Ivan Morris - The voice of Limerick Golf
GOING to different courses not too far away from Limerick with my brother, Brien (who is the Course Convener at our home club) and friends, Gerry Reeves and Eamonn Mellett on a fortnightly basis, is a painless joy that I look forward to.
Brien uses the opportunity to study what other courses are doing maintenance-wise and if the opportunity arises, he picks a few brains. You always learn things by talking to people.
Our latest visit away was to Charleville Golf Club County Cork. Like many golf clubs it has been through a rough time since the 2007 financial collapse, losing members and 9 of its 27-golf holes - a pattern repeated throughout the land apart from big, city clubs.
Too many have drifted away from the game because of pressure on their time and resources more than a disgruntlement with the game.
Few bad things happen without some good accruing too. Forced to sell some of its extensive land to eliminate bank debts, Charleville Golf Club has now transformed itself in the most simple and effective way by concentrating its resources on making its new, adjusted 18-holes route as challenging and as well maintained as it ever has been.
Without any fear of being accused of flannelling Charleville, always one of the friendliest GCs in Munster, was in superb condition last Tuesday.
The members are rightly proud of the layout in the rolling countryside. Mature trees line the lush fairways and encircle the beautiful green surfaces.
Clever course management is required to master the tricky, dogleg holes. For once brute force is not excessively rewarded. Careless waywardness is dealt with severely but what I like is - if you slightly miscue and find tree trouble the thinning out of branches and any untidy undergrowth has made a par-saving recovery possible if you are skilful enough.
Member Joy Binchy has been a golfer for longer than she cares to remember. She acknowledges that new blood is critical to the future of any GC.
"We have to keep bringing in new members every year otherwise the age profile of the Club will not be advantageous for the long haul," she says.
"Young blood is very important. In lots of ways the game is more attractive than ever. There are more golf courses and every one of them better maintained by qualified greens-keeping personnel. Equipment is better. Coaching is dramatically better. They have to be to stay up with the competition. For the ladies, golf fashions are more colourful and attractive. Clubhouse facilities are more comfortable. A meal in the clubhouse prepared by Cathriona McGrath and her team is a delight."
My fourball can vouch for that! We also appreciated the smart pro shop and the way we were welcomed by PGA pro, Mark Collins. The new head green keeper, Eoghan Buckley, trained in Canada, has brought international standards to the 'edge of Ballyhoura' where the golf course resides.
I can personally assure former members or previous visitors who might once have been disappointed with course conditioning they will no longer feel that way.
The golf ball sat up perfectly on the fairways, could be found easily in the roughs and rolled smoothly on the greens (Charleville traditionally has always had exceptional greens).
Any former member with the slightest hint of wanting to play again won't be able to resist the newly 'made up' Charleville golf course.
Now, the time is right to start growing again and attract 'new business'. The committee has kept the subscription fee at a surprisingly low €325 + GUI poll taxes. That's less than a euro per day with easy payment options available. It's irresistible! Green fees are a modest €20 on weekdays and €25 at weekends. An open singles on Tuesdays (€15) is worth considering.
There's an active ladies section and an excellent dining room where the Munster rugby team often enjoy meals when training nearby. Having sampled the fare, I am not in the least surprised.
A Word to the Wise -
What's going on? Last weekend, scoring in the Irish Open was mad. This week it is madder still in the North of Ireland QRs. Yesterday, a 13-year old shot 66 in the Munster U-14s and last Sunday, a 'usually wins' 66 in the July Medal at Limerick GC wasn't mapped. A 63 didn't win either. Mike McInerney off of 17, shot a 61. Then, I heard of a 62, by 18-handicapper John Coleman that won the June Medal at Ballyneety.
It regularly takes 43-pts (7-under par) to win the open singles at Castletroy (the toughest course around these parts). What's the common denominator? The distance handicap golfers are hitting the ball? My home course has issued this notice. It is a new one but I'm surprised I haven't seen it before: The Board is concerned about the growing level of dangerous long driving. If you are a long hitter, you should be particularly cautious when driving from the 15th and 17th (white) tee boxes. If you are capable of reaching the greens, or, close to, please wait for them to be vacated. Extra care is required when driving from the 15th in relation to players occupying the 16th tee. Please be mindful of safety. Do not take chances.
The game has changed because of the livliler ball. A pre-1995 ball in play would rein the long knockers in!