Connemara Golf Club
Five courses in four days and everyone so different. Connemara is in a different landscape. The first trans-Atlantic aviators first set foot on European soil here. And Steve Fossett landed on the 8th fairway when making his commemorative flight. To Alcock & Brown it must have seemed like a moon landing. Imagine falling out of thick Irish cloud and finding a rock strewn but, thankfully levellish, landscape with nothing obviously fruitful growing here.
It is an un-prepossessing sight at first in a tough terrain. Hard faced white cottages have yet to be turned into chi-chi seaside villas as I suspect you don’t mess with the weather here. A carelessly constructed balcony would disappear to Dublin after the first gust.
Like Old Tom Morris building courses from what was there in front of him rather than the product of earth moving dinosaurs Eddie Hackett has used every bank and hollow to bring out the best of the landscape rather than imposing his will upon the land at his disposal.
This kind of natural design leads to a more sustainable future for golf generally and links in particular. Courses, like wine, should be products of the ‘terroir’. If it is genuine links land then it is not much good for anything other than golf and that is where the course should be; snuggling into the rumpled duvet of it’s landscape. I do not understand the thinking behind oasis like courses in the desert. If you want to go to the desert have a desert course. There is plenty of lush land for lush courses. The heritage of golf as a links game leads people to try and build links courses where they have no right to be. A misplaced links course has the faintly ridiculous look of a girl with too much make up. Much better au naturel. Non native grasses require too much make up, maintenance, water and feeding which is a waste of resources.
Connemara was built here because the land was right for links golf. Not many people live in close enough proximity to sustain a club. But if you build, it they will come. Even if they don’t all fly in directly from America they certainly find their way here. And at least they don’t all land on the eighth fairway like Steve Fossett.
The course starts on the flatter ground but gradually the gradients get steeper and great use is made of banking in front of greens considerably toughening up the ninth, tenth and twelfth. The 13th is a notable par 3 of more than 200 yards onto a molten glass green. Not a green to give your opponents any quarter with the gimmes. I loved the narrow neck on 15 and the finish offers two contradictory par 5s with steep rises and descents one with the wind, one against. One hole to battle, one to push, one to overturn or one to close out a result. It must produce grandstand finishes.
This is links golf with lots of bumping and running but it has quite a distinct character and a great contrast with those played earlier on this tour.
The club very kindly donated my green fee to Alzheimer’s Society via The Links Golfer. Thank you very much
Seagull’s view 28
Greens & bunkers 14
Links experience 16