Destination Golf Ireland 2018 * - Page 36

New Forest Esker Hills If golf courses were rollercoasters then Esker Hills would be the biggest ride of all. The eskers make this course almost hypnotic with their heaving rhythm through the lilting Co. Offaly countryside. The design was by Christy O’Connor Jr (1997), who must have been in his element shaping holes between all the twists and turns that this landscape has created. Shane Lowry’s name will forever be associated with Esker Hills, but this is a course bristling with adventure: right from the off you are thrown into the mounds, doglegging through the valleys, and up and over those swinging elevation changes. Trees constantly guide the way around a wonderfully routed course. Such a rolling terrain might suggest a buggy is necessary – many golfers will tell you as much – but hit the ball straight and Esker Hills is much more enjoyable on foot. The course throws in four lakes to add some extra drama. Birr Another Leinster gem, Birr uses the tumbling and natural Co. Offaly eskers to magnificent effect and has been doing so since 1893. The course also promises plenty of woods and tree-lined corridors, which make Birr an exceptionally colourful round of golf. The stunning par threes are a case in point but there are so many good holes here (the run from the 10th to the 15th is outstanding) that singling out a few is almost unfair. What is particularly memorable is the visual appeal that greets you on every tee. The shapes and movement of holes make them fun to play – even when shots are blind – and while it may only be a par 70, it doesn’t lack in length, with par fours measuring from 294 metres (middle white tees) to 407 metres. 34 New Forest One of Ireland’s impressive new parklands (2006), New Forest has an equally impressive clubhouse… a restored 18th century manor house. The drive up to it sets the tone as you see the ease with which the course flows over the parkland estate. One of New Forest’s great advantages is that it is both formidable and fun to play. You’ll certainly need your driver as fairways coast along the heavily wooded perimeter, around ponds and marshes, and over streams and bridges. The biggest challenge, however, comes on the approach as green complexes are creatively shaped and heavily bunkered. Many holes are noteworthy and the stretch from the 2nd to the 6th is an appetising start. The shot of the day goes to the approach on the par four 13th, with the green sitting by a pond and embraced by towering trees. Mullingar Mullingar is a revered parkland, renowned for its annual Scratch Cup (won by many Irish greats) and its par three 2nd. This is old school charm. In 1937, the legendary James Braid created the simplest of designs by planting tees to indicate tee box and green positions. Or so the story goes. Braid wanted the current 10th to be the 1st, but it was agreed that it was too tough a start. As a 458 yard par four dogleg you’ll understand why. The course was upgraded between 2003 and 2005, which saw some new greens and bunkering, and a reorientation of three holes. The par 72 remains but Mullingar now plays two to three shots harder than before. Importantly, its Braid character remains. Heavy trees pour over bumpy terrain giving that all-embracing, mature setting and, while not a long course (6,412 yards), the trees will wreak havoc on an errant driver.