Should parkland courses be brought back into Irish Open loop?

It would be only fair for Lough Erne to again be considered as an Irish Open host venue

The 165 yards par 3, 15th hole ‘Walled Garden’ on the Faldo Championship Course at Lough Erne Resort. Photograph: David Cannon/Getty Images

The 165 yards par 3, 15th hole ‘Walled Garden’ on the Faldo Championship Course at Lough Erne Resort. Photograph: David Cannon/Getty Images

 

As an experiment, the so-called “Links Swing” segment of the European Tour season - with the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open as an important cog in the wheel - has worked . . . but only to a certain extent, not fully.

Because there have also been speed bumps too, with the quality of fields not always matching the status of its historical pedigree or the prize money on offer. The idea that a swing incorporating the Scottish, Irish and British Opens in successive weeks would have a queue of the game’s elite players queuing up hasn’t quite materialised.

Next year’s tournament at Lahinch - with Paul McGinley assuming the hosting role from Rory McIlroy - provides an X-Factor on a number of fronts: firstly, because it is a unique course which meanders through dunes with famed holes like the Klondkye and the Dell; secondly, because of its location in the height of tourism season; and thirdly, the McGinley factor because you just know he will put his heart and soul into the role as host. It should be great.

After next year, though, is it time to bring back some parkland courses?

For sure, Adare Manor - with eyes on the 2026 Ryder Cup - is a must in terms of being added as the tournament venue, perhaps sooner rather than later. There is a requirement on Ryder Cup venues to undergo the stress test of hosting big tournaments ahead of the big one.

On a recent visit to Lough Erne in Co Fermanagh, the appeal of that resort as a potential future venue was reaffirmed.

As it is, the JP McManus Invitational Pro-Am (with Tiger Woods among those already confirmed) is pencilled in for 2020 with tickets selling fast. Christmas present anyone?

And while the run of links courses as host venues for the Irish Open has successfully showcased Portstewart last year and Ballyliffin this year and will also provide Lahinch with the same opportunity, perhaps the time has come to bring parklands back into the loop.

On a recent visit to Lough Erne in Co Fermanagh, the appeal of that resort as a potential future venue was reaffirmed.

Lough Erne, remember, was eye-marked as long ago as April of 2014 as a venue for the Irish Open. It was supposed to play host in 2017 but, between the jigs and the reels, circumstances led to the venue losing out. Instead, Portstewart came in - successfully - as the concept of a links swing was born.

When, rather than, if the links experiment comes to and end, and parkland courses are brought back, it would be only fair for Lough Erne - a fine Nick Faldo design - to be again considered. Darren Clarke and Graeme McDowell are each, in time, due to play the role of tournament host. The lakeside course is worth a second look.

Until then, all eyes will be focused on next year’s staging at Lahinch . . . and, hopefully, Rory McIlroy will be there. And, hopefully, a strong international lineup worthy of the classic links.

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