The inaugural Irish Golf Festival is set to kick off in early autumn and you could be there.
Leisure Golf is a Liverpool based company that specialises in personalised golfing breaks to Ireland. They have teamed up with sponsors Stena Line and Tourism Ireland to organise the first ever Irish Golf Festival. This will be held over four days in the heart of Ireland, coupling fine golf with a real festival atmosphere of music and enjoyment in and around the town of Tullamore in the Irish Midlands.
Tullamore is only 90 minutes drive from Stena Line's ferry port at Dun Laoghaire - and is surrounded by exceptional golf courses, three of which have been chosen to host the festival.
Once in the town of Tullamore you will find that the host clubs, Esker Hills and Tullamore are only 10 minutes drive away. The third participating course, Glasson, will take a 35 minute drive. There are many pubs and restaurants in the area and they will be encouraged to provide music or entertainment each evening - and details will be published in a complimentary printed programme.
It is hoped that the event will become an annual fixture on the golfing calendar and is expected to attract a field of over 300 golfers from all over the UK; some of which are expected to bring their families for a week to remember.
Officially the week gets underway on the Sunday evening with a special Irish reception that is bound to involve a spot of drinking; a dash of music, maybe a song or two and eventually they might get around to the details of tee times.
The Irish Golf Festival itself is a two-day event named Heart of Ireland, taking place on Monday and Wednesday over the Glasson and Tullamore courses. It will be a Stableford format with full handicap allowance with categories for ladies and gents. On Tuesday there is the Stena Line International (teams of four) and on Thursday the Tourism Ireland 'Top Town' (teams of two) both played over the Esker Hills course. They are both better ball Stableford events and participation is entirely voluntary - rather than play the team event you may wish to sleep off the Irish beer or whiskey, take a trip into the Irish countryside or even go shopping.
The golf events will be professionally organised within the rules of the game and everyone taking part will have need proof of their current handicap. It has been suggested that there should also be a 'non-handicapped' competition on the main match days and the organisers may arrange this if there is sufficient demand.
For the main two-day festival there will be prizes at each course (presented immediately after play) plus the top six overall and team prizes at the gala dinner on Thursday evening. It is impossible to put an exact figure on the value but the organisers promise there will be plenty to go around of suitable quality.
Tullamore Golf Course (pictured over) is acknowledged as one of the best parkland courses in the country, providing a championship standard to the discerning golfer. It is set in mature parkland of oak, beech and chestnut, providing a glorious setting. The original design was by James Braid but it has been radically altered under the direction of Paddy Merrigan to meet the highest standards of the modern game. The current layout, with new sand-based undulating greens, lakes, bunkering and mounding with more trees makes Tullamore an equal with the very best.
You will also discover a well-stocked shop and one of the most helpful pros around, plus a huge welcome from everyone who is part of the club.
The second venue is Glasson Golf Course. It has the capacity to overwhelm by its sublime setting, the warm welcome and the course itself - one of the most interesting you are likely to play. There can be no doubt that the 15th hole will become one of the most photographed par three's in Irish golf, with both the tee, and the green situated in Lough Ree.
Although the hole measures only 185 yards, the natural beauty of the reed beds and the perfectly arranged stonework that defines the green has been known to make the mind swim and the golf ball sink into the crystal clear waters of Lough Ree. Should this fate befall you, take heart and enjoy the spectacle of the brown trout and wild salmon leaping for their lunch. Then gather yourself for a strong finish over the remaining three holes.
The Esker Hills Golf Course (pictured above), which is to host the optional team events, has been built on land that has been sculpted by the awesome natural forces of the dying ice age 10,000 years ago. As the great glaciers retreated, they left in their wake narrow ridges of sand and gravel, which were deposited by the streams of water that had once flowed in tunnels beneath the melting ice. These ridges now comprise the magic Esker Riada, from which the course gets its name. Excellent, natural drainage is one of the more obvious advantages the terrain offers golf-course construction.
Then there are the dramatic undulations of valleys and plateaux, which - along with natural lakes and woodlands - provide splendid design features. Ryder Cup hero and course designer, Christy O'Connor Jnr, says: 'Designing Esker Hills gave me enormous satisfaction, plotting the course through nature's own sand-hills and valleys. Esker Hills is the only inland links type course I know of, which makes golf a pleasure all year round.'
There is ample accommodation from bed and breakfast to the most luxurious hotels in the area. The Tullamore Court Hotel is rated four-star and is only a few minutes walk from the town centre where there are plenty of pubs and restaurants. It features all you would expect of a four-star hotel: swimming pool, gymnasium, sauna and so on. There is good quality entertainment every night, food is of a high standard and last - but certainly not least - it serves a nice pint of Guinness.
There is also the Bridge House Hotel, where there is an award-winning bar, which must be seen, swimming pool, gymnasium, spa and full sized golf simulator. Again, everyone is very friendly, the golf simulator is a must and can be set up to play full rounds or specific holes on courses such as Old Course, St Andrews, Augusta National or The Belfry.
Stena Line Ferries are the main sponsors and it therefore follows that participants should support their generosity by sailing from Holyhead to Dun Laoghaire, Fishguard to Rosslare or Stranraer to Belfast. Stena has a modern fleet of traditional ferries and fast craft with several sailings a day from each port. The suggested package is to sail to Ireland on Sunday September 14 to arrive in time for the reception at 9pm. Stay five nights with bed and breakfast in ensuite rooms in any accommodation of your choice, attend the presentation dinner on Thursday and sail home on Friday. Included in the cost is:
Fast ferry travel on daytime crossings
Five nights bed and breakfast
Festival golf on Monday & Wednesday
All competition fees
Presentation dinner on Thursday
Extensive daily and overall prize table
All service charges and VAT
Festival travel pack with maps and guides.
The prices vary from £269 per person based on four in a car in a guesthouse, up to £355 each
to stay in the Tullamore Court.
For full details on entering the Golf Festival contact:
33 Dovedale Road
Liverpool L18 5EP
Tel: 0151 734 5200; Bookings call: 0845 458 5201 (local rates)
|| 28 - MAY 2003