Located a mere 15 miles to the west of Dublin city centre, Carton House is set to become a popular golfing destination. The 1,100-acre walled Carton Estate dates back to Norman times and a new luxury four-star hotel is currently being built in sympathy with Carton House, the existing ancient mansion. Carton House is not only located in a beautiful setting, but it’s easily accessible.
There are two courses, the more senior O’Meara, which opened for play in 2002 and the Montgomerie, which opened the following year. Both are contrasting in style: the O’Meara is park-like and the Montgomerie links-like. This is the second course to be designed by “Monty” and he was helped and guided by Stan Eby of European Golf Design. It’s an interesting sculptured layout which stretches out to a massive 7,300 yards from the championship tees.
Without huge defining sand dunes, links-type courses can be flat and featureless. The Montgomerie course gets its definition from manufactured undulations; swaying fescue grass, clear definition between the cuts of grass and the many deep pot bunkers. It clearly has a modern look and feel but it’s an honest an unpretentious driver’s course which hangs together rather well. There is no signature hole to speak of, just one good hole after another, and the par threes are especially noteworthy.
Clearly delighted with his creation, Colin Montgomerie said: “This is a unique project and I am privileged to be associated with it. You can’t call it a links course, but it plays like a links and has all the characteristics of a links. In designing this course, I attempted to go back to a more traditional course. I looked at the great courses around the world – Royal Melbourne, Troon, Turnberry – and worked out what is so good about them. One thing that springs to mind – bunkering. They are hazards and they work with the prevailing wind. Few holes are straight up and down the wind but tend to be across, which brings the bunkering into play. This is the kind of course where the best players would always come out on top”.
In May 2005, for the first time, the Irish Open was held on Monty’s new creation. Wales’s Stephen Dodd emerged victorious after beating England’s David Howell in a playoff. This was to be Howell's second shootout disappointment after losing in the previous week to Thomas Björn in a tense three-way playoff at the Forest of Arden in the Daily Telegraph Dunlop Masters. Despite six birdies in the final round, Monty couldn’t recover from a third-round 75 and he ended on his own course tied for 28th place.
The Irish Open was staged over the Montgomerie course in 2006 and the event returned to Maynooth in 2013.
Here's the good news -- The Carton House is a warm and wonderful top notch resort property, fortunate in having two good and different golf courses to choose from, with The Montgomery being better of the two (with The O'Meara being more "easy going" ... parkland, but almost Monterey, CA-like, how native trees, bunkering and rough outline many of the fairways). The less than good news? The difficulty playing the course lies in redundant deep bunkering, both in the fairways and around the greens. Even Monty said, "I looked at the great courses around the world -- Royal Melbourne, Troon, Turnberry -- and worked out what is so good about them. One thing that springs to mind -- bunkering." Fine ... but does nearly every bunker need to be so deep, that when you're stuck in one, playing partners can't even see your head? Don't mind a tough round at all -- but when the course relies on the same feature, over and over, to introduce difficulty -- it actually takes away from the beauty and challenge of the rest of the course. Finishing hole more parkland-like and a bit out of character ... leaving one to wonder, "what course did I just play?" The front nines from both courses would make the better composite 18, in my humble opinion. Don D.