For golfers, the 85th Augusta Masters once again evoked visions of lush, sweeping greens, greener jackets, perfect water features, blazes of colour and instantly recognisable golf holes. And so many great golfing memories.
Perhaps that is why golf courses around the world are so eager to boast their own ‘Amen Corner’. Ireland has several* and it is understandable that clubs will use this as part of their marketing efforts. But taking the next step up and claiming to be the Augusta of Ireland is a bold, bold statement.
And here’s the quandary... Ireland can put forward four courses where the Augusta title can be considered. Let’s rate the claims of each:
The mighty JB Carr called the club “the most scenic course in Ireland” and ‘Ireland’s Augusta’… and he should know.
The course’s designer, the late Paddy Merrigan, must have been delighted with such high praise and there’s no doubt that Woodenbridge boasts a beautiful setting in the Avoca Valley: the hillsides are drenched in trees and the Aughrim and Avoca rivers complement the bucolic setting.
Augusta Claim Rating: 4/10
Augusta is a hilly course — even hillier than the cameras show — whereas Woodenbridge is mostly flat. Augusta’s beauty is on the course itself and while Woodenbridge is undeniably charming it is the valley setting and rivers winding through the course that embellish the club’s unique selling proposition.
Similar to Woodenbridge, this is little known outside its region and yet it promises a wonderful day’s golf.
This is an arboretum parkland with over 60 species of trees stretched across the landscape. Many native trees are hundreds of years old while others (e.g. a Japanese Cedar planted in 1853, and a Monkey Puzzle in 1856) demonstrate the forward planning of Coollattin Estate’s owners.
Such a setting promises an array of colours as well as greens which are dwarfed by trunks and branches.
Peter McEvoy designed the second nine in 1997, and said of the trees and flowers and azaleas that they “are more at home here than at Augusta”… hence its inclusion here.
Augusta Claim Ratin g: 5/10
The changes in elevation are cleverly used to show off the scale of the course although they don’t match Augusta’s hills. The beauty of Coollattin and that sense of being dwarfed by trees do, however, give it an edge over Woodenbridge.
The ‘new’ Adare reopened in 2018, following a complete makeover by Tom Fazio. The resort (owned by JP McManus) wants the course to become the ‘Augusta of Europe’ and, with Fazio contributing to the design of 14 holes at Augusta National, that is a genuine claim.
There’s no question that the conditioning of Adare is phenomenal — there is nothing like it in Ireland — and the greens and green complexes are mesmerising in their appearance and presentation. SubAir systems — which they also have at Augusta —were introduced into these vast greens, allowing the greens team to control the moisture and speed of the putting surfaces.
Trees were cleared to open up the course and speed up play and, in another nod to Augusta, there is very little rough.
Augusta Claim Rating: 7/10
There are so many matching parts that Adare can certainly make a strong case for Ireland’s Augusta, especially with the River Maine making such a dramatic appearance (just like Rae’s Creek). There isn’t as much colour here as there is at Augusta (or Druids Glen) and, again, the elevation changes are only pronounced on the magical 13th hole.
Personally, as much as I understand the idea that Adare could be known as the ‘Augusta of Europe’, I suspect it will be more a case of other countries wanting to boast that they have the ‘Adare of France’ the ‘Adare of Canada’ etc… especially after the Ryder Cup is hosted here. Aim high!
As one of Ireland’s top parklands, with four Irish Opens cementing its reputation, what stands out is the impressive variety of holes and the colour on and around the course… old stone walls, a suspension bridge, the druid’s altar and attractive plantings around greens. Water features abound (the par threes are drenched in it) and the back nine is both brilliant and tough.
There are certain holes you can pick out to make comparisons to Augusta — and of those the par-3s on 8 and 12, the par-4 7th and the terrifying par-4 13th standout, both for their colour and water (the par-3s) as well as their elevation changes (the par-4s). Little wonder, then, that it is frequently referred to as the ‘Augusta of Ireland’.
Augusta Claim Rating: 7/10
Druid’s Glen may not have Augusta’s constant heaving undulations or dark pine corridors, but it does have plenty of colour and intrigue as well as the best par threes in the country.
And let’s not forget the 13th… one of the toughest holes in Ireland, and the other holes that really do feel Augusta-like.
For many of us, Augusta comes down to the moments that made not just this weekend’s coverage so addictive, but ones from the past —Mickelson’s shot off the pine needles at 15, Rory’s disaster on the 10th, Tiger’s outrageous chip-in on 16, Sandy Lyle’s bunker shot on 18, and Tiger’s remarkable win in 2019.
Yes, the golf course is special and sublime, but what would it be to you and me if we didn’t see the greatest golfers working their magic?
Calling yourself the Augusta of Ireland, or Europe, is a fun claim that makes ears prick up but there’s a giant pinch of salt in there, too. This is not Georgia, and we don’t serve Pimento Cheese sandwiches.
- *Other Irish courses that have been referenced as the ‘Augusta of Ireland’ include Ashbourne, Athlone, Beech Park, Carrick-on-Shannon, Carton House, Clonmel, Fota Island, Mannan Castle, Skibbereen, Slieve Russell, and Woodstock.