireland from the East coast of the USA to play golf as going to Oregon. I will be anxiously waiting to see what happens with this now 1100+ acre parcel, in one of the most beautiful, remote areas of the golfing world and looking forward to a return visit.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

New Olympic Sport??

With golf being in the Olympics for 2016, why not make Synchronized Putting another venue. Below is a six man team, I think we could have have eight and ten man teams also. May be my last chance to win Olympic Gold.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Golf balls are like eggs

They are white, they are sold by the dozens, and a week later you have to buy more!