Links 4032 – 40 courses in 32 days!

As the dust settles on what was an amazing trip we are reflecting on our once in a lifetime opportunity to play 40 of the world’s best golf courses and all in the space of 32 days.

It truly was a special trip and one that both of us will remember and reflect on for many years to come.

Take a look at all our blog entries below:

Ireland

Scotland

Northern Ireland

England

By golfselect

Ireland – we are sad to say goodbye

Pat Ruddy with Dave and Gary in his 6,500 book reading room

Our last full day on the Link4032 odyssey began with a hasty breakfast and a rush into the car for the 30 minute drive to The European Club in Brittas Bay (80 minutes south of Dublin).

Arriving at the club we were greeted by owner and our friend Pat Ruddy – a luminary in the world of golf. In addition to designing and owning The European Club, Pat is known through golfing circles as a course designer, writer, photographer, golf historian and overall golfing legend.

Pat took us upstairs to his library of 6,500 golf related books – yes that many! It is renowned as the best private collection of golf books in the world. He has all the classics, rare, limited edition volumes, coffee table books (including Gary’s fantastic Great Golf Down Under – volumes 1 and 2), comic books, club histories, course designers, instructional books, legends of the game and more. His more valuable pieces are kept in a special locked cabinet and the whole library is temperature controlled to ensure preservation over time.

We hit off just after 9am and were immediately impressed by the feel of the layout. Bunkers were not conventional but instead walled with wooden sleepers that gave the bunker a distinctive look. Beware however a shot that strikes the wooden faces as they tend to deflect in any direction (as Gary would attest with a three wood short of the bunker hitting the face square on and ricocheting sideways into the rough, never to be seen again!)

The greens were subtle with no noticeable movement however we soon found that putts were challenging to read and breaks around the hole needed to be negotiated in order for putts to hit the bottom of the hole.

The course requires good driving off the tee and the prevailing wind ensures that approach shots to a number of the par 4’s were played with long irons or even woods.

The European Club channels its way along the low lying dunes and we found two distinct sets of holes – the front 9 playing generally inland with only the rare glimpse of the water and then the back nine moving towards the water through the low lying dunes.

Pat designed 20 holes at his club including holes 7a and 12a – two challenging par 3’s that can be played if desired (well worth doing).

A post game lunch and further catch up with Pat and we were armed with gifts including matching European Club logoed shirts – knowing we were heading to Portmarnock for our afternoon game.

Pat has a simple formula for successful golf courses and one that many clubs would do well to follow – get the course right, spend within your means and always ensure you use the best land for the golf course and not the clubhouse (as tempting as the views may be!). Simple but so true.

If you are heading to Dublin make sure you head 1hr south to play The European Club – you will be greeted with a great golf course and genuinely friendly service from the whole Ruddy family. It is hard to believe this gem of a course is only 25 years old.

An 80 minute drive north saw us arrive at Portmarnock Golf Links, home of many famous tournaments including the Irish Open. The course is located on relatively flat land yet manages to provide the golfer with an interesting and most definitely challenging layout. After having coffee with secretary John and his assistant Jeff we headed to the tee at 5pm for our routine 18 holes (boy we love being able to start this late!).

Wind is always there and must be negotiated. Fairways were firm and fast (something we enjoy) and the greens were excellent.

The back nine really grabbed our attention and we could see how this was a great tournament course with a number of very strong finishing holes. To need to make par on the last to win is a tough ask. David naturally did this but Gary could not.

Final birdie tally

Gary (1 birdie – Portmarnock, 30 points, cumulative 51)

David (0 birdies, 32 points, cumulative 17)

Thanks to everyone who contributed to our fundraising efforts. We managed to exceed our budgeted birdies and the Door of Hope Children’s charity will benefit greatly.

And so ends the Links4032 odyssey. What a journey, what a memory. We managed to meet some amazing people, play some world class golf courses and even have time in the middle to eat and sleep (not much). There are so many thanks that must go out there and we have listed these below in no special order (except for the first thank you):

· Our wives Maureen (Gary) and Anna (David) for letting us embark on this journey

· NSW Golf Club for allowing David this opportunity

· Warren, Michael, Diane, Lloyd and Karen for managing matters in David’s absence

· Matt, Megan, Grace and Sachi in Gary’s GOLFSelect office for doing the same

To our sponsors a big thank you. When we came to you with the concept of Links4032 you embraced it immediately and without your support it would have been so much harder to undertake:

· Bolle and Bushnell – for amazing eyewear and the unbeatable Bushnell rangefinder (you really need one of these when you are on a foreign course)

· Wilson – for our golf ball supply (we went through a few), our wet weather gear (because it DOES rain over here) and for Gary’s golf clubs

· Golf Vacations Magazine – for the best golf travel magazine out there (stay tuned for an article about our trip)

· ECCO golf shoes – we have mentioned the importance of comfortable feet and ECCO take the cake. Their shoes are so comfortable you can almost sleep in them

· Timothy Neate and Ready2Golf – we looked presentable on the course and people commented often. Sorry we could never wear the shorts you gave us – Summer in Ireland/Scotland/England does not allow this!

· Glenmuir clothing – a great Scottish company and we used their jumpers often.

So where to from here? Well back to reality we suppose after some time with family (and no golf). We were both surprised at how well we coped in playing as much golf as we did in so many different places. We got on well together, had limited disagreements and all in all had a lot of fun.

For the record we are available for speaking engagements, weddings, 21sts and even baby dedications. Just give us a call or drop us an email and we will be happy to oblige.

Over coming days we will post more photos on the blog and be sure to look out for some of Gary’s photos of the courses played.

Don’t stay tuned – the journey is complete!

By golfselect

Old Head – a perfect setting for a golf course, if the wind is n ot blowing!

Gary and David on the 12th – yes there is a fairway up there!

The setting of Old Head Golf Links has to be seen to be believed. Situated on a promontory of land that juts into the Atlantic Ocean it is exposed to all elements that are thrown at it on an almost daily basis – wind and rain being amongst them.

The spectacular views are only challenged by Kauri Cliffs and Cape Kidnappers in New Zealand and in many ways surpass these views. Because the course is located on a thin, almost island piece of land, the golfer gets to see water on three different sides – and each view and aspect is completely different. What it also means is the wind will affect your shots differently on each of the 8 holes located on the edge of the cliffs.

We found the course to be in extraordinary condition with very true and fast running greens, manicured fairways and challenging but extractable rough. When the course was first being constructed one of the main challenges was getting the grass to grow. They overcame this challenge and Old Head now boast some of the best playing surfaces in Ireland.

The golf club has a number of onsite suites that provide 5 star accommodation in elegant surroundings. The lodge is set into the hillside and not viewable from the golf course yet offers outstanding views over the 17thand 18th holes from a large balcony sitting atop the lodge suites.

As with any good clifftop course, Old Head features a working lighthouse that frames a number of the holes perfectly. It is a prominent feature and a series of photos in the clubhouse that show waves crashing at the base of the lighthouse (40 metres up from the ocean itself) gives an idea of how dramatic the weather can be in this part of the world.

We were fortunate to be paired for the day with the Director of Golf Danny and an Old Head member and fellow Australian Mark. These guys were great in providing lines off the tee and especially reading the greens for us.

The General Manager Jim O’Brien was fantastic with his hospitality and providing a complete history of how Old Head developed. In the early times the challenges were great but the resilience of the owners helped this golf course come into being. Old Head enjoys a reciprocal relationship with David’s golf club in Australia – NSW Golf Club so our catchup provided a good chance for David and Jim to get to understand each others golf clubs further.

In terms of holes there are many which are memorable and in particular those located on the ocean. In our opinion however the 12thbeats them all. A long par 5 it plays directly along the cliff and as the golfer gets closer to the green the fairway becomes narrower. Miss the fairway left and say goodbye to your ball. Prominent warning signs make golfers aware of the danger of proceeding beyond a certain point.

We faced Old Head with relatively calm weather conditions that in many ways we were thankful for. All in all a great round on a very memorable course with excellent company.

Shot of the Day

An unlikely par on the 8th hole for David. After struggling with the par 5 off the tee David proceeded to hit a lob wedge over a knoll and into the hole for a well deserved par.

Overall birdie tally

Gary (2 birdies, 39 points, cumulative 50)
David (0 birdies, 31 points, cumulative 17)

After golf we made the 3 hour drive up to Druids Glen – located just south of Dublin and in close proximity to tomorrows challenge – The European Club and a catch up with our old friend and owner Pat Ruddy. Stay tuned…

By golfselect