Irish Open: All’s well that ends well at Ballyliffin Golf Club
Borehole at Glashedy Links has other links courses green with envy as heatwave continues
Rory McIlroy on the 17th tee during practice for the Irish Open at Ballyliffin Golf Club in Co Donegal. Photograph: Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images
A miracle? Not quite, but while links courses all over Ireland have turned into a scorched brown of late, the Glashedy Links – which will test the shot-making and creativity of players at this Dubai Duty Free Irish Open – has remained green on fairways and greens.
How come? The secret is in the club’s decision over a decade ago, when installing a new irrigation system, to drill its own borehole. “That’s been critical over the last six or seven weeks,” said John Farren, the general manager at Ballyliffin Golf Club.
“It runs out every night and tops up [overnight]...it’s probably a bit greener than you would expect for a links at this time of the year, but we will fine-tune it with the revised cutting regime so, by reducing the height of cut, those fairways will be brown in a matter of days. We wanted to keep the grass as healthy as possible for as long as possible.”
Certainly, the aesthetics – green from tee-to-green for the moment at least – have met with great approval from players.
“It’s in superb condition. It really is. I have never seen it looking better. And a lot of that has to do with the installation of an irrigation system. It enables you to control the growing condition and keep the grass manageable and not let it go over that fine edge as we saw a couple of weeks ago at the US Open. The irrigation was installed in 2007 and this is the first [proper] summer we’ve had since,” said Farren.
That investment in the irrigation system has reaped its rewards, and other tangible rewards for Co Donegal and the northwest is that it is estimated playing host to the Irish Open will result in an economic boost – over a number years – of close to €90 million.
“The overall impact to the local area for the week is €10 million, that’s just the week of the tournament. The commercial value of putting those [television] pictures into 500 million homes [globally] is probably €300-€400 million. That’s what we’re after, and that’s where the figure of €100 million comes from. In terms of the commercial value within the next two-three years to this region, I would put it at close to €100 million.”
This is a first taste of hosting an Irish Open for Ballyliffin, but already, in just savouring the appetiser ahead of the main course, the scale of the tournament – and the global exposure it has generated for the region – has fed the desire for the tournament to come back for second helpings in the future. “We’ve seen the impact it’s had on the local community. These pictures going out worldwide is not just going to have a massive impact on Ballyliffin Golf Club but on Donegal and the whole northwest, and that’s what we’re after. If we can do it once we can do it anytime.”
He added: “We have seen a spike in inquiries and bookings in terms of this year and next year with Royal Portrush hosting The Open, that’s another big year for the north coast.
“There are some fantastic links up there which are relatively undiscovered locally, never mind internationally. There are people here in Donegal this week for the first time and they’re from Dublin. It speaks volumes about where we are at and where we need to get to.”