When The Golf Course at Adare Manor opened last year it quickly acquired the mantle of ‘Ireland’s Augusta’. Indeed, many went further and described it as ‘Europe’s Augusta’.
The quality, the greens, the level of conditioning and even the technology are of such a standard that comparisons with the mighty jewel of Georgia were inevitable, but the name of golf architect Tom Fazio was undoubtedly the strongest link of all, given that he worked on both courses.
Comparisons, however, are always difficult. A course has to stand on its own merits and, ultimately, Adare will want to be known for the five-star offering it provides, both on and off the course.
That said, comparisons with one of the world’s most famous courses will do it no harm at all and, with its five-star hotel, it will be a popular destination for bucket-list hunting golfers.
What Adare offers is truly remarkable. The ‘old’ course was designed by Robert Trent Jones Senior and opened in 1995. It was widely regarded as Ireland’s best parkland. Then, along came JP McManus, in 2014, and a huge overhaul of the entire resort began.
Work on the golf course began in March 2016, and two years later it re-opened with a splash. In April 2018, Pádraig Harrington, Paul McGinley, Shane Lowry and Rory McIlroy played a fourball match in the most glorious of conditions. It was a show-stopper, as images of the beauty of the resort and the course were beamed across the world.
Talk of hosting the Ryder Cup turned from casual aspiration to calm confidence: “As an Irishman, I would be one 100% behind this as a venue to stage the Ryder Cup,” said McGinley.
As golf’s first Major came to its thrilling conclusion last week, anyone who has played at Adare (few of us have played Augusta, after all) will get a flavour for what the Georgia course feels like.
The sub-air technology that runs underneath the greens in Co Limerick allows for a quality (and speed) unlike almost anywhere else in Europe. The same technology is used at Augusta. Some of the shapes and flow of the fairways at Augusta are reflected in Fazio’s re-imagining of Adare, even if the heavily tumbling landscape of Augusta is not mirrored in Ireland.
Then, there are the vast greens and run-offs, something for which Augusta is both feared and revered. There is little to no rough on either course, which makes everything (especially the water features) appear perfect. Also, let’s not forget the conditioning of the courses: You only have to watch the Masters to appreciate that the place looks like it is laid with pristine carpet. That is most definitely the case at Adare.
The golf magazines are having a field day with The Golf Course at Adare Manor… and the name ‘Augusta’ keeps appearing in reviews and rankings, alike, but how do these various magazines rank Adare in their Top 100s?
Much depends on the balance of the ranking criteria in play and who makes up the judging panels. There is also the endless face-off between parkland and links courses. Ranking courses is no easy task… ranking a course that has raised the bar in conditioning to stratospheric new heights has only compounded the challenge, but one thing is constant in the following four rankings: Adare Manor is the top parkland by some distance.
Adare ranking: 3rd.
Ranking criteria: Course design and layout (35%), quality of test and playability (25%), condition and presentation (20%), facilities and visitor experience (10%), visual appeal (10%).
The magazine had this to say: “The biggest challenge for the panel was where it (Adare) would rank in the top 10. How do you rank a course so completely revamped and mentioned in the same breath as the world’s most illustrious inland courses (including Augusta)? “… its playability is one of Adare’s great strengths. The most remarkable upgrade imaginable. Ireland’s top parkland of yesteryear is back and better than ever.”
The K Club was the second-ranked Irish parkland at 16th.
Adare ranking: 10th.
Ranking criteria: Shot-making/variety (20 points), design variety (10 points), WOW factor (10 points), memorability (10 points), condition (10 points), playability (10 points), degree of difficulty/fairness (10 points).
In an oddly cryptic description of the course, the magazine described Adare thus: “… Tom Fazio has taken what was already Ireland’s highest-ranking parkland golf course and transformed it into a parkland. The course has been created in harmony with the outstanding natural beauty of its surroundings…”
Mount Juliet was the second-ranked Irish parkland at 19th.
Adare ranking: 12th.
Ranking criteria: Design quality (30%), setting (20%), playability (15%), presentation (15%), memorability (10%), hole consistency (10%).
The magazine mixed enthusiastic praise with caution, despite including the course as the highest new entry at 12.
“It seems almost lazy to compare Adare Manor with Augusta National, but there really is no better comparison, given the quality of the conditioning and the extravagant actions the club has taken to ensure the course remains playable year-round.”
“… some of our panel feel it is now less interesting off the tee than before and that the perched greens and vast run-offs become a little bit repetitive after a while.”
Lough Erne was the second-ranked Irish parkland at 19th.
Adare ranking: 25th (Britain and Ireland).
Ranking Criteria: Quality of test and design (35%), conditioning and presentation (30%), visual appeal (15%), facilities (10%), visitor experience (10%).
The ranking of 25th in Golf Monthly’s Britain and Ireland Top 100 means Adare is Ireland’s sixth-ranked course overall and our highest ranked parkland. Only four British inland courses lie ahead of Adare, including the two at Sunningdale. In addition to Druids Glen in second place at 77, the only other Irish parklands to make the list were Mount Juliet (81) and Lough Erne (91).
“The newly-refurbished Irish gem’s stunning conditioning is the closest the UK’s (sic) gets to Augusta” the magazine wrote. “Having been closed for a full two years in order to refresh, renew and redesign what was already a beautiful Robert Trent Jones Snr layout, the butterfly that has emerged from Tom Fazio’s chrysalis is now flying high and receiving the most glowing praise possible.”
“The result is arguably the most Augusta-like experience anywhere in Europe.”
That’s a lot of references to Augusta and, while it’s fanciful to put Adare and Augusta side-by-side, given the colour, shapes and beauty we see on our screens every April, the rankings aren’t based on convenient comparisons. Adare is big, exuberant and extravagant. It is a statement of intent and it boasts a quality other courses will undoubtedly aspire to. Adare will therefore be in the top tier of all Irish rankings for a long time to come but where it sits is a matter of personal opinion. Is it the 3rd best? Is it 6th, 10th or 12th?
You’ll have to play it and decide for yourself.