The north Dublin links swapped places with Royal Co Down since the previous poll. Pat Ruddy’s European Club at Brittas Bay continues its upward march and is now in third ahead of Royal Portrush and Ballybunion.
Portrush has improved four places but Ballybunion has dropped two with the greater length of the Co Antrim course explained as the reason.
“No club has done more in the last 12 months than Royal Portrush, which now measures 7,134 yards off the back tees, compared with 6,845 yards before the work commenced,” noted the judging panel.
“In Ballybunion’s move down the order, length was considered to be a significant factor, this time in a negative sense. The view was taken that at 6,598 yards off the back tees, the Co Kerry links has become increasingly vulnerable to modern equipment. Even in the nine years since it staged the Irish Open, tournament players are driving the ball an average of 14 yards further.”
Interestingly, the Co Louth links at Baltray, host recently to the 3 Irish Open and a likely venue again in 2010, has dropped back from 7th to 9th whereas Tralee has improved by two spots to 11th.
The panel made no secret of their preference for links courses with only Adare Manor (7), The K Club (10), Mount Juliet (12), Killarney, Killeen, (14), and the Heritage, (19) making it into the top 20.
Even then, Adare dropped three places and Mount Juliet and Killarney by one and two respectively.
As always with an exercise of this nature, some courses will be happy and some distinctly unhappy. Fitting nicely into the first category are Tramore, who have jumped 37 places to 54th and Bantry Park, where impressive ongoing development has seen them move smoothly to 53rd, up 23 places.
However, you can only imagine what the members of Mullingar think of being dropped 23 spots to 56th. The Westmeath course annually houses the country’s most prestigious Scratch Cup and has been considerably revamped and drained in recent years. Also smarting are Mullingar’s near neighbours Glasson, Athlone and Tullamore, respectively down 14, 12 and 12 places while the lovely links at Dooks has been dropped from 54th to 67th.
And if Ballybunion feel aggrieved at seeing their beloved Old Course downgraded, they will also be disappointed that the Cashen drops from 77th to 88th in the pecking order.
Seven new courses have been introduced to the top 100. They are led by Kilkenny Golf Club, which one might have expected to have been there a long time ago, and now comes in as high as 57th. Others who will be pleased at earning a place of distinction for the first time are South County, 70th; Castle Dargan, a Darren Clarke design near Sligo, 81; Ashbourne, Co Meath, 85th; Castlecomer, Co Kilkenny, 88th; Castletroy, 89th, and Limerick County, 94th.