The Irish Open
May 20 Posted by Kevin Markham in Carne Golf Links Blog

As the Irish Open rolls into town at Royal County Down, much of the golfing world’s attention will be focused on a links course rich in history, steeped in tradition and possessing one of the most recognisable backdrops of any golf course. As the highest peak of the Mourne Mountains, Slieve Donard rises majestically above the fairways. It is often caught in cloud but it always adds colour and drama to the setting and the mountain range runs endlessly away to the west. To the east of Slieve Donard, the mountains drop gently into the waters of Dundrum Bay, which embraces the opening holes of this magnificent golf course. It is a picture-perfect setting.

In the foreground, in the town of Newcastle itself, the spire of the aptly-named Slieve Donard Hotel provides a striking landmark (and target) from many holes.

The beauty of the course is matched by both its challenges and its conditioning. Over the week of the Irish Open, viewers from around the world will get a deeper appreciation of what links golf in Ireland is all about, and how enthralling it is to play. Royal County Down will not only be a showcase for Irish golf, it will also be a showcase for all Irish links courses, north, south, east and west.

I was lucky enough to play the course three weeks ago and I have never seen a course in such condition. Fairways and greens were like velvet – the latter were also like glass, which led to 3- putts galore by the assembled masses – and with the gorse in full bloom there was that added element of beauty, colour… and terror. The course has always carried an aura and it will be interesting to see how that affects the professional golfers who tackle Royal County Down between May 28 and 31.

The Professionals

And what a roster of golfers it is going to be, thanks to Rory McIlroy and his foundation convincing many big names to take part. The heat got turned up last week when Rickie Fowler (middle name Yutaka) picked up the unwelcome accolade of most over-rated golfer on tour… what he did in the days that followed showed the mettle of a champion, walking away with the Players trophy, a cheque for $1.8 million and a closing run of holes that both defied belief and smashed records. That over-rated tag is unlikely to be thrown at the young golfer again.

Ernie Els, Sergio Garcia, Lee Westwood, Luke Donald, Patrick Reed, Kaymer, Jimenez are the headline names alongside McIlroy and Fowler. Irish golf fans will also get to see the likes of Danny Willett, Coetzee, Donaldson and last year’s winner, Mikko Ilonen. The 35 year old Finn has good experience and memories of links golf, winning the West of Ireland at Enniscrone Golf Club in 1999.

The Irish contingent will be strong, and not just from the familiar faces of Harrington, Clarke, McGinley and McDowell. Shane Lowry and Michael Hoey will be joined by prominent Irish golfers including Kevin Phelan, Damien McGrane, Peter Lawrie, Cian McNamara (Monkstown GC), Neil O’Briain (Old Conna) and Damian Mooney (Ballyliffin), to name a few. In all there will be 18 professional Irish golfers, not to mention the invitations which, so far, have been extended to three leading Irish amateurs: Gavin Moynihan (the recent Irish Amateur winner), Jack Hume and Gary Hurley. Golf fans will have plenty of Irish interest to latch onto and, as always, there will be great expectations for one or more Irish golfers come Sunday afternoon.

The full (current) list of golfers playing at this European Tour event can be found here.

Irish Open, Major Attraction

The Northern Irish Tourist Board and European Tour have put tremendous energy and effort into the event. That’s no surprise when you consider that the Irish Open, held in Royal Portrush in 2012, was the first European Tour event to sell out. The same is expected for Royal County Down, especially as the numbers will be limited to 80,000 over the four days. Royal Portush accommodated 100,000. There are other changes, too, most notably the ability for ticket holders to come and go from the venue as they please. This will make the local town of Newcastle a hive of activity and will boost the local economy still further. A special Fringe Festival Comedy Night and Food & Blues Festival will be running during the event and visitors can expect a lot more, too.

Each adult ticket holder can take up to four children under the age of 16 for free. There will be stands for 5,000 fans around the course, which is more than at any other European Tour event. Tickets are still
available, here.

The international flavour of the event – Rickie Fowler and Patrick Reed, most notably – has also enticed America’s Golf Channel to send a crew to cover the event. It’s the first time in the European Tour’s history and reflects the quality of the field and the quality of the course. The Irish Open in 2015 is going to be something special.

The main sponsor is Dubai Duty Free, with a healthy smattering of other companies including Dale Farm, Moy Park, Emirates, BMW, Heineken, Jumeirah Golf Estates, and Eircom Business Solutions. It’s an
impressive array of names and one that, alongside the Rory Foundation and Tourism Northern Ireland, brings a prize fund of €2.5 million to the table. And Dale Farm are the official suppliers of ice cream during the event… let’s pray for sunshine!

Old Tom Morris, Harry Vardon and Harry Colt are just three of the legendary names in golf who helped to shape Royal County Down… although it was an early club captain, George Combe, who must be credited with much of the design that golfers play today. These golfers, legends, designers, icons of the game have left their mark, so come along and see how the champions of today deal with a course that was born in 1889, and remains one of the world’s best.

Posted by admin at Jun 22, 2016 Category: Other
Tags: carne golf links, golf ireland, irish open, rory mcilroy, royal county down