Links Golf: Same Equipment, Same Rules – Different Game

,

Beware A Dry Links Course!

In April 2017, I travelled to North West Golf Club on the shores of Lough Swilly in North Donegal. After a few dry weeks in spring, our local parkland course had become a joy to play with firm but forgiving greens and fairways. Our club was playing in the Jimmy Bruen Shield at North West so it was time to get some practice in.

The round that followed was one that I can still remember vividly. After years of playing golf around Donegal, links golf has become second nature. The wind, thick rough and treacherous bunkers are all a given. On this day in late April however, after a month of very little rain, I was again left surprised by the tricks that a links golf course can throw at you. On the first hole, a classic Par 4 bordering the Swilly, a short approach of 120 yards with a wedge looked perfect. A bounce at the front of the green left me thinking of birdie. But then the ball kept going. And going. And going. AND GOING!! I arrived at my ball 30 yards through the green and thought to myself, this is going to be a long round!

This is links golf and this is why the game played as it was originally meant is both infectious and infuriating!

Forget Your Plan

Growing up in Donegal, I still have vivid memories of waking up on the morning of a round at one of the local links courses and checking out the window to see if the trees are moving. Even to this day, a journey to Ballyliffin or Murvagh is spent checking the wind as you approach the course.

A gentle breeze as you leave your accommodation inland can be a strong gale as you reach the coast. The beauty of this is that you can play the same links course 3 days running and depending on the wind, it can be a completely different challenge each day.

A practice round on a links layout can be completely redundant as a change in wind has huge ramifications. A Par 5 that is a chance to hit the green in two on Tuesday can be a struggle to reach in 3 on Wednesday.

To succeed on a links you must be able to think on your feet during your round. Just this weekend during a round at Rosapenna Old Tom Morris, the first 9 holes were played in a gale. All of a sudden on the 10th tee, nothing! This type of change in conditions can play with your mind so mental strength on a links course is almost as important as rhythm and technique.

Shot Making

Every year for a few weeks the top professionals make their way to Britain and Ireland and display their ability to adapt. These guys have spent their lives figuring out all of the shots and so when it comes to a low stinger under the wind or controlling spin on a short iron, they have all of the shots.

For us amateur golfer however, these things don’t come so easily. Having said that, there are plenty of easy to use techniques which allow us to handle the wind better. Finding this out and conducting an excellent wind shot can be one of the greatest pleasures you will feel.

Take this example. As a parkland course golfer, your average drive is a 240 yard shot with a fairly high trajectory and a slight fade. You can knock this out for 14 long holes on your local parkland and have a nice shot into the green every time. Step up onto a 430 yard par 4 into the teeth of the wind on your local links course. Watch that same drive rise into the wind as the cut spin gets exemplified and the ball begins to balloon. Before the ball reaches land it may look as if it is going backwards. Your playing partners will be in fits of laughter as you approach your second shot from just in front of the ladies tee box over 300 yards from the green!

Here is where the ability to vary your shot making is vital. Links golfers will learn to reduce spin, create a lower flight and choke back on power to ensure that the wind has minimal effect. This technique can take a while but the satisfaction when you figure out how to negotiate a head wind is something else.

championship links course in Donegal

The Footsteps of Seve

One of the greatest joys of links golf is trying to learn a new breed of short game. Although your 60 degree wedge will be in the bag on a links, there is a time and a place. Predicting the bounce of a high floated shot is perilous. As well as this you will face lies on a links course which are as tight as you could imagine. Try to get cute with a flop shot and the dreaded thin comes into play.

If you stand 20 yards short of the green with humps and hollows all the way to the hole, often on a links course you will be looking at either an extremely long putt or a very low chip and run with a 5 iron. Try this on your local parkland and you may be asked to leave the course and learn how to play golf!

That is the beauty of the game on a links. You are thinking on every shot. There is always option A, B or C and again it can take a bit of mental fortitude to deal with this. If you pick shot B and it goes wrong you can be left thinking about how you should have taken shot A or B! If you carry this frustration with you for a few holes, you can soon find your scorecard ruined beyond repair.

Irelands North Coast – A New Links Golf Hub

Ireland has long been established as a world leader when it comes to links courses. The South West of the country and the Dublin region have a reputation that has been forged over decades. In the past few years however, a shift has started to occur with an increased focus on the North Coast and North West.

Over the course of a 3 year period from 2017, 2 Irish Opens and a British Open will take place on the links courses of a stretch of land bordering the North Atlantic. Ballyliffin, Portstewart and Royal Portrush form the newest championship links golf stretch in the country. The beauty, challenge and mystique of these layouts has to be seen to be believed.

As you travel further west, you will encounter links gems such as Rosapenna, Portsalon, North West Golf Club, Narin & Portnoo, Murvagh and Rosses Point. Each of these links courses offer a unique challenge and a championship standard layout of the highest order. Add to this the rugged landscape of Irelands Wild Atlantic Way and the world famous local hospitality, and you will have a links golf break to remember.

To book your links golf getaway in Ireland contact green golf travel today on +353 74 91 16660 or email info@greengolftravel.com

North West Golf Club – Understated Excellence & Unbeatable Value

,

On the shore of Lough Swilly, you will find an unassuming golf club that has been welcoming golfers for over 125 years.

North West Golf Club is a links layout that has been dubbed ‘the St Andrews of Ireland’. The club is a founder member of the GUI and our relationship with this gem of Irish golf ensures that our guests are given a warm welcome as well as greatly reduced green fees.

Our course review will give you a taste of what to expect when you book a golf break at a local hotel including a round at North West Golf Club.

The St Andrews of Ireland

If you drive from Letterkenny, you will get a glimpse across North West Golf Club as you approach Buncrana. The links layout with fairways running closely beside each other is relatively flat as you look across the course from the main road. As you approach the clubhouse however, you see that the fairways are punctuated with mounds, undulations, and pot bunkers. Suddenly the description of the ‘St Andrews of Ireland’ makes sense.

Not only does to topography of the course relate to St Andrews, but the undoubted history of North West will remind those well-travelled golfers of the home of golf. The clubhouse is small, traditional, welcoming and the history is palpable. Black & white pictures of golfers in plus 4’s adorn the corridors and the hickory shafts and moustaches in these images depict the era. The beauty of golf is that despite great advances in technology, the basics of the game have never changed. While we wait to tee off at North West, you are fully aware that the challenges today are similar to those faced by the founders of this wonderful club over 125 years ago.

The Course

As soon as you step onto the 1st tee at North West, you know you are in for a treat. Perched on the banks of Lough Swilly with views across to the Fanad Peninsula and out the Atlantic, the setting is simply stunning. The exposed nature of the course dictates that you will rarely enjoy a calm day.

The yardage of just over 6,300 yards is not daunting by modern standards. Having said that, this course is far from easy. Thick rough, tight fairways, steep bunkers and a guarantee of wind all ensure a serious challenge. As well as this, during summer months, a dry spell of weather will make the course an absolute rock to play on. Approach shots landing 30 yards short and ending up through the green are not uncommon. This is links golf as it was meant to be with a premium placed on imagination, shot making and judgement.

Holes 1-5 hug the coastline with memorable photo opportunities at almost every shot. You then make the turn back towards the club house and hug the main road between 6 – 10. While playing down wind you would be well advised to score well as you are guaranteed that a challenge awaits on the holes into the breeze.

The final 7 holes offer a little more room for error off the tee as they are not bordered by the sea or main road but be warned, thick rough awaits anything too far off line.

Many golfers will have an opinion of the best hole with the 2nd, 3rd, 7th, 11th and 17th all viable candidates. For this golfer however, there can be only one, the 16th or ‘Fairy’ to give its proper name.

This 93 yard par 3 is a true anomaly in modern golf. From a raised tee, you will not see the full green with banks in front blocking the view of the putting surface. Around the green you will find severe run off areas, 4 pot bunkers, a small ditch if you veer very far right and a lightning fast putting surface.

This hole will live long in the memory and could offer up a birdie as easily as a double boget. Green Golf Travel names this hole among the best 18 in Donegal and it is not difficult to see why.

Value for Green Golf Travel Clients

Ranked number 82 in Ireland by Irish Golfer magazine, this course is well respected. Based only a short distance from the magnificent Ballyliffin Golf Club this part of Inishowen is certainly a hub for quality links golf. Despite this ranking, green fees at North West Golf Club are some of the most reasonable you will find in Ireland.

If you are looking for quality as well as value, you will not find a better golf break anywhere in Ireland. Local hotels such as the Inishowen Gateway in Buncrana or the Clanree in Letterkenny will offer excellent accommodation options. We have preferred rates at the club as well as local hotels and if you want to play an Irish Open course, we could always add a round at Ballyliffin to your itinerary. The host of the 2018 Irish Open is just a short drive from NWGC.

Get in touch today to get your Inishowen itinerary including a round at North West and we can guarantee you will not be disappointed.

For more information email patrick@greengolftravel.com

Check out the video below for an idea of what you can expect when you arrive at North West Golf Club

A Word With the Pro – Seamus McMonagle

,

‘The harder you work, the luckier you get.’

Gary Player

 

Christmas is behind us and the opportunities to get out on the course are going to be limited over the coming weeks. For us golfers however, the thought of putting the clubs into hibernation until April does nor bear thinking about!

We sat down with our local professional Seamus McMonagle to have a chat about how amateur golfers can make the best of the winter months. Here are his top 5 tips for winter work to ensure your handicap plummets in the summer months.

1) Have a Plan

So I am in my studio in mid April and a client arrives for a lesson. ‘OK Seamus, golf season started this week. I have some massive events coming up in the next few weeks so lets get working on changing my swing. I would like to get cut at least 3 or 4 shots this year!’.

Cue my head in hands moment! We have had 5 months of inactivity, during which major swing changes could be implemented and practiced but now the client wants a major overhaul a few days before the season starts. Can you see why this might be frustrating?!

So here is the right way to do it. Visit your pro in early January. Tell him you are willing to work but want to improve your game. He will assess your swing and can give you a 3 or 4 month plan to improve your game dramatically. Major swing improvements are going to mean poor golf in the short term. But during the time of year when you are playing for a turkey or winter league, short term pain is not the end of the world. Especially if it means the winners circle in some of the major summer events.

So here is the tip, visit your pro in Winter, tell him you are ready to work and want a plan and then get practicing during the off season. The driving range, the practice putting green and in front of your mirror at home should all become very familiar locations. Think long term for long term benefits.

Plan in the Winter for Success in Summer

2) Short Game

During the winter,  you will often find your ball in a lie that has a lot more give under the ball than you would like when you get around the green.

If you play on a parkland course, you may notice that all of a sudden you start to duff chip shots in the heavy conditions. This is not due to a decrease in your ability but just down to the fact that you are using the same chipping technique in winter as you do in summer.

For my clients that play parkland in winter, I will give you a winter chipping technique that allows for improved contact and avoids the dreaded chunk shot leaving you just a foot or two from where you started. Chipping can be simple in the winter but only if you have the tools to adapt your game to the changed conditions which I will relay in a lesson. You will then have this knowledge for every wet winter moving forward!

Winter Chipping Can be Challenging

 

3)Wind Shots

In the cold winter winds, adapting your ball flight is imperative. Hitting into a strong wind with your average swing and usual club will just not work.

So here is an example of what to do in this situation. You have your usual 7 iron distance into a stiff wind. Take out your 5 iron, put it back in your stance the width of one golf ball and also out the width of one golf ball. The reason for going back in the stance is to keep the flight low and you move the ball out to avoid coming into contact too steep and creating unwanted spin.

You then take a ¾ swing and watch the ball fly low under the wind without huge amounts of spin which would cause it to veer offline. Playing in the wind becomes much more manageable when you have the tools to adapt but as with winter chipping, if you do not adapt your game you will find these conditions very tough.

Golf in the Wind is Hard!

4)Golf Yoga

This one might come a bit from left field! From the tip of your toes to the top of your neck, the full body is involved in the movement of the golf swing. On a Saturday morning in winter, you can be guaranteed that the temperature will be low and you may not have swung a golf club in a week or two. Try unleashing a full-blooded drive in these conditions and poor shot or injury is always a risk.

Many golfers may already participate in a yoga class and can see the benefits that this has around flexibility, fitness and breathing. Over the course of the coming months, I will be setting up a golf yoga class with specific attention given to the movements that relate to the golf swing and how they can help your game.

We mentioned previously the importance of having a plan around your game and this is equally important for your body. A golf yoga class will help improve your flexibility, which will translate onto the golf course. A free body can lead to a free golf swing and the removal of tight muscles and joints over a period of time, will not only will you swing better but your chance of injury can also be greatly reduced.

Not only will golf yoga help the body but it can also improve your game from the mental side.

By building up a knowledge of how to calm the body and mind, your performance in these pressure situations will improve dramatically.

Miguel Knows How to Stretch

5)Nutrition & Fitness

Winter is a time when a few extra pounds can begin to appear on the weighing scales. This is not the end of the world and if you look at the like of Shane Lowry and Kiradech Aphibarnrat, it is clear that you don’t need to be an elite athlete to be a great golfer.

Having said this, there is no doubting that keeping an eye on your fitness over the winter months can help your golf game. One of the major issues that amateur golfers suffer from in an 18-hole round can be fatigue. By tiring out toward the end of the round both your mind and body suffer and of course this is reflected in your score.

Keep yourself active in the winter months. Depending on your level of fitness, this can range from taking a daily walk to participating in a fitness class. Many golfers get involved in running during the off season or cycling can also be a popular pastime. Whatever the activity, keeping your body active will reflect on the golf course.

The same can also be said for your diet. The food you eat on the week of an important competition can have a direct impact on your performance. The right type of food will keep you energised and sharp until the final putt on the 18th green. On the flip side, poor diet choices can leave you lethargic coming off the second tee.

As someone who has a keen interest in nutrition, I am happy to advise clients during winter months on what types of food will keep them trim in the off season and feeling fit for the start of the 2018 golfing calendar.

On April 13th GGT, Seamus McMonagle & Arnolds Hotel will be hosting a golf, yoga, relaxation and tuition weekend. 

2 Nights B&B at Arnolds, Golf Lessons, Yoga Classes and Golf at Dunfanaghy GC for only €209 per person.

For more information email patrick@greengolftravel.com

 

Golf & Yoga – A Match Made in Heaven

,

‘Golfers who stay in the present just keep playing the shot at hand until they run out of holes. Then they add it up.’

Dr Bob Rotella

 

The Dreaded Late Collapse

Us amateur golfers have all been there. 16 holes played in the monthly medal, 35 points on the scorecard and the winning line in sight. Standing on the 17th tee many of us will be writing our winning speech, wondering what prize we will get and thinking about how good it will feel when we see another shot come off our handicap. Then it all goes pear shaped. A double bogey on 17 is followed by a drive out of bounds on 18 and we walk into the locker room shell shocked. Where did it all go wrong?

Golfers of all levels will relate to this situation and that feeling of utter frustration driving back home on early Sunday afternoon. Each shot on those fateful last two holes replaying in our minds. ‘How could my swing have fallen apart after being so consistent for 16 holes?!’ Many of us will think wish that we could return to the scene of the crime and we would handle it so much better. But in reality, would we?

Professional golfers are born champions and have been winning tournaments since they were kids and even they can wilt in the heat of the pressure. Us average amateurs experience this maybe a few times a year and so when the winning line approaches, many of us are ill equipped to deal with it.

1 Point in the last 2 Holes = Frustration!

The Power of the Mind

Most of us are aware that our thoughts affect our golf game. When we see a lake to the right of the green and obsess about not going in the lake, where do we normally go? Or when we have a two-foot putt and are thinking about where to hit our next drive, what normally happens? These are all lessons that most golfers have learned the hard way.

So when we are stood on the 17th tee with a chance of winning, how many of us remain as calm as we were on the 4th? Very few is my educated guess. And here in lies our problem. As our mind wanders to winning, we become excited. Our heart rate rises, our breathing speeds up and we can begin to perspire more heavily. Suddenly the goal posts have moved. Our chances of a clean contact are reduced as our swing speeds up, our timing is lost and our muscles from head to toe tighten.

Cue 1 point from the final two holes and an evening spent kicking the cat!

The Lessons From Yoga  

Camilo Knows!

In explaining what yoga can bring to this situation, the physical benefits would be an obvious starting point. Many golfers who have suffered injury or want to become fitter have discovered yoga can greatly help our physical approach to the game. Improved flexibility, stamina and fitness will help your golf game and these are all obvious benefits of regular yoga practice. Nothing new here you say.

The lessons of yoga are much deeper than this however.

Most golfers have never considered whether or not we breathe properly. We just breathe and to the best of our knowledge it has been working so why would we ever think about that! The reality is that very few of us breathe as deeply as we should, and this will become apparent when your yoga instructor asks you to breathe deeply from your diaphragm. Go through this process of deep breathing for a minute or two and see how it feels. A deep sense of calm and relaxation anyone? OK so just hold that thought for now.

Apart from breathing, how many of us are ever actually present without a single thought of the future or past. ‘I must remember to send that email’ ‘I wish I hadn’t agreed to this 5k’, ‘That fella has some nerve for what he said to me last week’ etc. etc. etc.

This lack of presence is so common we don’t even acknowledge it but observe what happens at the end of your first yoga class. You are lying in silence on your back on the yoga mat and your instructor asks you to remove all thoughts and feel the moment. Crikey, there is that deep sense of calm and relaxation again!

Your Golf Game

OK so we have visited the yoga class, carried out some weird poses and felt pretty calm at the end of the class. But what on earth has this got to do with our golf game?

Lets return to that 17th tee on the monthly medal. We have tapped in for par on 16 and have a gap of 1 minute until we tee off.

Now there is no need to roll out a yoga mat and lie on our back on the tee. This will most likely result in your playing partners falling into the nearest bunker they are laughing so hard. But how about we decide to close our eyes, focus on deep breathing, and remove all thoughts from our mind for just that minute or even 15 second before our turn to tee off. Those who have been practicing yoga regularly will find this exercise to be second nature. Who would like to be calm, relaxed and present in this situation?

There it is. Your heart rate remains stable, your palms are not sweaty, and your breathing is steady. Above all you are present, and the significance of the shot is lost. Hey presto you do what you have been doing all day and stripe your drive down the middle. Repeat the process for another hole and a half and you are home and dry.

Lose the Macho Image

these destinations are as cool as the king Arnold Palmer

This is What a Cool ‘Winner’ Looks Like

As a male golfer writing this post, I apologise to all the ladies out there screaming, ‘we have known how great yoga is for years!’. I am also conscious of coming across sexist as I know that there are many men out there who have practiced yoga and felt the benefits. The reality is however, if you visit any yoga class in Ireland or across the world, us men will be outnumbered.

So lets lose the macho rubbish. Do you enjoy being a cool loser? If my handicap can drop by a couple of shots I am willing to open my mind and you should be too. Controlling your thinking and being present will help your scoring ability, becoming more flexible and fitter will help your swing and guess what, if you start going to yoga regularly, you might just improve your diet!

Look up your local yoga studio. Instead of a new driver invest in your body and mind this winter and you can not only benefit your golf game but also your every day life. Set the trend and it won’t be long before your playing partners are desperate to find out where this ice-cold operator coming down the stretch suddenly appeared from!

On April 13th GGT & Arnolds Hotel will be hosting a golf, yoga, relaxation and tuition weekend. 

2 Nights B&B at Arnolds, Golf Lessons, Yoga Classes and Golf at Dunfanaghy GC for only €209 per person.

For more information email patrick@greengolftravel.com

 

Seamus McMonagle Carrying out a Golf Clinic