Ivan Morris Column - Perfect golf is close to home

Limerick Leader golf columnist Ivan Morris
In his weekly Limerick Leader golf column, Ivan Morris heaps praise on a nearby golf club that has got so much going for it.

In his weekly Limerick Leader golf column, Ivan Morris heaps praise on a nearby golf club that has got so much going for it.

There I was going all around the world seeking the perfect ‘golfing experience’ but all along it has been so close to my home that I am shocked. It’s hard to believe that a golf course that ‘nobody’ designed could be so good.

According to Martin Carty and Leslie O’Meara, the captain and vice-captain respectively of Portumna Golf Club during the Club’s centenary year, their golf course merely evolved with a little bit of help from Eddie Hackett (shortly before he passed) and Eddie Connaughton, who, as course consultant must be complimented for his softly, softly, hands-off approach.

I have never seen better use of natural land and trees on an Irish golf course. You have to be strategically aware and deadly accurate to plot your way around fairways that undulate and flow towards every point on the compass.

Although playing in what was once a dense forest, the trees are not claustrophobic. They are direction posts and obstacles rather than obstructions. You can play around them, over them or under them – if you are skilful enough.

The holes do not follow any obvious routing. There are ‘endless’ twists and turns but two weeks later I can vividly recall every hole and the sequence of every shot I played. That’s a great sign of any golf course.

There isn’t the hint of weak hole. You cannot say Portumna has a great start or a great finish, great par-4s, par-5s or par-3s because everything about the golf course is great!

Few 9-holes courses ‘improve’ when expanded to 18 but Portumna certainly did. Connaughton has allowed the course to develop naturally since it became an 18-holes layout in 1992 based on ‘preliminary advice’ from the late, Eddie Hackett that he did not have the opportunity to bring to fruition.

It’s a course where you are only barely aware of other golfers and never hear the shout ‘Fore!’ A few bunkers here and there would, no doubt, improve the plainness of some of the green complexes but that isn’t really necessary and would become a high cost maintenance expense in these straightened times.

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with leaving well enough alone. The beautifully slanted greens and natural run offs are sufficient hazards, in my view.

Easily, the most memorable hole is the par-5, 17th. What a fantastic test of strategy, courage and skill! I’m told the 17th caused plenty of grief for the competitors during the Irish Seniors Amateur Championship in July (won by Garth McGimpsey.) I can see why!

The hole reminded me of the iconic 18th at San Lorenzo in the Algarve but it is longer and tougher. Don’t just take my word for it - go to Portumna (ASAP) and find out for yourself! The weekday green fee is a snip at €20-euro (€30 at weekends) so, there’s no excuse.

Did You Win A Watch Yet?

Denis J. Keating’s hole-in-one at the 7th hole during the Carrigogunnell Cup at Limerick Golf Club won him a beautiful Hugo Boss watch presented by HowDidiDo and qualified him to join an exclusive ‘rewards and discounts club.’ Almost 1000 Hugo Boss-HowDidiDo watches have been won since April and the expectation is that the number could exceed 3000 before the competition ends in October.

Any golfer who scores a hole-in-one in a qualifying competition at his home club that is verifiable by HowDidiDo is eligible. Some interesting facts and figures have been revealed in conjunction with this unique competition.

Men are 30% more likely than women to score a hole-in-one. Scottish golfers are the most dead-eyed. Irish ladies are twice as likely to score an ace as Welsh ladies.

The total number of competitors (so far) is 2.04 million. The total of unique competitors: 467,446. The odds of winning are surprisingly good: 1 in every 47 competitions yields a prizewinner at odds less than 2,000:1 (based on 1,857 rounds for each hole-in-one scored.)