I‚??m about to tell you that Portmarnock took us quite unawares, as an impeccable example of links golf. ¬†Now, before you erupt into a rowdy chorus (‚??What? ¬†Wake up and smell the coffee you nitwits...‚?Ě), allow me to explain myself. ¬†If you please. ¬†With all the carry on that‚??s been going on ‚?? with Gretta The Great holding the reins of the puregolf2010 gypsy caravan and, more recently, The Parents Goldstein coming along for the ride too ‚?? any sense of ‚??normality‚?Ě (ha!) has disappeared without trace. ¬†It‚??s been like a rowdy courtroom sans gabble pounding judge. ¬†Order! ¬†Order! is what‚??s been missing. ¬†And so, forgive me Father, I‚??ve not had the presence of mind to mentally prepare myself. ¬†Hell I‚??d hardly realised we were playing Portmarnock until The Morning Of. ¬†Anyway. ¬†Excuses aside.
The salient point is that: Portmarnock Is Pure And Utter Class And Quite Scottish In Character (the latter being a compliment in and of itself, coming from a Scot). ¬†But before I launch into a flowery fairytale of the wonders of this little peninsula of golf wonderland, I‚??d like to introduce a couple of new friends of mine ‚?? a Kiwi and and Englishman, no less ‚?? who were gracious enough to invite me into their house for a couple of nights, which happens to overlook the course and surrounding harbour. ¬†Paula and Peter, they be named. ¬†Paula hails from the Bay of Plenty region back in Aotearoa, and moved here fresh out of school like many a Kee Wee before her. ¬†She‚??s made a very successful go of it as a property & financial consultant, and Peter (auf Somerset) has recently joined her in business. ¬†They make quite a pair.
After the chaotic day that was Baltray (burst tyres, darkness and the like), I turned up at their door looking dishevelled and weary. ¬†And I was late. ¬†Like foster parents they took me in, gave me supper and we all sat putting the world to rest in their living room for a good while. ¬†I felt like Jean Val Jean in Les Miserables when he was staying with the Bishop (although y‚??all will be glad to hear I didn‚??t steal any candlesticks). ¬†There was something comforting about Paula‚??s Kiwi accent, and that of her mother Annalise‚??s (who‚??s moved over to spend time with the grandchildren while they‚??re still young). ¬†A little slice of Nu Zillin in suburban north Dublin, of all places. ¬†Not being an authentic true blue Nu Zilliner I felt a little fraudulent, at first, but once we started sharing favourite cafes in Wellington and the like any apprehensions faded. ¬†
Mike had gone to stay in central Dublin with his posse but came to pick me up at sparrow‚??s. ¬†Paula set out a mouthwatering breakfast that thankfully didn‚??t involve any bacon, eggs or black pudding (though delicious, they‚??ve taken their toll in Ireland). ¬†And we were in the wind, some 2 kilometres or so to Portmarnock. ¬†The suburb itself is a quaint wee one. ¬†I know this because we missed the turn off to the golf course and ended up trawling up and down the main street for the right road. ¬†I‚??ve mentioned before on this blog how the Irish don‚??t like to give tourists too many clues ‚?? of course, the locals know where they‚??re going, so don‚??t need sign posts... ¬†Anyway, we got there. ¬†
Portmarnock has the only security gate we‚??ve come across in Ireland. ¬†I was having flashbacks to the gated communities of the US, to turning up in Dodgy when all y‚??er man usually sees is the latest Mercedes, BMW or Bentley. ¬†This time we were in a slick unit ‚?? The Tank ‚?? so there was no Pretty Woman On Rodeo Drive moment. ¬†Yes folks, we were in our element.
As we hit a couple of practice putts a battalion of Americans tumbled out of a ‚??Paddy‚??s Tours‚?Ě bus. ¬†Loathe to get stuck behind their number we hurried across to The Starter and politely enquired whether we might get on our way. ¬†‚??On you go boys‚?Ě. ¬†Good. ¬†
Out of Bounds all the way along the right, marked by a million white posts. ¬†It looked like the Arlington Cemetery of golf. ¬†As if the huge big estuary itself wasn‚??t enough to draw our attention to Trouble. ¬†Needless to say I pinged an ugly little punch draw 2 iron down the left, perilously close to a sadistic miscreant of a pot bunker. ¬†A few vistas at Portmarnock will do that to you...
There‚??s a wonderfully spartan, almost pared back feel to the place. ¬†Under a sky a thousand shades of grey the miniature pots looked raw. ¬†And some of them are quite miniature ‚?? take this couple that line the right hand side of the 2nd fairway (a short par 4 where the play is a long iron down the right, opening up the green). ¬†Further below is a row of the little blighters lining the entrance to the par 5 13th green. ¬†Almost Pine Valley-esque in their character. ¬†
I loved the simplicity of the 3rd hole, a short dogleg left playing around the contours of the marshland (again, marked by a sea of white pegs). ¬†No fairway bunkers; just a fairway turning smoothly away from the eye, eventually to a lovely green complex (pictured below). ¬†Here you see the variation of Portmarnock‚??s bunkering: the Tillinghast-like coffin bunker (cut a good few yards short of the surface) foiling the runner shot coming from the right, and the mineshaft-like pot guarding the left. ¬†Right and long is a generous apron, giving you a bail out area. ¬†The green itself was subtle although not flat. ¬†A tremendous hole.
By the time we reached the stroke index 1 4th hole, the morning light was quite brilliant. ¬†Contrasts abound. ¬†While the light danced across the fairways it avoided the deep pots, giving them a yet more sinister quality. ¬†Certainly a hole you want to hit a good tee shot on. ¬†The view also evoked nostalgia for my home course, Paraparaumu Beach ‚?? with the odd pine tree not really in play but making its presence known nonetheless.
It was a shame we played through a group so hurriedly on the 5th, because we ended up missing what is a crafty and enjoyable hole. ¬†The tee shot is the only blind shot on the course. ¬†Lamentably their caddie stood on the hill and marked our line, but gave us the wrong one! ¬†Both balls sailed just over his head, or slightly left, but in the event straight into the thick bracken lining the left hand side of the hole. ¬†It‚??s unfortunate to have to look for balls as you‚??re playing through...especially when the group you‚??re playing through are all sitting pretty in the middle of the fairway (albeit a wee way back).
Some of the holes at Portmarnock provide graphic illustration of why holes don‚??t need to be long to be hard. ¬†Take the perilous 8th. ¬†You tee off slightly uphill to a fairway that dodges left to avoid gorse. ¬†It‚??s the second shot however that presents the real test. ¬†With a mid- to short iron in hand you‚??re required to land the ball on a dime in order to avoid the Deep pot bunker guarding the front left and the Dornoch-like run-off to the right. ¬†Even once you‚??re on the dance floor, it has a marked pitch from back to front, so putting from behind the pin is no easy 2 putt. ¬†Great little hole. ¬†The 10th is similar (this time a dogleg to the right following a blind tee shot). ¬†And, if you ask me, even better.
Best par 3 on the course would have to be the 12th ‚?? about 140 yards or so to a green that looks impossible to hold. ¬†Michael felt that apart from this one, they were a little weak. ¬†I‚??m not so sure myself ‚?? the 15th too was a grand little hole possessed of the capacity to drive one mad. ¬†See for yourself.
14 would have to go down as one of the better par 4s in Ireland. ¬†It‚??s stroke index 2 and, I imagine, is just as hard down wind as it is with a helping breeze. ¬†The trio of pots you see in the foreground below are cut at about 240-260 (or thereabouts), so low handicappers can take it past them comfortably particularly if the wind is behind. ¬†Through the eye of the needle. ¬†However. ¬†I had something like 60 yards in after one of my better 3 woods off the tee ‚?? but a trickier 60 yard pitch you‚??ll do well to find. ¬†The green has sharp contours and a severe run-off to the left (which is invisible from down below). ¬†If you get your par here run for the hills.
18 was a grand finishing hole and one befitting of such a great course. ¬†The tee shot is daunting enough, the clubhouse revealing a bit of skirt in the background. ¬†As you round the corner onto the home stretch a sea of red and white opens up in full splendour ‚?? but then you have to concentrate on what is a demanding final blow. ¬†Big green, big pots. ¬†(I ended up in the one front left, Mike in the one front right!). ¬†Just a gorgeous picture though, more than anything. ¬†Walking off the green you feel like you‚??ve just played one of the great links. ¬†You have.
We had a good chat with Jeff Fallon ‚?? who deals with Reservations at the club ‚?? afterwards, and he very kindly furnished us with a book on the club‚??s history. ¬†I haven‚??t read it yet given our time in and around Dublin has been a manic one, but look forward to doing so...ummmm...next year. ¬†Thanks Jeff!
Being such a nice morning by this point ‚?? we were back at base camp Paula and Peter by 11ish ‚?? I decided it was high time I went for a run. ¬†The last time I pounded the pavements, I must confess, was on our last day in the US ‚?? on 12 July!!! ¬†What a lazy sod. ¬†Peter lent me a pair of his old trainers and I was off into the wind. ¬†Instead of running through the plush woodlands of Long Island, past multi-million dollar mega mansions, I was passing through the coastal villages of suburban north Dublin. ¬†Equally lovely were Sutton and Howth, where you‚??ll a vibrant harbour lined with upmarket cafes. ¬†¬†From the pier there‚??s a great view back down the harbour and all the way to Portmarnock. ¬†By the time I got back within sight of the house Peter was 50 yards from the driveway. ¬†So I raced him. ¬†Unfortunately the legs weren‚??t a hundy at this point and he pipped me to the finish. ¬†A younger, fitter JP might‚??ve had a different result.
In the evening we had a good old Kiwi BBQ under evening (ahem) sun (the type of sun that doesn‚??t radiate any heat). ¬†Very relaxing stuff. ¬†A huge thank you to Paula and Peter for your wonderful hospitality. ¬†Friends ‚?? if you‚??re ever over in Matarangi in years to come, look out for the cookery school / caf√© that Paula‚??s planning to open up!
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