The purpose of the Review of The Month feature is twofold. Top100GolfCourses has always aimed to salute and encourage those who are putting admirable effort into reviewing the world’s great golf courses. Moving forward, we are also looking to learn from these experts! We’ll be chatting with the month’s star authors and discussing topics such as golf in their area, what they like to see in a strong course review, and of course dig a little deeper into their own winning review.
June 2022’s Review of The Month comes from James Bloomer, who urgently wants you to seek out Enniscrone...but also maybe not.
1. Few would argue that Ireland’s golf heritage is a secret. And yet your review suggests Enniscrone (No. 15 in Top 100’s current Ireland rankings) slips under the radar! Is it overlooked by golf travelers?
I have the real sense that it does. Both there, and to an even greater extent at Carne, I was really struck by the absence of anything like the numbers of foreign visitors I have previously seen (and been a part of) at, say, Ballybunion and Tralee, or Portrush, Portstewart and County Down in the North. My review jokily starts with a wish that Enniscrone stays our secret, but it is truly overlooked, and it should not be. For me, it stands shoulder to shoulder in terms of course quality with all those I have listed above (except County Down). It is that good.
2. Although Eddie Hackett has many designs to his name, almost all of them are in the Republic of Ireland. Does his work receive much discussion in England, in your experience?
Staggering as it is, given the quality of his work, you will find many good players in England who, unless they have traveled to the Republic, have literally never heard of Eddie Hackett. They are missing out. Enniscrone and Carne are just two of the strong reasons to change that.
3. You encourage employing a caddie when playing at Enniscrone. Obviously they offer benefits from a labour and strategy perspective, but are they also beneficial in helping you better understand a golf course from an architectural standpoint?
Caddies (as opposed to bag-carriers) always help, in that way and others. The best will not just show you how they think you should play their course, but the pitfalls of doing it other ways. Many (Greg at Enniscrone was a great example) can tell you which bunker was taken out and when, and exactly why certain changes were made. To understand, for example, that the club moved the angle of the tee at the brilliant short 11th slightly to the right so that the chasm to the right of the green (think “Calamity” at Portrush, only possibly deeper!) was slightly less visible so as to intimidate higher handicappers less, reasoning that, especially with a right hand pin, competitive players would still know that it was there, was a fascinating insight into the kind of gradual (but always thoughtful) architectural evolution that great courses should always be open to. Enniscrone wants to be a Championship links, but also fun for everyone. Greg helped me understand exactly why, for my taste, they were succeeding.
4. Do you find caddies more helpful at certain courses versus others? Or in different varieties of golf course (i.e. Links golf versus Parkland)?
A caddie helps me anywhere, but always more if I have a competition card in my hand, or am on a links. Playing the “Wild Atlantic Dunes” at Carne without a caddie would have been lunacy. Closer to home, how would anyone playing Sandwich know how to play, say, the 5th there without a caddie? The same goes for the first par 5 at Deal, where without a caddie, the greensite might cause the unwary to pass out the first time, or (at one of my favourite hidden gems) Hayling’s 13th, where, absent a caddie, you might easily wonder where the rest of the golf course had gone, and miss out on appreciating quirky, clever, thought-provoking holes in each case!
5. Now that you’re a celebrated “Review of The Month” winner, let us know what factors you appreciate in a strong golf course review!
I’m not sure about “celebrated,” but what I want to do is help someone decide whether the course I am reviewing is one they want to visit. As much as I admire (and often read) hole-by-hole reviews, I’m not sure many have time for that these days, and thus I don’t do that. I like a review that captures in a few sentences a sense of what makes a course great (or not). It will always be mostly about the course itself for me, but if the review gives just a hint of the magic of a place, then that’s even better. Clubhouse amenities and service reviews might matter to some, and that’s fine, but they don’t matter to me at all.
6. What’s one course that you’d love to write a review for during 2022 (or plan to)?
There are so very many! I have been lucky enough to play many, even most, of the great courses of England, Ireland and Wales in more than 30 years of playing this great game, but I have (mostly) an odd gap where Scotland ought to be! I have now had to postpone a trip to North Berwick to play in a small tournament there three times for obvious reasons, and friends I trust tell me that I cannot possibly leave that any longer for the combination of fun, history and challenge. I am hoping to get there this autumn, and will review if I do.