Limerick Leader golf columnist Ivan Morris
Many thanks to my sports editor, Donn O'Sullivan, for inviting me to take up my weekly spot on this page once more after a long winter of what was supposed to be rest and recuperation.
Instead, I completed two, new, golf books; my sixth and seventh. Both required a considerable investment in time but, from my point of view, they were well worth the effort. I enjoyed the process and I learnt a lot. 125-years of Golf at Ballybunion will be launched in April and ‘the ’A History of Women’s Golf in Ireland’ (1887-2018) for the ILGU will be released in June.
The heavy workload and the appalling, long winter we have gone through, easily the worst in my living memory, meant that never before has my golf playing-activity been so restricted. Lack of physical activity isn't good and fitness for golf suffers.
I was a guest at an interesting lecture by Dr Liam Hennessy (Setanta College) at Castletroy GC on Thursday evening, which provided some useful hints on Fitness and Flexibility. I'll pass them on to you in due course. Breathe, move and make haste slowly was top of the list.
Also, this week Paul McGinley was gung-ho in the 'national press' about bringing the Irish Open to Lahinch in 2019. While it would be a wonderful boom to the Midwest economy (estimate €20-million) and the visiting pros would find the golf course a worthy challenge, the thought of 25,000+ golf enthusiasts descending on Blake's Corner in Ennistymon leaves me perplexed.
Anyone who travels to Lahinch on a regular basis experiences the horrendous bottleneck at Ennistymon. It's a disaster in traffic management on any nice summer's day, not necessarily a weekend either. There are no alternatives. Coming across North Clare from Galway via Kinvara is tortuous (Corkscrew Hill) and the road from Miltown-Malbay to Lahinch is equally narrow.
The only viable solutions that I can think of, unless by some miracle Blake's Corner could be avoided and a new road bypassing Ennistymon built in a year, is to operate a 'park and ride' system between Ennistymon and Lahinch.
Would it work? It might, but is it something that the European Tour will have to think long and hard about. I don't like saying it but I have grave doubts that it is feasible.
Pro golf tournaments follow the sun and with scores of -20 regularly occurring on the European and US PGA Tours, it is hard not to be impressed. The gap between a top tour pro and a scratch amateur is now greater than between your local scratch man and an 18-handicapper. Rory McIlroy is back in action and isn't far away from his best. Tiger Woods is back too. While he can't be expected to be as good as he once was, there are signs that there might be a hurrah or two before he calls it a day. The Super 6s tournament in Australia was the most enjoyable golf I've watched on TV for ages. Let's have more of that please.
I’m a glass half empty kind of guy and I was more depressed than usual to hear that the slightest of increases in sea levels could see the majority of the world's golf links being imperilled. We know all about ocean borne storms here and the erosion problems they cause at vulnerable venues like Lahinch, Doonbeg and Ballybunion. The consequences of a perfect storm are beyond my most pessimistic of imaginings. It is hard to deny that the entire rota of Open Championship courses could be under threat from an inevitable Water World scenario: St Andrews, Royal Troon, Royal Birkdale, Hoylake, Royal Lytham & St Annes, Muirfield, Sandwich, Turnberry, Royal Portrush and this year’s venue Carnoustie. In the next century, The Open Championship may have to be played on mountain tops!
Now, to really cheer you up what about this rather alarming question: Is golf doomed if there is another recession? The next golf recession could be worse than the last because the pressure will be on travel time and being away from work, etc. which is going to be perceived as more important than the cost of a green fee. While, many of the golfers from the USA who come here to play are relatively recession-proof, monetarily-speaking, they cannot keep on absorbing the financial blows without something giving, especially time-wise. Being money poor is one thing, being time poor is just as bad.
In the last decade more courses have been closing than opening. Those that are closing are typically the cheaper courses. The few that open tend to be more expensive, upmarket courses. I don't yet see a clear trend that golf is becoming a rich man’s game all over again but I suspect that it is. Even if the golf travel bug is hard to shake off, slow play and the length of time it takes to play 18-holes on vacation is a much bigger problem for the future ‘good health’ of golf than the actual cost of it. The length of time it takes to play 18-holes is golf's biggest enemy.