Recovery now begins for links along the wild West

The world famous golf links clubs dotted along the western seaboard are counting the cost of the Atlantic storms that lashed the country over the weekend.

A few, like Ballybunion and Waterville in Kerry, escaped relatively unscathed while those in Clare and up the coast in Galway and Sligo are facing major tasks to return to normality

Noel Cronin and Vari McGreevy, the respective general managers at Waterville and Ballybunion, stressed that the money spent on rock walls and gabions (cages or boxes filled with rocks) over recent years had paid off handsomely and apart from major cleaning-up operations, believed their courses stood up remarkably well to the appalling weather barrage.

Given the massive amount of damage caused to the promenade and car parks bordering the Lahinch links, the golf club’s secretary/manager Paddy Keane admitted that the situation there could have been a whole lot worse.

“The 3rd tee and a portion of the 2nd green were under water and obviously all the greens and tees took a bit of a hammering,” he reported. “The boundary fence was flattened and several areas were flooded there’s a lot of water on the Castle course. However, that’s always the case when there’s a spring high tide and it will recede quickly. The main task is cleaning the place up because it looks like every bit of debris came in on top of us.”

Joe Russell, general manager at nearby Doonbeg Links, was also putting on a brave face.

“The storm hit us hard and there’s a lot of debris but considering what was going on all around us, I suppose we got off quite lightly,” he said. “The sea took away five to 10 metres including the blue tee at the 18th and also impacted on the green at the great little par three 14th. Like so many of our neighbours, there will be a need to replace some fencing and there’s a lot of cleaning up to be done but it’s good to hear that this was hopefully our last bad storm of the winter.”

Connemara Golf Club was cut off from nearby Clifden by the floods but the links itself survived without too much damage.

“The foot bridge between the 1st green and 2nd green on the New Nine was washed away and there was sea water on the first fairway while we also lost the roof on the machinery shed,” said club professional Hugh O’Neill.

David O’Donovan, secretary/manager at Co Sligo Golf Club, admits that the Atlantic got to within 10 yards of the fairway at the 17th, one of the finest par fours in Irish golf, and that they have also lost 3½ metres of dunes further to the right of the hole. “We experienced a 5.1-metre tide blown by a gale force wind on Friday morning,” said O’Donovan. “Our biggest concern is to protect the tee at the par three 16th, where the sea is only 12 paces away and the land to right of the 17th. We spent €380,000 on protecting a 400-metre stretch from the 15th green to midway up the 17th about six years ago but couldn’t get planning permission to finish off another 75 metres. That area was beached by the storm and the water got into the dunes. But we have since been given approval to do the remainder of the work which will start in 10 day.”


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