Category: Uncategorized

Navigating Northern Ireland

One of the worlds golfing mecca’s with big named golf course to play but what else can you do?

Sarah Forrest gives an account of her first experience of Northern Ireland recently.

A quick and easy flight to Belfast airport makes Northern Ireland a real option for a golf or family holiday.

Having a private tour by black cab around Belfast regaling tales, possible tall tales! of the city opens you’re eyes to what you can do whilst there.  Culminating in lunch at the Drawing Room where the Titanic and many more were designed.  With as much attention to detail to the food was most likely given to the ships designs, the meal was a nice break in our sightseeing day.  Across the road is the imposing purpose built Titanic Belfast museum.  Insights into the lives of the dock workers to the first class passenger experience was exciting and well delivered in an easy to understand, and importantly, not boring way!

Drawing Room Restaurant, Titanic Hotel Belfast

A whistle stop tour and one night in Belfast we stayed at the Ten Square Hotel.  A nice comfortable 4* hotel in the thick of things and well located for our evening meal at Deanes Meat Locker.  The Meat Locker is part of a trio of restaurants in a row, each serviced by their own chef, offering grill, seafood and modern European food options.

The next day, I was playing in the Pro-Am for the ISPS Handa World Invitational at Galgorm Castle. The first tournament of its kind in the Northern Hemisphere being hosted by Modest!  An early tee-time meant no breakfast being available at Ten Square.  What a treat to play with Cheyenne Knight of the USA, a great golfer with an understanding of the Great British humour.  

Galgorm is about 40 mins outside Belfast and no stranger to big events with the Northern Ireland Open and the 2020 Dubai Duty Free Irish Open. The golf course is a pretty, established parkland course, with water and trees in play, large receptive greens and a fair number of dog legs.  The greens were some of the best I’ve played this year. Forward tee stats 5559 yards, par 72.  Back tee stats 7105 yards par 70.

With more golf on offer our next stop was Castlerock Golf Club playing the Mussenden links course.  I do love my links golf and Castlerock didn’t disappoint either with its luna landscape appeal.  The River Bann waterway dissects the course at strategic intervals.  Keeping the ball in play was essential whilst most of the rough was OK, in places it was hard to find the ball in the long sweeping grass.  I really liked the way the fairways shaped around the natural terrain leading you forward and eager to move onto the next hole.  Castlerock didn’t confuse you by showing you all of its tricks in one glance, more of a gradual ‘lull you in’.  The par 3’s were of particular interest, all different and not all the highest stroke indexes ether!  Couple the waterways with the luna links style play in inevitable changing weather makes Castlerock a great choice for a tough game, which, if you do master,  will reward you accordingly.   Forward tee stats 5879 yards, par75.  Back tee stats 6780 yards Par73

Staying at the 5* Blackrock B&B in Port Stewart for a few nights meant we could try more than the usual fry-up for breakfast – and what a great selection there was.  Nicola, the owner, was attentive from start to finish she even helped us with evening meal bookings and places to visit, she really did go over and above the norm to make us feel welcome.  Blackrock has ocean views with further views towards Portrush beach and golf course.  Instead of trying to sell every room as a bedroom and squeeze more guests in, Nicola has made the decision to give the guests a spacious relaxing experience with two sitting rooms and a balcony area to enjoy.  One sitting room has an honesty box for drinks and an enviable whiskey (plus) selection for all to be enjoyed in comfort, in or out of your room.

Next stop, Port Stewart Golf Club where we played the Strand course.  More of a commercial set up but with the same friendly Irish welcome.  There are three golf courses at Port Stewart, with The Strand being the home of the 2017 Dubai Duty Free Irish Open.  As you drive into the carpark, you’ll notice the road continues to a huge beach off to your right. A drive on beach was clearly popular with locals and visitors alike.  The first tee box is elevated and takes in that vista view across the Atlantic Ocean before your eyes are drawn down the fairway.  The sand dunes are in play, go over if you’re brave, but I speak with knowledge, you cant go through!   The fairways neatly sit amongst the high dunes scoping out the way ahead.  Be prepared to climb hill and dale, but don’t forget to enjoy the views when you’re up high.  Whilst the course took on more of a manicured look, it certainly wasn’t forgiving if slightly off target.  We played in a 2 club wind that day.  With upturned saucer greens which let the ball trickle back to your feet for the less committed golfer.  A beautiful undulating golf course where you seem to be in a world of your own until you’re suddenly walking up 16 towards the club house.  It did occur to me that maybe 17 and 18 had been simply added on or slotted in to make up the 18, but the par 4/5 17th and par 4 18th were no less challenging.  I felt that the front nine was different to back nine with the back nine being more open space. Forward tee stats 5867 yards, par 73.  Back tee stats 7094 yards Par72

Two links, both different, and one parkland course made this a special golf trip in itself, but that’s not all..

Where to eat?

Staying in Port Stewart we had dinner at Tides Restaurant, a short walk from Blackrock B&B. A family restaurant in a cafe style with views across the ocean. Eighteen Ninety Four restaurant in contrast was located upstairs at Port Stewart golf club.  With out being silly prices the food was as good as fine dining.  Our final choice was a bit of a random one, but a great alternative; Ocho, a Spanish tapas restaurant which was really tasty food served with atmosphere, despite being in a temporary location.

What to do when your not playing golf in Northern Ireland?

With such natural beauty all along the Antrim coast it was difficult to get it all in.  A bucket list UNESCO site is the Giant’s Causeway, the short walk from the new visitor centre opened up gradually over three bays.  Each bay exuding natural beauty, with the rock formations taking on the famous hexagonal shapes leading to Giants Causeway.   Then you get to the final bay and its there, spread out in front of you like a dogs tongue lapping at the water.  A brisk walk back up the other side of the bays left us feeling exhilarated as we looked down upon the patchwork quilt of this natural phenomenon.

Driving along the coastal route, you can’t help but notice a huge imposing building.  Naturally curiosity got the better of us, so we stopped at Mussenden Temple and Downhill Demesne just near Castlerock.  Perched atop a 120ft cliff top, you can image the  framed views from the large expanse of windows.  Now in a derelict state, it does get the juices going as to what it’d be like to have lived in such a place.

We did a fair amount of spec sightseeing, but our final booked activity was from Ballintoy Harbour.  Ballintoy is the cutest harbour you can image.  It reminded me very much of the small harbours around Cornwall which I loved exploring as a kid.  Ballintoy carries recent history as the scene from Game of Thrones.  Maybe I should be ashamed of this, but I’ve never seen Game of Thrones!

But I have been, seen and experienced Ballintoy in the best way possible – by Ocean Kayak.  Great fun as we set off and out of the cutest harbour in history into the open water with the Carrick-a-rede rope bridge as our destination.  Easy paddling, wind and current with us, it didn’t take too long until we reached the rope bridge suspended between two huge rock faces.  Currently closed due to covid, we were at peace as we gently kayaked into the small beach underneath.   Ambling across the narrow beach, Kayak in tow, we set off to return to Ballintoy.

That’s when the fun started – the nice wind, gentle current and easy paddling going over was reversed, the wind had got up, there was even spots of rain – and it was tough – I mean really tough for someone used to wielding a golf club at best and tapping on a key board at worst!  Grit and determination set in, and with bitesize strategic landmarks to conquer, we made it back safely.  Blisters on both thumbs and a huge smile told the story.  However, watching me ungainly disembark from that Kayak was a sight to behold, my legs had gone wobbly and I flopped out like the proverbial beached whale!

A loaded hot chocolate and a quick dash back to Belfast airport to catch the plane home finished off our trip to Northern Ireland.  What a place! 

Loads of memories, tick lists achieved and more to show you on youtube.

More inspiration needed?

Check out www.ireland.com/golf

Sarah Forrest is a 12 handicap golfer who is a member at Cleeve Hill GC.  

Sarah is the Travelling Lady Golfer

LinkedIn – Sarah Forrest

Instagram @Travellingladygolfer

Twitter @golfgurugroup

Facebook @Golf Guru Group

Carnoustie Country – Golf and More

As the fickle eye of golfers flit around the world following one tour to the next, adding more exceptional golf courses to their ever growing bucket list to play, eyes will soon come to rest on Carnoustie in Angus for the AIG Womens Open.

But before we make a bee line to Carnoustie Championship; a wonderfully challenging links course in its own right, maybe we can stop and take stock of what we might be missing on route?

Driving over the bridge from Fife, you’re in Carnoustie Country.  Into the upcoming yet relatively understated city of Dundee, the forth largest city on Scotland.  Recent additions to help Dundee grow into a tourist attraction are the likes of the imposing and uniquely designed V&A museum.  The first design museum outside London stands proudly on the riverside. Dundee is cited as having some the friendliest people, it is hardly surprising it is in the 84th percentile of safe cities.  Roots in jute (for ropes), jam and journalism, shows its diversity as a destination with a unique and evolving heritage.

Before you leave the bosom of Dundee, eager to play some golf, try one called Downfield – a  good challenging 18 hole championship parkland course to break you in.  With the rush to play sea side courses, neat parkland course like Downfield often get overlooked, but for a good all round experience of Scottish golf, moreover golf in Carnoustie Country, give it a go!

Along the coastline the golf offering is as diverse as it is challenging with the likes of Monifieth, Panmure and into Carnoustie itself before travelling a little further North to Montrose.  Monifieth Medal with its 6 opening holes following the railway line are a wake up call to links golf.  Panmure screams deep rooted history, playing those first few holes lull you into a false sense of security before it spits you out on the 18th for being too complacent!  Carnoustie has three courses, but the most iconic one is the Championship course, with such known holes as ‘spectacles’ and of course the iconic closing holes of 17 and 18.  Buddon and Burnside are also good golf courses and compliment the championship without challenging its strength.  They certainly aren’t the ugly sisters of the mighty Championship course.

On route to Montrose, call off at Arbroath, home of the Arbroath smokies.  Still a thriving industry of dried haddock with a freshness of taste to die for.  You can see the wood smoking kilns where freshly caught fish is being dried.   You can even request vacuum packed fish to delight your relatives back home, if you can resist opening it up before getting home!

Montrose 1562 course is a delight.  For your first game you are not aware of its splendour until you finish hole one and the sea views open up as you walk over the crest to tee box number two.  Even though I’ve played Montrose more than once, that moment never fails to surprise and delight me.  

What else can you do in Carnoustie Country – Glamis Castle is an interesting place to visit.  The Queen Mother and Princess Margaret shared a common love of Glamis, and you can see why with its historic links and chic opulence.

With so many stunning beaches and myriad of open spaces, even the family is catered for when visiting. 

Who can resits an ice cream on the beach, or better still go for freshly picked Scottish raspberries in the sweet creamy Cranachan, but don’t forget to ask one without whisky for the children!

Sarah Forrest

aka Travelling Lady Golfer

Guess the Link

Two images but how are they related?

1.  The amazing Silver wear proudly displayed at one golf club the other is an image of another famous golf course.

But what’s the link?

One name, one man

2.  Whilst not the same course, they are within 10 minutes of each other by car

3. The man who links these two pictures played only a few British courses.

4.  A private man known as Wee Ice Mon to the locals

5. Reputed to have changed the spec of a golf green to suit his practice and prepare him for faster greens

Go to Golf Guru Group Blogspot for more clues and the answer

My Marathon in Golf

Remember this?

I completed one article a day for 26 consecutive days.   A marathon in golf writing and promotions, you might say!

The reason for taking on this self imposed challenge was to help golfers remain buoyant and give them something positive to think about.  When the world returns to some semblance of normality, this will still be here to help golfers think and plan.

I purposely didn’t want all bucket list courses, just a variety of genuine good courses to visit and play.  I wanted to give England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales an even (as possible) split too. With my desire to appeal to all golfers; old, new, young, old, male, female and families.  The truth is, there is no point squirrelling knowledge when others can benefit from it!

Favouring to focus

On golf courses I had played.  I did need help for 4 of the courses featured.  Thank you Kevin Markham, Neil W and Phil Millington for plugging three of the gaps!  Also thank you to Kevin Markham and Kevin Murray for allowing me to use their excellent golf photography for some of the features.

What I didn’t expect was for it to take so long to do the daily research.  To dig through copious notes and do an awful lot of tapping into my memory banks.  Then of course get the articles written up, images sourced and posted across various platforms. Thanks to the golf clubs, despite being in lockdown, who answered my various questions and requests.

An annoying lightbulb moment

At some ungodly hour of 4am was something else.  For this campaign, I decided to act out each letter in semaphore.  It then became apparent, that whilst I thought it was a great idea, a lot of people didn’t have a clue.  They just thought I was doing some poor version of YMCA, by trying to replicate the shape of the letter.  When I got to letter S, I told people what I was doing and the penny dropped.

I made the commitment

And was delighted by the level of engagement across Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.  My blog also hosts the full write up and suite of images which has now tipped 28K.  All social media platforms produced a good ROI, with Instagram being the most interactive.  Probably as it is pitching to the audience who is most likely to be interested in visiting more golf locations.  But in all, the campaign across all platforms has been well received.  Other golfers praising me for the foresight and tenacity to ensure its success through its unique delivery.

My business ethos has always been about working with people, striking up friendship and helping them where I can.  My social channels follow this ethos, so I am grateful for the interactions I have received.  Whether it was guessing the letter of the day or commenting and liking the posts.  I’m delighted to have such good strong golf and business relationships.  People who genuinely want to see and hear about golf and lifestyle.  As presented in my unique eye popping way. 

This semaphore for today is not a letter more its meaning as ‘end’ – or ‘end of word’, as it signifies the end of this campaign.

I like showing golfers and their families where they can go to play golf, or visit for their next holiday.

To this end, I am looking for destination partners as well as sponsors.  Brands who enjoy out of the box thinking when it comes to promotions.  Brands who want innovative fun campaigns promoting golf and lifestyle to those who want to see it.

More innovative and imaginative content to come, don’t forget to follow me:

Instagram sarah_thetravellingladygofler

Twitter and Facebook @golfgurugroup

LinkedIn @Sarah Forrest

Blog https://golfgurugroup.blogspot.com

Website www.golfgurugroup.com

And my fledgling You Tube channel

https://www.youtube.com/c/travellingladygolfer

Full statistics for this campaign available on request.

Email : Sarah@golfgurugroup.com

A -Auchterarder

GB&I Golf Course Review – Z to A

This is my last in this series of GB & I golf course reviews.  I hope that you have enjoyed it, that it has given you some inspiration and importantly helped you through the tough times we are all in at the moment.  I am always here to help and to listen.

As ever, the full write up and more images can be found on http://golfgurugroup.blogspot.com

Auchterarder Golf Club

Auchterarder Golf Club

Orchil Rd, Auchterarder, Perthshire, Scotland, PH3 1LS

It seems fitting that as I start this series in Scotland, The Home of Golf that I should finish it here too.

As before, this series is about showing you some genuinely good golf to play around the UK and Ireland.  Auchterarder is no exception to this.

Arguably it isn’t the longest course, there are 6 par 3’s and 3/4 par 5’s.  It measures 4967/5800 so is an easy walking course.

In the shadow of its big boy neighbours you can catch a glimpse of the PGA Centenary course at Gleneagles as you enjoy playing Auchterarder.  In fact, time it right and you can shoot to the green to the crowds whooping and hollering  No one need know they are actually cheering golfers on the adjoining course!   A beautiful, hilly in places, but not too silly, parkland course with amazing views.

Auchterarder Golf Club

Only 28 miles from Edinburgh

Airport located with the beautiful Ochil Hills as its backdrop.  Doing some research I found 78 Ochil in Scotland, so maybe don’t put that into you navigation system!  The name Ochil, recorded as Okhel in 13th Century is from Pictish origin.  Although it may have evolved from Ogel meaning ‘ridge.’  Either way, it is quite beautiful. 

Hole number 13 is actually called Ochil View.  A par 4 SI16/18 268/289 yards this downhill shot is fairly narrow with green side bunkers in play.  So if you’ve played it badly, take solace in the view.

Auchterarder Golf Club

With Auchterarder

In Gaelic meaning ‘the summit of the rising ground’ gives you some idea of the altitude.  Located on the Strathern Ridge it is one of the highest towns in Scotland.  

Life started in 1913 when Ben Sayers designed a 9 hole golf course. In the early years maintenance was done by goats grazing the high ground.  With WWII came the call up of a lot of its members, it also saw the golf course return to pasture land once again.

Post war and into the 1950’s and 1960’s the Old Nine was recognised a good place to play.   In 1979 it became an 18 hole course.  More recent works include an extension to the clubhouse in 2002.

Auchterarder Golf Club

It was lovely to see some of the names of the holes.  No. 7 is called Dinnae Stray, a par 4 SI5/9 332/473 yards.  The exit off the tee is a little intimidating with established trees left and right.  It does open up a little but the green with it amphitheatre of trees around the back of the green add drama.  Quite an appropriate name though!

With a continued plan

Of phased improvements the 12th hole bears the mark of more recent upgrades.   This par 3 SI 18/16 116/164 yards could be a nervy tee shot through a relatively narrow exit off the tee.   The new three tied green is protected by bunkers from right and left and water at the back.  I loved playing this hole, in fact I didn’t realise at the time it was a fairly new improvement.  It had clearly bedded in well.

Auchterarder Golf Club

The 18th is called Hame… no guessing as to what that means.  A par 3 SI 12/10 145/184 yards is a tight closing hole.  But a warm friendly club awaits your return — what could possibly go wrong!

So might not be the course you thought I might feature for my final letter, but one I wanted to give a shout out to as a good club to visit.  Despite its relative short length, it is a good course to play.  Strategic bunkering and well established trees made it a pleasant game and the clubhouse atmosphere was great too.

Auchterarder Golf Club

For more innovative, fun unique golf content, please subscribe to my social media channels 

Instagram @sarah_thetravellingladygolfer

Twitter and Facebook @golfgurugroup

Interested in this golf club, or any in this series, or wish to be featured in the future, please email me on sarah@golfgurugroup.com

Here are some Insta accounts starting with the letter A which you might want to follow: @AMZ-golf @Alby_golf

B for Blairgowrie

B – Blairgowrie

GB&I Golf Course Review – Z to A

I am showcasing one golf club a day across GB & I over 26 days – in reverse alphabetical order.  Full write up and more images can be found on http://golfgurugroup.blogspot.com.

Blairgowrie Golf Club – Rosemount

Blairgowrie; Rosemount Course

Golf Course Road, Blairgowrie, Perthsire, PH10 6LG

Blairgowrie means ‘Plain of Gowrie’ in Scottish Gaelic. It’s name pops up all over the world; in Australia, or where I first heard it, in South Africa.  I’m sure there are others too. The one I am talking about is in Perthshire, Scotland.  Being so close to exceptional links courses, playing Blairgowrie offers a great, yet equally tough golfing experience.  Usually without the buffeting wind!

Blairgowrie Golf Club – Rosemount

In 1889 a piece of land

Was purchased from the Marchiness of Lansdown by Black Loch.   Nine holes were built with a further nine scheduled for work in 1914.  At a cost of £3,000 Alistair MacKenzie was bought in to do this job.  Mackenzie is probably best known for his work at Augusta, Cypress Point and Royal Melbourne.  However the Great War delayed opening until 1927.   In 1930 James Braid was appointed to add a further eight holes to the MacKenzie design.  He also did some bunker work and I’m sure much more!  The Wee Course at Blairgowrie is the original 9 holes.  I played the Wee Course and would definitely recommend that too. 

You could say two great designers of the time put their mark on this course.  Initially called Lansdown, it was later renamed Rosemount.  Another 18 holes designed by Peter Alliss and Dave Thomas in the 1970’s was called Lansdown.

Blairgowrie Golf Club – Rosemount

Credit to a golf club

That doesn’t rest on its laurels with it’s desire to continually improve.  As close as year 2000 Donald Steel did some work on the first green.  Holes 6 and 7 have also recently been remodelled to bring back some of the MacKenzie influence and style.

Hole 6 is a par 3 SI 18/6 171/189 yards.  With a sloping green back to front it is the longest green on the course.  Add a couple of dimples in the front of the green for good measure means club selection and commitment are key.

Consulting my notes; hole number 7 has a ‘hashtag nightmare’ in the margin.  This made me giggle as that’s what I clearly thought at the time when referencing the pin position! 

Blairgowrie Golf Club – Rosemount

An established woodland course

With a huge dollop of heathland thrown in for good measure.  Carved out of scots pines, silver birch and enough heather to bring everyone good luck, except when playing golf.  It isn’t unusual to see red squirrels and roe deer wandering around this peaceful setting.

The day I played it was a bit grey and miserable.  You could still see the colours of the heather push though in defiance of the weather.  The fairways were spongy and bouncy and clearly drained well.  There were surprisingly comfortable to walk upon, but the golf ball also responded well to the surface too.  The greens were in tip top condition when I played.

Blairgowrie Golf Club – Rosemount

I loved the way the course ran around the site

In amongst the tall trees and ball grabbing heather.  The fairways clearly laid out in the woodland as if a band aid had been ripped off a hairy leg.  I’m sure thats not how golf course designers do their planning, but it does conjure up the image I want!

Another hole worthy of a mention is hole number 17.  I didn’t really appreciate it at the time, but it is known as one of the best par 3’s in Scotland.  A sneaky little ditch running across the fairway isn’t really in play from the tee.  This gem of a par 3 is SI 15/13 147/165 yards has a menacing two tied green.  I was told to take enough club, I went out the back..  Bunker heaven or bunker hell?  A few bunkers to chose from here with a long one stretching across the front right. The enclave of trees surrounding this large green perfectly frame the finish to the hole.

Blairgowrie Golf Club – Rosemount Course

Greg Norman

Won his first European Tour event here in 1977.  Frequently appearing in the Top 25 Heathland courses, tipping the balance as the best heathland in Scotland.   Old Tom Morris said ‘I think this is the most beautiful inland green I have ever seen.’  This was just after he’d sunk a long putt on the last green to win his friendly match against the then club captain.

This classic mature golf course with its unique design mix of MacKenzie and Braid is a pleasure to play.   I can’t wait to get back.

For more innovative, fun unique golf content, please subscribe to my social media channels 

Instagram @sarah_thetravellingladygolfer

Twitter and Facebook @golfgurugroup

Interested in this golf club, or any in this series, or wish to be featured in the future, please email me on sarah@golfgurugroup.com

C for Carnoustie

C – Carnoustie

GB&I Golf Course Reviews – Z to A

I am showcasing one golf club a day across GB & I over 26 days – in reverse alphabetical order.  Full write up and more images can be found on http://golfgurugroup.blogspot.com

Carnoustie Championship 

Links House, Links Parade, Carnoustie, DD7 7JE

I was given the opportunity to visit Carnoustie a while back. Subsequently I took a number of clients and again revisited a couple of years ago, just before the Open in 2018.  

Carnoustie is the name of the town in which sits this well known championship course.  In fact there are three golf courses here, but my focus is on Carnoustie Championship.  A double C if you like!

It is unclear where the name Carnoustie came from.  Most likely it is from Scandinavian nouns of Car and Noust, meaning Rock and Bay respectively.  Another story.  The Battle of Barry in 1010 where a Danish General invader, Camus, was put to the sword by clansmen led by Scottish King, Malcom II.  The Norse Gods were not happy at the loss of their favourite warrior.  To show their displeasure they cursed the neighbourhood and released thousands of crows on Barry Sands.  Colonising the locality it became known as Craw’s Nastie, corrupted to Carnoustie.  As the village evolved into a borough in 1899, three crows flying was adopted as the crest for the area.

Photo credit – Kevin Murray

Of the Championship course itself

It has been noted that golf has been played here since 1500, with the present course being mapped out in 1850.   Old Tom Morris extended it twenty years later to 18 holes.  An extensive redesign was made by James Braid in 1926.  However, it was felt his design did have a weak finish so it was a local man, James Wright who we can thank for the closing holes!   Wright was drafted in ahead of the 1937 Open Championship.  The course as we know it has pretty much remained the same for the last 80 years or so.  In fact, it is not a course that flips its holes around when a Championship is played here.  There are no airs and graces at Carnoustie, it is what it is.  Take it or leave it.  Most will take it, and enjoy it, even if they don’t score well.

As you stand on the first tee of the Championship course, the hotel behind you, you’re pretty much out there alone.  The Tee box, despite it proximity to the clubhouse and Links House is almost in the middle of the course, or so it seems.  You just know that people can see you from the hotel and are most likely watching too.  But as it is far enough away, it doesn’t bother you.  You ‘get into the course’ from that very first hit.  You hit your drive, into a reasonably large area and you can forget the rest.  You’re off and into the bosom of the course almost immediately.

Photo credit – Kevin Murray

Barry Burn

Makes a menacing appearance early on, but slinks back into oblivion until the closing holes.  It is a relatively flat course, quite open and the weather is in play pretty much all the way round.  

When you look at the course on televisions, you see the long whispy grass taunting your every shot.  But actually down on the  ground, the course is in exceptional  condition and you can see clear cut fairways.  Hogans Alley, 6th hole a par 5 SI2, 485/520 yards is good demonstration of this.  Although a relatively narrow fairway, the 1953 Open Championship winner, who has been honoured with the naming of this hole, showed the way when hitting it straight down the middle.  As golfers we often hear, just hit it down the middle.  Not an easy feat at the best of times, but when confronted with a narrow landing strip, the task appears near impossible. 

Photo credit – Kevin Murray

I will be honest with you.

I never really quite understood the nerves of some golfers, I’m a happy hit and play golfer.  But even I had a little heart flutter on that hole the first time I played it.  I did manage to get it where I wanted, in the middle.  Needles to say subsequent games have never yielded such good results.  Doing it once was clearly a fluke, replicating it is what makes a good golfer!

Playing Carnoustie

Was one of the rare moments where I had done some research before visiting.  Being such an iconic course, I wanted to make sure I didn’t miss out on any experiences.  You know how it is when you go on holiday only to return home 2 weeks later being told you should have visited…..

Photo credit – Kevin Murray

I had read up about the Spectacles on hole 14, and was keen to see them in person.  A par4/5 at 375/476 yards SI1.  The first time I saw them I wasn’t playing, so I was less than impressed.  The next time I saw them was as I stood there with a club in my hand.   I swear those bunkers had grown overnight!  A good par 4/5 they don’t come into pay until about 50 yards short of the hole.  In fact, despite their size, they almost sneak up to you.  I have not had the pleasure of landing in them yet.  Probably a good job as I might still be in them now, with their high sides and uninviting shot to the green.  Most likely I’d go out backwards, maybe even with a putter if allowed!!  Call me chicken or call me sensible.

To be honest getting to hole 14 is the start of any potential card wrecking day.  Whilst I do love this course, I also totally respect it and play it using all my shots.  I really love hole 16.  The start of Barry Burn making its persistent appearance again over the next few holes. A par 3 at 212/225 yards, SI 13, which looks so inviting and plays more than I have even given it.  

Photo credit – Kevin Murray

Those Carnoustie bunkers

Are in play all around and the Barry Burn sliding in from the left.  I always feel as though I can get on the green and pop it in for a birdie.  That hasn’t happened yet!  I did sneak one in between the bunkers on the left once and it happened to roll close to the green, more good luck than good play if I’m honest!

Then I think I must have taken 3 putts – but thats another story for the 19th!

The greens are generally quite large at Carnoustie, they are short cut and roll like anything – or have the days I’ve played!  Carnoustie is one of those places that you look at an aerial picture of and think, what’s the problem?

Photo credit – Kevin Murray

The oldest Ladies Club in the World

Is at Carnoustie with gender discrimination being a nasty word.  That’s the only time ‘nasty’ should be used when referring to this golf course.  They have a healthy ladies section and I have always been pleased to see this continues to be the case.

It would be rude of me not to mention the closing holes.  Hole 17 a par 4, SI5, playing 364/473 yards.  I do recall going in Barry Burn on the 17thwith my second shot  A  horrible little scummy things barely getting off the ground. I was gutted, even more so when I got close and realised how deep it was with my ball was in sight but out of reach.   Carnoustie beat me that hole fair and square. Placement is key to getting any score here and not getting dragged into Carnoustie’s golf abyss. 

To me, hole 18, par 4 SI 11 374/444 yards appeared less daunting, although still slightly narrow. Barry Burn on this closing hole has seen many a great golfer weep, John Van de Velde being the most notable of them all.  But I’m not going to write about him, you probably know already, and I don’t want to end on a negative!

Photo credit – Kevin Murray

The key is navigation

And not to be too greedy.  I did OK here, but I haven’t experienced the wrath of the Barry Burn on this final hole – yet.

Me, I’m looking forward.  I’m seeing the hotel for some welcome food and drink.  Now you can relax in the Links House too.  The hotel is not owned by the golf club, it is a separate organisation, but has a close working relationship.  

With the AIG Women’s Open playing here in August 2021, I can’t wait to return.  If only to see if I can relive my one and only straight drive on Hogans Alley, or to see if I can continue to avoid spectacles.  But most importantly to see if I can conquer these closing holes – or at least play to my handicap!  Whilst there I also hope to experience the lovely Scottish hospitality at The Rookery and to look around the now completed Links House.  The latter still under its finals stages of construction when I last visited.

Photo credit – Kevin Murray

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D for Donegal

D – Donegal

GB&I Golf Course Reviews – Z to A

I am showcasing one golf club a day across GB & I over 26 days – in reverse alphabetical order.  Full write up and more images can be found on http://golfgurugroup.blogspot.com

Donegal Golf Club

Murvagh, Co. Donegal, Ireland

Does this golf course have it all?

From dead bodies to ancient food storage.  From ocean side golf holes to mountains views and Forests.

Founded in 1959

As a nine hole course closer to Donegal on land called Tullycullion.  Hole 13 yards bears the name of the former sight as it is in view from the 13th green.  

Often referred to as Murvagh, Donegal golf club moved it current location in Murvagh in the early 1970’s.  Eddie Hackett designed Donegal with 2 loops of nine holes taking inspiration from Muirfield.  Not out and back as some 18 hole courses, but an inner and outer ring of nine holes each.

Eddie Hackett

Is known for saying “I find nature is the best architect, I just try to dress up what the Good Lord provides.”   Going from hole number 13 a par three and the shortest hole on the course to hole number 14 a par five of 504/565 and the longest hole on the course.  Testimony that Eddie Hackett did indeed within the the natural canvas as presented to him.

The par 3, 5th is their signature hole, called Valley of Tears.   I wonder how it earned that name!  It may be the lack of fairway, target golf is very much in order for this hole!  That said the green is quite large but come up short and there is a deep bunker to catch you out.  Statistically this is also the hole that has highest number of hole in ones on the course, so a mixed bag for sure.  

The original design

Has had some tweaks from Pat Ruddy who is still engaged to offer advise as needed.  Ruddy has lengthened holes and done  some remodelling on others, but largely the layout remains as it was from Eddie Hackett’s original design.

My opening gambit of ‘does the course have it all’ is demonstrated with its location on the Murvagh peninsular.  Located near Murvagh beach, with its blue flag status, adds to the drama and contrast of the Bluestack Mountains.  Ditches dissect the course in places and there is also woodland to encounter.  Add the obligatory bumps and humps as if an oversized mole has left its casts of yesteryear, now grassed over.  All this is in play at some point or another.

The history of the site belies it’s short history as a golf course.  The 17th called Souterrain hides a series on underground chambers. Whilst not entirely sure what these chambers were used for, it is likely they were used for food storage.  Other theories were to take refuge when under attack.

The first green

Was unearthed as a burial site for some unfortunate sole who’s remains were found during excavating the course in the 1990’s.  This unique location also lends itself to stories such as the hole number 6.  A par 5 493/514 yards with its views of The Hassons.  A location in the 18th century where Irish Emigrants boarded the ‘coffin ships’ bound for a better life in the Americas.

Hole number two a par 4, 377/466 yards is the only hole that faces West, into the prevailing wind.  With bunkers in play on the approach there is no let up if that wind is blowing.    As you would expect the wind does come into play as it swirls around.  Having the inner and outer ring does afford some level of respite on the back nine, but not a lot on the day I played!  

No such story in Ireland

Would be complete without fairies or leprechauns usually whilst enjoying a pint of the black stuff.  Hole number 11 is called Fairy Rath.  A Rath is a ringfort, often associated with fairies and leprechauns.  It has been speculated that one such ringfort existed just before the green on the 11th.  Now a big dip to catch the ball on the approach.  I could have used some of the infamous ‘luck of the Irish’ with my approach shot which didn’t land on the green but in the swell giving myself a tricky recovery shot.

Hole number 8

Has been voted the best Par 5 on the West Coast of Europe.  It’s elevated tee and deep swells add to the drama of the blind shot to an elevated fairway.

Darren Clarke, 2011 Open Championship winner and member, states that Donegal is ‘one of my favourite courses in the World’

And who am I to argue!

For more innovative, fun unique golf content, please subscribe to my social media channels 

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Interested in this golf club, or any in this series, or wish to be featured in the future, please email me on sarah@golfgurugroup.com

E for Enniscrone

E – Enniscrone

GB&I Golf Course Review – Z to A

I am showcasing one golf club a day across GB & I over 26 days – in reverse alphabetical order.  Full write up and more images can be found on http://golfgurugroup.blogspot.com. 

Enniscrone Golf Club

Enniscrone, Co. Sligo, Ireland

Enniscrone also spelt Inniscrone, officially named Inishcrone is in County Sligo on the North West Coast of Ireland.  Forming part of the Wild Atlantic Way, this small tourist town is a big attraction for golfers too.

Starting from humble beginnings.  

1918 marked the beginning

Of Enniscrone Golf Club.  In 1922 medal competitions were held over three Enniscrone locations; Barta, Kilcullens Field and Scurmore Hotel varying from 9 to 4 to 6 holes respectively.  In 1930 a nine hole layout was established on flat land at Barta and the course opened to membership for a fee of £1.  Forty eight members joined when it opened on St Patricks Day 1931.

In 1933 a greenskeeper was employed with his horse drawn fairway mower.  In 1947 a new clubhouse was built at a cost of £400.  Due to war, emigration and economic depression Ireland experienced a down turn and by 1959 there were only 14 club members.  In the sixties with the building of Bellacorick power station and the Moy drainage scheme bought in much needed new blood.  By 1969 membership had built back up to over one hundred.

Livestock roamed the course

And the members wandering eyes were turning towards the dunes with dreams of an 18 hole links course.  In 1970 Eddie Hackett was drafted in to design the course.  Working alongside the committee, holes were designed with the dunes to blend into the natural terrain.   In 1972 12 miles of fencing was purchased to keep the animals at bay.  The first ball was driven by Eddie Hackett in August 1974.  Gaining such accolades as “an undiscovered gem of a links.”   By 1999 Enniscrone was ready for the next chapter in its evolution.  Donald Steel was commissioned to reroute the course directly into the Dunes. He added 6 more holes and turned some of the original layout over to the new nine hole course, Scurmore.  The clubhouse had an extension and the new course was re-opened in 2001.

The 18 hole course is called the Dunes measuring 5723 to 7029 yards.  Labelled as a dune land course, its look is more akin to the moons surface.  With huge dips and hollows being dominated and overshadowed by the dunes, some of the highest in Western Europe.

When you’re sat in the clubhouse

And it is blowing a hooley out there, you might be forgiven for thinking, maybe tomorrow.  But there was no tomorrow for me, it was that day or no day, and I was not going to miss out on playing Enniscrone!

It took a few holes to get into the swing of things, literally!  Dog legs, elevated greens and those dunes surrounding a punch bowl green – and that was only on the first hole.

The whole course

Was in such amazing condition.  Tee boxes were like islands of vibrant green amidst the long swaying grass.   A dot to dot of tee boxes heading in the direction of the fairway and putting surface in the distance. 

Whilst the dunes have been noted as some of the highest, the dips added to the drama and depth of the dunes too.  Most likely remnants of the ice age, those swells must have been deep icy ponds before receding to create the natural crators of today.

Stunning views over Killala Bay, the Moy Estuary and Bartragh Island one way.  In stark contrast are the wild and rugged Nephin and Ox Mountain ranges.  There is always something to look at when playing Enniscrone.

Hole number 12

Is the hole that always sticks in my mind.  I was starting to get used to the near perfect fairways, the short cut greens where the ball may, or may not, stay up. But nothing prepared me for the 12th.  I recall standing there thinking blimey, if I miss that I’m into a whole lot of trouble!  

Called Cnoc na gCorp translated means the Hill of Hunger or Hill of Bodies.  I was determined not to be a casualty of this beautiful hole.  Despite it luring me into its green, carved out of the side of a sand dune!  A par 4 of 262/347 yards SI 16/3.  The exit off the tee was much more thought provoking from the back tees than the forward ones.

But the shot to the green was the same challenge.  A huge swell in front of the green before your eyes are drawn up to the green.  Seamlessly moving from a fairway, to the apron to the green was a trick of the eye as you weighed up your approach shot.  It has to be said, I’m not one to over think things, so I just hit it to the green after a less than perfect drive.  To my shock it ended up on the dance floor.

Other holes had almost split level fairways, pot hole bunkers and the inevitable lunar links feel.  The bunkers, were often quite deep and occasionally in multiples of 2 or 3 across the fairway at an angle offering little respite with any wayward shots.  They often complimented the other side of the fairway which might challenge you with a deep swell or high dune.

Playing Enniscrone was a delight, and yes I did enjoy the  Irish hospitality  at the 19th too!

F for Flamborough Head

F – Flamborough Head

GB&I Golf Course Review – Z to A

I am showcasing one golf club a day across GB & I over 26 days – in reverse alphabetical order.  Full write up and more images can be found on http://golfgurugroup.blogspot.com. 

Flamborough Head

Lighthouse Road, Flamborough, Bridlington, East Riding of Yorkshire, YO15 1AR

When you drive up to Flamborough Head Golf Club, the first thing that strikes you is the Tower.  Situated to the right of the clubhouse as you look towards the North Sea.  This Old Beacon was built in 1674 and in actually located on the golf course itself.  It is the oldest surviving lighthouse in England.  

Flamborough Head is arguably an unusual choice for the Alphabet golf series, but its isn’t always about the best golf courses; the named golf courses.  To me it is about the whole package.  Here you are always certain of a warm and friendly welcome in good old no nonsense Yorkshire fashion.  In fact, one of its slogans is ‘the friendliest club on the coast’

Pitched atop a cliff

This 18 hole links course brings in some challenges of its own.  As well as some beautiful views across the North Sea.  Overlooking the site of the Battle of Flamborough Head fought on 23rd September 1779.  Hole number 13 carries the name of American John Paul Jones.  Jone’s ship, the Bonhomme Richard defeated the British man-of-war Serapis.  The course occupies, in part, a former farmhouse where he is reputed to have stayed.

The golf course was founded in 1931.  With its tricky location and steep drop off cliffs, I am informed that this part of the coast doesn’t suffer too much from erosion. Which is great, as it would be a shame to lose it to the sea. it is fair to say there are a couple of up and down holes.  In the main, I don’t believe this detracts from the overall experience of playing such a location.  The weather does play a big part in the game, as the wind can whip around and off the North Sea.

The beacon

Is located after you have played hole 4, a par 4 measuring 417/439 yards, SI3.  Two good accurate shots are required before encountering the split level green.  After putting out, take a short walk behind the green and circumnavigate the tower, just for fun.  Can you imagine having to light a fire that high up to give boats the warning of Flamborough Head jutting out into the sea?  East Riding Council wanted to open it up as a museum, but for now that idea is on hold.  Friends of the Chalk Tower are behind this scheme and are keen to see it succeed.  

Hole 6, whilst a relatively easily achievable shot, is fraught with danger if slightly off kilter.  A pond, a bunker and the deep rough make this SI 16 par 3 hole of only 136/141 yards a decent challenge, especially when the wind is in play!

The Signal Hole

Hole 10 is a risk and reward shot, again a par 3.  From an elevated tee this 146/148 yard hole is covered front and side with bunkers.  Be brave or go home on this pretty hole.  Once on the green it really depends on where the flag is, as this is as this is a two tier green.

Another hole of note is hole number 11.  My notes say lovely hole, the stats say differently!  Its is a long par 5 of 505/552 yards.  A blind shot over the marker post, for your drive needs to be straight.  Subsequent shots are also not easy as you’re shooting towards the North Sea again.  Too short and the ball gets caught on the slope and comes trickling back to you.  Too long and its rubbish on the right and at the back – oh and then of course you have the cliffs behind and to the right also.

With elevated tees, ditches running around the course and tiered greens you’re not in for an easy ride playing here.  For a relatively flat course, whose overhead view does nothing to show the game needed to score well, I think it is worthy of a place in this series.

And one of the best bits about playing Flamborough Head.  Fish and Chips – so typically British, so typically Yorkshire, and so tasty it is worth the trip.

G for Galway Bay

G – Galway Bay

GB&I Golf Course Review – Z to A

I am showcasing one golf club a day across GB & I over 26 days – in reverse alphabetical order.  Full write up and more images can be found on http://golfgurugroup.blogspot.com.


Photo Credit Kevin Markham

Galway Bay

Renville, Oranmore, County Galway, Ireland.

There is something quite familiar about Galway Bay, and until recently I couldn’t quite put my finger on why.  Then it came to me!  Every year we sing about Galway Bay along with the Pogues and Kirsty MacColl in the classic Fairytale of New York!


Photo Credit Kevin Markham

Arriving at Galway Bay

I genuinely had no idea what I might expect, I don’t always like to research where I’m going so it doesn’t cloud my personal judgement or generate any preconceptions.  So I didn’t know if this course was a links, parkland or heathland. 

I was playing some of the courses along the Wild Atlantic Way with a few other journalists when we stopped at Galway Bay.  A warm welcome was upon us in no time in a bustling modern clubhouse having a quick warm up before playing.  When I say warm up, I mean drink in huge coffee cups, not on the driving range!


Photo Credit Kevin Markham

Ready to play

We set off up hole one and back down hole two, before moving away again from the clubhouse.  This time in the direction of the Atlantic Ocean.  Whilst being so close to the Ocean, it isn’t a links course.  It is a good strong parkland course laid out to enjoy the sea views as well as the sea breeze.

Former Ryder Cup player and Snr British Open winner, Christy O’Connor, Jnr is the golf course designer.  His plan was to create a course in tune with nature, whilst accommodating golfers of all abilities.  A man with a plan, he drew from his vast experience as golfer.  With the rugged Galway Bay as the backdrop, trees bunkering and water hazards were finely tuned to give us the golf course of today.  


Photo Credit Kevin Markham

I recall the putting surfaces to be consistently good. 

That in itself can’t be an easy task bearing in mind its location and the ever changing wind direction.  Playing the eleventh hole a par 4 333/423 yards, SI 2/3 was good fun with its drive over water to a dog leg left.  Bunkers aplenty and the clubhouse in sight.  

But turn back away again to take on the 12th, a great hole playing quite differently from the forward and back tees.  384/469 yards SI 14/1 and a par 5 forward, par 4 back tees.  It is a hole to bat cleverly and play for position.  A dog leg right as it drops down the hill to the green with the Atlantic in front of you as you take on the water to the green.  This hole is often featured amongst the top 18 holes in Irish golf.  With views to the Burren, Co Clare; one of six nations parks in Ireland, the Aran Islands, Connemara and Galway City.

There were a few holes

Where the back and forward distances differences were quite large, with the par threes, being a little more even for distance on the front nine.  With water featuring over 10 of the 18 holes, maybe that’s one of the reasons?

My game that day was a bit up and down, a few blobs then pars, with the back nine giving me some points back after a very lack lustre front nine!  But I loved the feel of this club, playing a great parkland golf course with its natural beauty was a bonus after the welcome received in the clubhouse.

Nine miles away is Galway, City of the Tribes and the Cultural Heart of Ireland.  And the heart of a good night out too!

H for Hankley Common

H – Hankley Common

GB&I Golf Course Review – Z to A

I am showcasing one golf club a day across GB & I over 26 days – in reverse alphabetical order.  Full write up and more images can be found on http://golfgurugroup.blogspot.com

Hankley Common

The Clubhouse, Tilford Rd, Farnham

It has to be said the time I played Hankley Common it was absolutely tipping it down.  Known for being one of the best courses in that area that can stand that level of water, it was a bit of a non-brainer that we play Hankley Common on such a wet weekend.  To this day, I am sure the pro was completely bemused at our request to play.  Non of the members were daft enough to venture out that day!

The wonderful free draining turf on this pretty heathland course was a god send that day.  We were, despite the wet stuff from the sky, able to continue play without too many hinderances.

The original nine holes

Date back to 1897.  In 1922 James Braid added a further nine holes, encompassing the layout and natural beauty of the terrain.  10 years later Harry Colt was bought in to add length.

Bobby Locke described this heathland course as a ‘closest resemblance to playing a links’ with other such accolades as ‘one of the best inland layouts in Britain’

Playing Hankey Common

Was not always an open expanse experience, in so far as the fairways are often tree lined.  The greens were a decent size and nicely and receptive too.  The fairways seem to sway their way around the course, like chiffon in the wind, only broken up by the bunkering and heather.  Some of the bunkers were of such a depth that required thinking about!  The odd large establish tree came into play as the course criss crossed around the common with ease.  To be honest everything a good golf course can offer is here at Hankley Common.  But the rough of heather and pretty much everything else was incredibly punishing!

Whilst playing Hankley Common I didn’t feel as though I was in a mass expanse of nothingness at any time.  It was very neat and tidy as one navigated around he course with ease.  Dog legs and the colour contrasts were just beautiful to feast your eyes upon.  And just as you think you’re on the home ward stretch, hole 18 throws up a tough finish.  With its dip in front of the green- maybe it was because I was soaked by then, I just remember looking at the clubhouse thinking – Lumumba!

Hankley Common

Is owned by the Ministry of Defence. Set in 1400 acres, the surrounding area is designated as an area of special scientific interest.  The common has been the site for some classic films such as James Bond’s, the World is Not Enough and Die Another Day.  Michael Fassbender starred in Macbeth here and Michael Vaughan’s The Kings Man was another to be filmed here.  In fact many a movie star has trodden the soil of Hankley Common over the years.  Wildlife, flora and fauna are common place here with the Golf Club adopting the common fox as their logo.  The golf course occupies the West side of this Surrey heathland location.

I for Isle of Purbeck

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