A morning sleep in to try and catch up on some well deserved sleep was thwarted with an incorrect 1am wake up call to Gary’s room. Not something you need…
Our first morning of catchup since starting the trip was peppered with domestic duties including hand washing laundry (something Gary struggled with but Dave was an expert in) now scattered to dry in our respective bathrooms.
Clearing of emails and a mid morning meeting with Tom Cotter from Slieve Donard (our wonderful host) made us feel like we were normal again.
Slieve Donard is a beautiful hotel which forms the backdrop to almost all the photos you see when you think of Royal County Down. The tall spire fits perfectly into the backdrop of the Mountains of Mourne and it is a short 200 metre walk to the first tee.
David had a massage to which the masseuse stated “you have a few knots between your shoulder blades but it is somewhat better”.
Our 3:36pm tee time allowed us to have a long chat with the secretary David Wilson and this reaffirmed that many issues faced by golf clubs are similar across the globe.
David indicated that the GFC did have some impact on external visitors but this is slowly coming back with a strong season forecast.
Visitor income is an important component of the revenue model, which we have seen on almost every course we have visited in England, Scotland and Ireland.
And then to the course itself. Boy this is one great old course. Liam, our forecaddie, saved us several shots telling us where to hit (and where not to), reading our putts and pointing out other features of the course. The course features at least 6 blind shots demanding local knowledge or caddy assistance to know where to go.
On the 15th hole after errant drives left we were informed by Liam that a 90 yard shot would be the best option. Instead Gary and Dave asked Liam “how far over the jungle before us” to which we were informed “140 yards”. Easy! Not! Dead right! 8 recovery shots and Gary eventually holed out for a 15 (surprisingly for no points). David ground out one point with a double bogey and we moved on… In fact one should ALWAYS listen to their caddy (mental note Gary and David).
The course is interesting in that the holes wind up and back twice with no cross holes. The course heads back to the clubhouse (unusual for the courses we have played to date) with the most amazing view at the top of the 9th fairway. The hole sweeps down before you, the clubhouse, Slieve Donard and Mountains of Mourne forming the perfect backdrop.
There are many challenging holes including the 207 metre par 3 4th hole which beautiful as it is requires a solid tee shot to find the putting surface.
The look and style of the bunkering was not what we had seen in other links courses. Bunkers were not revetted but rather long wispy grass protruded around the upper edges. This added challenge (and aesthetic appeal) to each hole.
Our favorite friend heather (not a girl but a plant!) was prevalent throughout the rough and something we has not seen since the heathland courses of London (Sunningdale, Walton Heath etc).
We absolutely loved this course and would play it again and again. It is a course that demands accurate driving and precise irons but if you are playing well you will have birdie chances. Two of the three par 5’s are reachable with the right wind conditions and can result in birdies. A number of testing par 4’s (over 400 metres in length) add teeth to the course and the conditions (thankfully only a moderate wind with no rain) can easily add 5 or 6 shots rogue par of the course.
Shot of the day
The shot of the day came early. Gary hit a good drive on the par 5 1st hole. This was then followed by a 3 wood to a blind green which finished 20 feet from the hole. An eagle putt that finished 2 inches short was the ingredient for a tap in birdie.
Overall birdie count
David (0 birdies, cumulative 10)
Gary (2 birdies, cumulative 26)
Big day tomorrow with a 4:30am start to Belfast airport for a flight to Inverness and an afternoon game at Royal Dormoch – exciting times on one of the famous Highlands courses of Scotland.