It’s a tough life being one of Ireland’s top amateurs, especially if you are Harry Diamond. Just days after he went on a run all the way to the quarter finals at the West Of Ireland Championship, the Belvoir Park man was waving to the adoring crowds from the balcony at Buckingham Palace along the Royal newlyweds Kate and William. Go Harry!!
Friday, April 29, 2011
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Thursday, April 28, 2011
I approach tough links courses in the same way I approached the Leaving Cert, job interviews, driving tests, bank manager meetings and doing tax returns. In other words, mainly with fear of humiliation and getting found out. But the funny thing is after being subjected to the magnificent test that is Sandy Hills in Rosapenna Hotel and Golf Resort and being crunched to a little square of twisted metal I emerged the other side like a brand new golfing machine. Recycled even!
Pic: The magnificent setting of Rosapenna, County Donegal
You wont find many course reviews on the site, I try to keep them as a special reserve for places I love.
I kind of have a little rule of thumb that has served me well since I started golfcentraldaily and it is to not write reviews of courses I don’t like. Though I say to managers “I will”, (mostly to make them go away) I don’t. It doesn’t serve any purpose to criticize a course in print; it jeopardizes jobs, affects tourism and acts as a Microsoft word kick in the nuts for the course. It is thus with the greatest of pleasure that I want to tell you about a place called Sandy Hills in Rosapenna Hotel and Golf Resort, Co. Donegal that I’m honoured to review. Even though I wasn’t asked to!
Pic: John Casey will greet you in the proshop.
I think we all have a comfort zone in our own golf clubs. Plopping my golf ball around my own home course in a couple over allows me to maintain a pretty respectable 3/4 ish handicap, but I know in my heart of hearts it’s only a charade, a façade. For there are courses, like Sandy Hills, dotted around our small island that are real examinations, where plopping will be greeted with one raised eyebrow from the dunes, where, in order to be classed as a real golfer, you must either (s) hit or get off the pot.
Pat Ruddy designed Sandy Hills. Now I never met the man and to be honest I’m a bit afraid to at this stage, but until the day does come when we shake hands, I can give an honest appraisal of his work, without being accused of pandering or fear of repercussion. I’ve heard him described as everything from “genius” to “lunatic” but then again that’s exactly what many people say about me. Whatever he may or may not be, Pat Ruddy is a brilliant course designer. You see his name on there, you know its good. He is to course design what Gore-Tex is to raingear having also magic’d up the likes of Ballyliffin and the European Club. If fantastic courses were war medals, Pat Ruddy would be Commander in Chief and Sandy Hills would be a medal of honour pinned to his chest. Pic: Pat Ruddy acting all serious.
Sandy Hills expects you to be warmed up before you reach the first tee. It’s not like a title fight where there’s a first round of sizing up, jabbing and ducking around the ring. The opening holes hit you like a shuddering right hook, you know straight away you’re in a battle where every aspect of your golfing abilities will be tested. Though the sightlines through the dunes from the tees appear scary, you will be rewarded if you fully commit to your tee shot because your ball needs to be both long and accurate to even make it to the second round. My knees were clearly wobbled for the first five holes, my metaphorical gumshield was out and I was hanging on for dear life to scramble pars, before my head finally cleared and I began to face the challenge head on.
And boy was I glad I came around, just in time for the sixth hole. Ruddy must have been watching Dances with Wolves before designing this one, because the scenery is epic (with the beach and Muckish Mountain) but the hole is full of drama. Whether it will have a happy ending for you depends on whether you can crunch your sphere as good as you’ve ever hit over the crest from the tee, find the small green with a long iron, then negotiate the gentle slopes on the hard unblemished green that guards par. The sixth hole is typical of the Sandy Hills test. Get a bit steery on your approach and settle for some hillwalking in the dunes. “Find a golf ball in here?” questioned my host Frank Casey in the dunes, “You wouldn’t find a soccer ball in here!” That’s eloquent for a Donegal man, trust me!
As a lead auditor in another sector for ten years, I use a reasonably strict set of mental criteria to rate a great course. One aspect, in my opinion, of an elite course is in the layout of the holes. The very best courses have “individual” holes; this doesnt mean they dont fit together, but rather when you are playing a certain hole, it requires your full attention. Your mind is so busy you don’t think about “the next one” even for one second, and most importantly in most cases you cant even see it. Sandy Hills ticks all these boxes. Set among the dunes, with stunning scenery all around, the layout is a complex labyrinth that you can either let swallow you up or you can roll your sleeves up, knuckle down and get busy trying to solve it.
Old Tom Morris
If I’m making Sandy Hills sound a little too tough for the modest player, Rosapenna have also addressed this issue in a most delightful way. They only went and got Old Tom Morris to design their other 18, the “Old Links” which runs around the perimeter of Sandy Hills and is a fine little links of its own. You could say the Old Links plays the role of main road to the Sandy Hills Formula One circuit!
Pic: Old Tom presiding over affairs outside the Pavilion. That’s a pretty strong right hand grip he has there. Imagine, he could have won more Major’s if I was his coach back then.
The Rosapenna estate is choc full of everything a golfer needs. A sprawling driving range, chipping greens, practice putting greens left right and centre, a massive clubhouse, and the wonderful Rosapenna Hotel make the resort a golfer’s Mecca. I found myself eenthusiastically racing out to the practice chipping green at 8.30pm just to practice some flop shots; just because I could. If golf was soccer, Barcelona would come to Rosapenna for their pre season training!
The clubhouse is nigh on 18,000 square foot, which actually qualifies under mega building regulations as a “Pavillion”. The restaurant and the bar are enormous and both look out over the 18th from on top of the property.
A really cool little touch too is all the golf memorabilia gathered up by Frank Casey Jnr and presented around the walls like signed GMac and Podge flags, Rory pictures, shirts, balls and much more from all the big names.
Pic: Now we know where Padraig’s USPGA flag went!
Pic (below): The bar- a vital yet often overlooked aspect of a top golf course!
There’s plenty to do also for the non golfer in Rosapenna and surrounds. The hotel alongside the golf club has loads of facilities and a big pool for the kids. Just outside the gates of the golf club starts a little circuit of about 5 miles of coast road which brings you up into the village of Downings where you can grab a nice sandwich in McNutts (not a makey up name) before heading off to see the stunning coast. And it is truly stunning. I’m not even half qualified to describe it.
All in all, for me Sandy Hills is a superb test of golf, a five handicap here could probably compete on the European Tour. It goes straight in to my top 10 courses in Ireland and is a must play on your golf Bucket List.
Pic: Literally up the road this is the view . I wish I had listened more in Geography class!
Okay it’s a little bit hard to get to but then the best things always are; I’m thinking Everest here, or the good looking girl the other side of the nightclub. You know the type, she’s the Premiership, you’re non league. But trust me if you make the effort to get up and go, and your playing well (!!!!!) you’ll enjoy every second of it.
Contact and Website Info
Find out more about Rosapenna Hotel and Golf Resort by checking out their website http://www.rosapenna.ie/
Rosapenna Hotel & Golf Resort, Downings, Co Donegal, Ireland
Hotel: Tel: +353 (0)74 91 55301 | Fax: +353 (0)74 91 55128 | Email : Hotel Enquiries
Golf : Tel: +353 (0)74 91 55000 | Fax: +353 (0)74 91 55899 | Email: Golf Enquiries
Top 10 Leaderboard. Click on pic to view full Leaderboard.
First Round Highlights
Click on pic below to view highlights
With top Irish PGA pro John Kelly of Harrington Golf. To book a session call John on 086-8155248. View the video of this exercise here coming soon.
Early extension is when a player gets to the top of the backswing, he moves his hips closer to the ball on the downswing to achieve impact. This ruins the correct sequence of the downswing, your left hip blocks your way, forcing the hands to become very active through the shot. This leads to very inconsistent golf shots.
A great to practice drill on the range is to place your golf bag behind you at address. Not touching, but about 3 inches or so away. Now get yourself into position on your backswing and you start your downswing your left hip should be turning and moving closer to the bag. If your left hip is tipping the bag even better, you’re really going to create lots of room for your club to make great contact with the ball. Practice this tip and enjoy get a great swing sequence!
Leading on from the successes of GMac and WeeMac we’ve thought it only right and proper to christen Damien McGrane, DMag. The man from the Royal County celebrated the upcoming nuptuals of wee Willy and Kate by shooting a blistering 66 in Korea to site on top of the leaderboard.
Wednesday, April 27, 2011
First and second last week with Brandt Snedeker (34/1) and Luke Donald (10/1)
Luke Donald 9/1
Life goes on, the world rankings go on and Luke Donald will go on. To win. Lost out in a playoff last week at Hilton Head to Brandt Snedeker but emerged without any cuts. If you take away the Northern Trust Open, Donald hasn’t been outside the top 10 since the Tour Championship last September. That’s nine out of the last 10 events he has played. Its all about putting in TPC Louisiana, something that this guy does better than all the rest. Luuuuuke!
Nick Watney 14/1
There was a burden of expectation on Nick in Augusta, that much we know. The bookies fancied a young winner but hadn’t bargained on Schwartzel. As it turned Augusta was Watney’s worst result on the season (46th), before that he hadn’t finished worse than 13th in seven starts. Winner of the WGC Cadillac and near of the top of loads of stats, watch out again for the winner here in 2007, Nick Watney.
Charles Howell 33/1
Slipped out in price since missing the cut at The Heritage but I give stick insect Howell a squeak this week. Top 10’d in the Honda, shot three good rounds in Houston and finished eighth on a tough track in San Antonio. Howell played well at TPC Louisiana in 2009 finishing tied for second behind Jerry Kelly and also tied for second in 2006 when the event used to be played at English Turn.
Bubba Watson 22/1
Bubba laughs at 7,300 yards. Since his win at The Farmers back in January Bubba’s form has been dodgy at best. What better time to turn it around though than coming in to the meat of the season. Bubba gets on 75% on the greens in regulation, helped by an average drive of 308 yards. That’s’ Bubba-long. If he can get his putter humming, this could be a big week.
Jeff Overton 50/1
This time last year Overton returned after a dismal display in Houston to tie second at the Zurich Classic. This year his form has been even worse, with only one decent finish, sixth at the Honda. However TPC Louisiana does tend to lend itself to the lesser lights with the likes of Lee Janzen, Peter Lonard and David Toms all doing well here in the recent past. We know from Celtic Manor that the boy can putt, so from 50/1 couple of quid each way would not be a waste.
Tuesday, April 26, 2011
Congrats to Paul Cutler of Portstewart on winnning the 2011 West Of Ireland Championship in Rosses Point, County Sligo. Cutler beat Alan Dunbar in the final 4&2. Congrats to Paul, all the players, event director Enda Lonergan and all at Rosses Point for what was an excellent event.
The Golfbidder team went to Orlando to check out the very latest offering from top iron manufacturer TaylorMade. Here we review blades, muscle backs and cavity backs. Dont forget you can get them all on Golfbidder.
Craig McEvoy got in touch to tell us about the upcoming Lucan Golf Club Senior and Junior Scratch Cups which takes place next Sunday 1st May 2011. It is a 36 hole strokeplay event with a two tee start and presentation to take place at 8.00pm that evening.
Some of Ireland’s top amateurs will be in action such as Kelan McDonagh, James Monaghan, Rory McNamara, Gary McGrane, Brendan Walton, Barry Anderson, Sean Carter, Chris Drumm to name just a few along with some of Lucan Golf Club’s finest Richie O'Donovan, Pio O’Leary, Martin O’Toole, Mark Clifford, Craig McEvoy & Mark Reck.
With an interactive LIVE leaderboard up in the bar throughout the day to and great prizes on offer with a prize for course record also, it promises to be a great event. For more info and tee times check out the website http://www.lucangolfclub.ie/
Check out Karl’s website www.golf-brain.com
Last week we spoke about the comfort trap and the need to break out of what we termed your “comfort zone”. I always remember a phrase Jack Nicklaus said many years ago about coming down the stretch in Majors. He said ‘Give me THAT feeling you get on the back nine on Sunday, that is what I hit all of the practice balls for’. Nicklaus knew in those white heat moments of Major winning opportunities he was going to feel uncomfortable but, rather than resist it, he actually played a perfect reverse psychology trick on himself by actually WELCOMING the feelings of discomfort. The ironic thing is if you do welcome these uncomfortable feelings, they actually cease to have much of a hold on you. Your brain deals with it better because it has planned and expected to feel discomfort. This is the opposite of what most people do, which is to HOPE they don’t get the feelings of nervousness and anxiety but then they panic when they do come along. Whatever we resist, we strengthen and whatever we embrace, we can work with. The principle is exactly the same for you and your golf as it was for Jack Nicklaus. If you get into a position where you are way under your handicap or about to break 90 for the first time, you WILL feel uncomfortable, you will get a bit jumpy. But, if you EXPECT it and you PLAN for it, when it comes along you will be much better equipped deal with the situation. I remember once hearing a quote which went along the lines ‘Successful people are prepared to feel uncomfortable to achieve their goals’ and I am sure that is EXACTLY the case. As we stated at the beginning, our brain is wired to seek out familiarity and comfort but, if you want to achieve anything with your golf and, indeed, the rest of your life, the chances are you will need to resist the pull of the familiar, go into unchartered water and give yourself the chance to come out the other side having got closer to your true potential.
This week’s prize is a fourball at the magnificent Bunclody Golf and Fishing Club. Bunclody run an excellent Open Singles every Wednesday for just €35.00. To book call 053 937 4444 or check out their website www.bunclodygfc.ie
To enter just put your answer, name and email in the widget on the right hand side.
Question? Name the last two English winners of the Irish Open.
Congrats to last weeks winner Niall Carroll, Athlone, Westmeath who answered “16” and wins a fourball in Rosses Point.
What’s all this then? Belly putters and long putters are back? Yes it seems it’s finally cool to yield a 49-inch Scotty Cameron fishing rod again. Well if it’s good enough for Adam Scott, it’s good enough for the rest of us. On the practice ground at Hilton Head last week on the PGA Tour no fewer than two dozen players were experimenting with long and belly putters on the practice green. Even Lee Westwood used in last week in Indonesia. Once the badge of honour for Seniors and those with frayed nerves, now a must have weapon in a winners bag.
Or nearly. Though no person using a long putter has ever one a mainstream Major there have been senior majors won with them including by Bruce Lietzke and Bernhard Langer. Angel Cabrera won the Masters in 2009 using a belly-length putter but not quite held in his belly for obvious reasons.
With his performance at the Masters Adam Scott nearly broke not only the Aussie hoodoo but also the long putterin a Major hoodoo. Sergio Garcia used a belly putter at the British O pen at Carnoustie in 2007, losing to Padraig Harrington in a playoff; and Fred Couples nearly won the Masters in 2006 until he tripped over his belly putter down the stretch. That year's runner-up, Tim Clark, also uses a long putter.
Check out Golfbidder’s massive range of preowned clubs by clicking on the pic.
The invention of the belly putter is credited to Paul Runyan, who back in 1936 at the Belmont Open held in Boston, stuck his putter in his stomach and widening his stance for balance in the wind. He later lengthened his putter to find touch on longer putts. Years after Runyan wrote in Golf Digest that belly and long should be banned because they provided an advantage for those feeling nerves on the greens.
Nerves didn’t affect Brendan Steele at the Texas Open two week’s back either who used a belly putter to win in San Antonio. He joins Martin Laird in the list of belly putting winners already this year on Tour.
If you are having trouble with your putter why not give the belly putter or long putter a try. As a person who made the change 5 years myself to a Ping Craz-E belly and lost four shots in the first year after doing so, I cant recommend them highly enough!
Monday, April 25, 2011
Betting Preview And Tips 2011 Ballantine’s Championship, Blackstone GC, Icheon, Seoul, Korea Republic 28 Apr 2011 - 01 May 2011
If you have been following our betting tips you will be smiling this morning as Brandt Snedeker came home at 34/1. A tenner each way on Sned would have bagged you 445 quid; enough for a brand spanking new set of sticks!
Lee Westwood 10/1
You have to think Lee Westwod got a shot in the arm with his victory in the Indonesian Masters last weekend. Becoming number one in the world for a time earlier in the year didn’t seem to sit well with him so lets hope for better in this, his second stint. Before his win last Sunday, Westwood hasn’t scored a top 10 this year but by the same token hasn’t finished worse than 30th since the Dubai Desert Classic. Eleventh at The Masters recently and bound to have the chest out and shoulders back in Korea.
Jamie Donaldson 42/1
Ever heard of the golfer’s biological clock? Guys that play well at the same time every year? The real journeyman of the Tour, Donaldson always makes enough to earn his keep but has yet to win. The Welshman’s best run of results last season was three top 10’s in Andalucia, China and this event in Korea where he tied for sixth. He’ll take heart from his tied seventh last week and though a breakthrough win might be a stretch, Donaldson is playing well enough for a top four finish.
Jeev Milka Singh 36/1
His father was an Olympic 100 metre sprinter, his mother was a international volleyball player, (neither a golfing stronghold!) so Jeevs pedigree is unquestionable. Ten of Jeev’s twelve established Tour wins have come in Asia thus it wasn’t a huge surprise to see him score his first top 10 of the campaign last week in China. Second at the inaugural Ballantine’s in 2008 after a thrilling playoff with GMac.
Thongchai Jaidee 26/1
Thongchai won this event in 2009 when it was played at Pinx GC. This year it’s been moved to Blackstone GC which is closer to the airport in an effort to attract a better field. Thus a virgin course for the entire field to negotiate. Jaidee will arrive in Korea confident following his second place finish behind Westwood in Indonesia.
Gareth Maybin 55/1
Of the Irish I fancy Gareth Maybin for a strong showing this week. After a tough month of March where he badly missed cuts in Sicily and Andalucia he seems to have found the key coming into the meat of the season. A third round 72 was a dog-ear on an otherwise unblemished copy book last week in China where he tied for tenth. Finished tied second at the Ballantine’s last year after Marcus Fraser broke clear on the back nine.
Scott Vail the caddy of Brandt Snedeker was so sure his man would win at some stage very soon that he vowed not to shave until his boss tasted victory. But then Vail showed up recently on the practice ground all clean shaven and tidy. Asked why he finally gave in to the razor, Vail replied “Too many Taliban comments!”
And then you know what happens next, Snedeker wins The Heritage!
Did you hear the one about Louis Oosthuizen and the PGA Tour announcer? On the first tee the announcer got a crash course from Louis on how to pronounce his name. He wrote it down phonetically to get it just perfect. Loo-ee West-high-zen! The when it came for Louis to tee off the announcer nailed the pronunciation to rapturous applause from the crowd. On a roll the announcer then saw “RSA” beside the name and yelled out “from Russia”!
If you haven’t seen the closing stages of the Heritage from Hilton Head this is a must watch. What a finish!