Rob Smith meets up with senior Golf Monthly course assessor Kevin Diss to discuss his amazing, action-packed journey around Ireland last autumn
Voyage Of Discovery – Tour Of Ireland
At Golf Monthly, we are lucky enough that within our readership we are able to call on the services of around two dozen dedicated golfers to assist with our biennial listings of the Top 100 and Next 100 courses in the UK & Ireland. One of the most experienced is Kevin Diss, a gifted golfer who took early retirement from his career in camera and closed-circuit technology three years ago.
A member at both Gog Magog and John O’Gaunt, the two-handicapper has since very much enjoyed developing his photographic skills, which have spawned a second career in sports and event photography.
His work can be seen at www.kevindiss.com, and last September he undertook an ambitious and energetic tour around Ireland. Wearing his GM assessor’s hat, he set off to play no fewer than 25 excellent courses in just 16 days!
Courses List – Mount Juliet, Old Head, Killarney, Waterville, Dooks, Ballybunion, Lahinch, Doonbeg, Connemara, Carne, County Sligo, Donegal, Enniscrone, Cruit Island, Rosapenna, Portsalon, Ardglass, Royal County Down, Portstewart, Castlerock, Royal Portrush, Portmarnock
Travelling with lifelong friend Philip Davis, a former golf professional, Kevin managed to play 13 Top 100 courses, six from the Next 100 and a further six that aren’t that far away.
Now, if you know what goes into fixing up an overnight trip with three golfing friends to play a couple of courses, all you need to do is multiply that by roughly 1,000 and you will begin to understand the planning and logistics involved to co-ordinate such a feat.
Just the mileage required – 2,224 now that you ask, with almost 57 hours in the car – would be enough to put most people off. The itinerary often included two clubs in one day where the tee needed to be free at just about the right time. There would also be a new hotel or B&B to check into on every night but two.
Kevin started the planning early in the year and most things went according to plan. Hurricane Lorenzo attempted to cause a hiccup, which meant swapping one of the 18-hole days for a two-rounder.
An example of its ferocity was that Kevin’s perfectly struck 2-iron from 156 yards came up short on the last at Royal County Down. Happily, however, a little tweaking meant that everything bar the round at Adare Manor was achieved.
The route followed the Wild Atlantic Way wherever possible, and its stunning scenery was one of the real highlights. Another was Kevin’s albatross two on the par-5 17th at Castlerock.
Accompanied by his trusty Nikon, Kevin recorded all of these images and they demonstrate what a sensational treasure chest of courses we have. Here, Kevin selects his eclectic 18 holes from his epic voyage…
Hole 1 Portstewart – 417 yards, par 4
One of the best first-tee views anywhere, with the Strand Beach and Game of Thrones territory on the horizon. A great drive towards the 8th green nestling in the huge dunes.
Hole 2 Portsalon – 396 yards, par 4
The best kind of hole design – just decide how much of the beach you can carry. It’s a rival for the opening tee shot at Machrihanish.
Hole 3 Waterville – 391 yards, par 4
After the subtle 2nd, this sets out everything in front of you. An unusual green calls for a brave approach, with anything left kicking further left and a drop over a wall into the sea to the right.
Hole 4 Old Head – 415 yards, par 4
A simple risk-reward design with the tee shot tempting you to take on a bunker and the rock face. Play it safe and you can be left with a terrifying second to the green that can send your ball down the cli s to the ocean.
Hole 5 Royal Portrush (Dunluce) – 379 yards, par 4
My favourite hole in Ireland, with options from the tee that will define the approach shot and the chances of finishing on the beach.
Hole 6 Cruit Island – 150 yards, par 3
Cruit Island is unique and this hole is its most extreme. Where else could you play a hole like this?
Hole 7 County Sligo – 421 yards, par 4
Rosses Point has a great run of holes from the 6th to the 8th, with this the pick. A challenge from the tee and a great green complex.
Hole 8 Royal County Down (Championship) – 424 yards, par 4
This is a hole just waiting to trap and punish an off-line shot. Subtle, natural design at its best.
Hole 9 Doonbeg – 138 yards, par 3
A spectacular beachside location that rewards the brave!
Hole 10 Killarney (Killeen) – 149 yards, par 3
The spectacular backdrop makes this hole, but then you realise there is water everywhere and the green is a really tough target.
Hole 11 Ballybunion (Old) – 398 yards, par 4
This is a classic, with as good a view from the tee as you will find anywhere on the planet. It requires a brave line to make sure you get a good approach to the green. Classic risk-reward.
Hole 12 Lahinch – 514 yards, par 5
A simply delightful hole with choices to make on all shots. The pro’s advice to aim your drive ten yards right of the castle says it all!
Hole 13 Connemara – 206 yards, par 3
A testing signature short hole with great views across the course and a tricky green that is fast from the back.
Hole 14 Carne (Kilmore) – 471 yards, par 5
An excellent par 5 that is a huge dogleg requiring decisions all the way. The enormous dunes provide penal hazards for all shots.
Hole 15 Enniscrone – 421 yards, par 4
A tough par 4 that requires an accurate tee shot to the right side of the fairway in order to have a good line to a green defended by natural dunes.
Hole 16 Royal Portrush (Dunluce) – 202 yards, par 3
The name Calamity Corner says it all. This tough one-shotter has a huge drop waiting for anything coming up short or right.
Hole 17 Carne (Hackett) – 392 yards, par 4
A must-hit fairway that runs along the spine of a dune. Play too safe and it leaves a very challenging second shot.
Hole 18 Old Head – 399 yards, par 4
The best view in golf from an 18th tee? The hole is spectacular, with a boundary to the right that builds fear and a very tough approach.
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