Our last day at St Andrews was greeted with an amazingly clear morning and perfect golf course photography weather. Gary was excited and headed out the door at 5am to capture the Old Course at its finest. David was more sensible and slept in.
A 9am departure for the 1 hour drive to Edinburgh Airport and then the 1.5 hour flight to Shannon Airport in the South West of Ireland was the first part of our big day. A quick stop at the local Vodafone store to get an Irish SIM card and then onwards for the one hour drive to Doonbeg Golf Course.
Kevin McGrath, another of Gary’s business colleagues, greeted us and we hit off the first hole at just after 5:30pm along with Kevin’s partner Taba in overcast but rain free weather.
The Irish town of Doonbeg is home to a wonderful Greg Norman course known by the same name. It is dramatic in its appearance and has a feel and flavour similar to the way the designer played his golf in years gone by.
Bunkers have an unkempt look about them and frame holes beautifully. The heavily moving landscape features large dunes with greens positioned perfectly into the side of these massive dunes or perched precariously on ledges with nothing separating the green from the Atlantic Ocean as the backdrop.
During construction the course design was challenged by some environmentally sensitive areas to protect an endangered snail which prevented maximum utilisation of the prevalent dunes. The course however is still fantastic and wonderfully routed taking full advantage of the available real estate.
A number of holes stood out for us including the par 3 9th with the ocean running down the left hand side (we both hit the greens with 4 and 5 irons respectively) and the short par 3 14th which makes the postage stamp hole at Royal Troon look like a post office! This green is intimidating. Sitting on the cliffs edge and although only playing 100 metres, it measures about 7 metres wide at the front and looks tiny. With the wind coming off the water a precise shot is required to find the putting surface.
The well preserved stone buildings and walls scattered through the course gave a sense of character which fitted in well with the style and feel of the course.
An unusual feature we encountered was a “greenside” bunker on the 15th. Not in the normal place but one in the middle of the green! If you hit the green in the wrong place you might find yourself having to putt away from the hole for your next shot. Thankfully this bunker did not come into play.
Doonbeg has luxury lodgings on site and a majestic clubhouse overlooking the 18th hole and Atlantic Ocean serving the best seafood chowder in Ireland. We relished another proper meal having not eaten since breakfast that same morning back in Scotland.
Overnight at Kevin and Taba’s house just down the road gave us another taste of the wonderful hospitality we have enjoyed during this trip. We collapsed into bed at just after midnight.
Shot of the Day
A flushed 4 iron by Gary to 15 feet on the 9th hole followed by a putt that crept into the hole was the only birdie of the day.
Overall birdie tally
Gary (1 birdie, cumulative 41)
David (0 birdies, cumulative 14)
The goats of Lahinch await tomorrow and a good nights sleep is needed as sleep deprivation is becoming the norm. Stay tuned…