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A Week in Ireland: Day one — Carton House (Montgomerie)

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Rather than write about why Michelle Wie shouldn’t be playing this week, I’ve decided to revisit my 2005 trip to Ireland — a precursor to the Ryder Cup that was supposed to be written for the National Post. It never happened, largely because of a switch in travel editors. Oh well — I can do a better job in more detail here.

So here it goes anyway — a trip to Ireland leaving on a Friday night and returning the following Saturday. It involved three good friends — Fairway Stevie Waxman, golf architect Ian Andrew, and his father, Gerry. I’ll follow this one with a piece about my 2006 trip to Scotland later in the month.

I’m not going to bother getting into the nuances of heading to Ireland; needless to say there was a significant hiccup involving Air Canada. We almost weren’t allowed on the plane, and then through some strange twist of fate, we managed to snag three tickets in first class (we were meeting Gerry in Dublin).

After a lengthy flight and grabbing the rental car, we went directly to our first stop — Carton House’s Montgomerie.golf course. Golf architect Mark Fine had suggested that, if we had time we should stop by the course, which only opened in recent years.

I’m generally pretty suspect of “new” links. Besides, Carton House wasn’t going to be Kingsbarns. After all, there wasn’t a sea anywhere near the course, which was located about an hour south-west of Dublin. In fact, I didn’t really expect anything more than a warm-up round after a night on the plane.

Thankfully, what we received was more than I’d anticipated. Carton House’s Montgomerie course, actually designed by European Golf Design, was a pretty strong heathland layout that wandered through a wide, slightly rolling field framed by some thick fescue.

Subtle is generally the term of the day at Carton House’s Monty course. Nothing is overwhelming, from the fairways, which are punctuated by well-placed bunkers that forced strategic play, to the greens, which rolled, but didn’t have any of the strange swails one might find on a similar course designed by Colt or Park.

That doesn’t mean the course is lacking teeth. Holes like the long par three third (210 yards), with a slightly pushed up green, create trouble even on land that might not immediately lend itself to great golf.

The course isn’t uniformly exceptional; several holes on the back stretch after the short (and quite intriguing 13th) run in the same direction, all with tee shots that favour a left to right fade. That’s not to say the stretch of golf coming home isn’t good — it is just a touch repetitive. And though the green site on the 18th is picturesque, one has to wonder why the green wasn’t placed on the other side of the majestic river that rests to the right, making for a fantastic close.

Still, the Montgomerie course was far better than expected, and looked much more intriguing than the parkland-style O’Meara sister course, which appears carved from the same character as Arnold Palmer’s K Club track.

The astounding thing about Irish golf is the fact that many of its inland courses — the previously mentioned K Club, Druids Glen and the like — mimic American parkland designs. I really have no understanding of why a North American would travel all the way to Ireland just to play North American-style golf. With that in mind, Carton House (part of a larger development that involves a hotel and housing) has generally got it right. Its attempt at a heathland layout doesn’t feel forced and was tough enough without being overwhelming.

With all of this in mind, Carton House’s Montgomerie course was far better than anticipated. It offered a nice start to a trip that included tougher and stranger links. Well worth a look.

Tomorrow: Portmarnock and The Island

The details: Day one — Carton House Montgomerie

Scorecard can be found here.

Green fee (peak season): ‚¬115 to ‚¬135

Carton House website.

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Robert Thompson

A bestselling author and award-winning columnist, Robert Thompson has been writing about business and sports, and particularly golf, for almost two decades. His reporting and commentary on golf has appeared in Golf Magazine, the Globe and Mail, T&L Golf and many other media outlets. Currently Robert is a columnist with Global Golf Post, golf analyst for Global News and Shaw Communications, and Senior Writer to ScoreGolf. The Going for the Green blog was launched in 2004.

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