Ivan Morris - The voice of Limerick Golf
IN spite of my previously stated misgivings, it is good news for golf in the Midwest that Lahinch has been selected by the European Tour to host the Irish Open in July, 2019.
My concerns revolve around Blake's Corner in Ennistymon, which causes the most dreadful traffic jams whenever the sun shines and people in the surrounding countryside decide that they would like to visit the beach at Lahinch.
Facilitating the many thousands of golf enthusiasts wishing to attend the Irish Open won't be an easy task for traffic management in Co Clare.
So far, only two, likely opponents have appeared on the horizon to deprive County Limerick of staging the Ryder Cup Matches in 2026 but who is to say what other bids may surface before the final decision is made late in 2019?
Not so long ago, Turkey with the full backing of its Government, were canvassing very hard to be the host nation in 2022 but Italy got the nod. Since that decision was made, the Civil War in neighbouring Syria has scuppered any thoughts of a Ryder Cup being staged in Turkey in the foreseeable future.
Meanwhile, a property development firm in Lancashire, England has begun its own bid and is currently seeking planning permission to build a championship golf course, luxury hotel and 1,000 executive homes on Grade II-listed green belt near Bolton with the aim of hosting the Ryder Cup in 2026 as part of the deal.
The £240m project will be built on the historic Hulton Park estate, which was formerly owned by the family said to be the inspiration for the TV series, Downton Abbey.
The Hulton Park project would bring tens of millions of pounds to Bolton, but it all hinges on being awarded the 2026 Ryder Cup. If the bid fails, the whole development would be called off. Green field sites have not been an impediment previously.
The Belfry, Celtic Manor, Gleneagles and this year's Le Golf National (Paris) as well as the Marco Simone Course near Rome were all built with the Hyper (ahem!) Ryder Cup in mind.
The Hulton Park project has not been met with universal approval. Environmentalists have made it clear that they will be opposing it and an even bigger problem for them may be that Adare is already so far ahead in the lobbying stakes thanks to JP McManus and his unparalleled contacts within professional golf on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean and his provenly-effective, soft-sell approach.
Ireland's ability to produce winning golf teams was evident at the GolfSixes Tournament at St. Alban's near London.
It was the second staging of this unique event. Including women professionals was a masterstroke, especially as both of the all-female teams qualified for the quarter-finals. There were 10,000 noisy spectators in attendance, mainly made up of families intent on having a happy time in a golfing environment. A similar atmosphere was evident at the Belgian Knockout last week. It is very evident that European Tour CEO, Keith Pelley is determined to break away from the week-in-week-out diet of 72-holes of stroke play tournaments and insert new varieties of competition.
Greens in regulation
SINCE I began playing golf 58-years ago, I have kept statistical data, which revealed trends on how my game was progressing or regressing.
The statistic I paid most attention to was GIRs i.e. when a ball reaches the putting surface in two or more strokes less than par.
But today's satellite-powered ShotLink system gathers more sophisticated data including 'proximity to the hole' and/or 'strokes gained'. Being on the fringe of a green with a 'handy' putt or chip from a short distance is more likely to yield a birdie or par than being on the putting surface a long way from the hole.
Even the humblest of golfers can benefit from taking note of their GIRs and fairways hit data. Believe it or not, touring Pros (across the board) average 'only' 12 GIRs per round, whereas +1-+4 handicap amateurs average 13; 0-2 handicaps (12); 3-5 (10); 6-9 (9); 10-14 (7); 15-19 (5); 20-24 (3).
You will note that the lowest handicapped amateurs hit as many greens as the pros but allowance must be made for the longer courses and more difficult pin positions in pro tournaments.
As a young man, I could achieve 15 GIR fairly consistently by playing for the centre of the green and 'accepting' stress free pars. As an older player, I’m not that accurate and rely on chip one-putting to 'save' par. It is also true that being on the fairway with one's drive is a vital part of 'hitting' greens.
The key is distance control. Hitting the ball the right distance usually puts the ball closer to the hole than being straight but past or short of the green. For average golfers, being green-high, or better still pin high is the surest pathway to lower scores. In the end, no matter what new types of competition Keith Pelley and his team of experts dream up, golf is all about score and it probably always remain that way too!
Words of the Wise
Never had a lesson in my life" is a phrase often uttered with smug satisfaction. The correct reply is: "That's why you are, and never will be better than you are."