When starting my blog Adare Manor was high on my list of places to visit as in my mind it is the perfect place to showcase a Top 100 course along with the lifestyle that members of prestigious clubs around the world enjoy.
In order to do this, I reached out to Performance54 who works closely with Sarah Ormston the Marketing Manager and Andy McMahan the Director of Golf. Originally, we had tried for a date in October for me to go over but with COVID restrictions still in place, we moved it back to May.
As a Grandfather of two young children there are not too many things that make me jump out of bed at 4.10 in the morning, but the opportunity to visit the venue for the 2027 Ryder Cup and, from what everyone tells me one of the best hotels in the world, I had no problems.
I arrived at Shannon airport and got a taxi from the arrivals hall. Bob who drove me was such a character, the journey just flew by. Bob, a local, loved taking people to Adare Manor and couldn’t speak highly enough of what the venue and its owner JP McManus did for the community. I was meant to go straight to the Carriage House, but Bob took me on a little tour of his own which was brilliant.
Exactly on time at 11.30, I met with Sarah in the foyer of The Carriage House, a modern building from the outside but with a lovely old feel of traditional meets modern decor inside. The restaurant overlooks the immaculate practice putting green and the course in the distance. My expectations had already been exceeded.
I was to meet with Alan MacDonnell the Course Superintendent at 12.30 for lunch, so Sarah suggested we quickly move on to see the Manor house and the hotel. The hotel was full so I couldn’t stay on this particular visit but everything I saw when looking at the restaurants, bars and the gardens that surround the very impressive and large building made me determined to come back and stay in the future.
I was really impressed with the professional manner of all the staff I met, they were attentive and welcoming without being over the top. It felt like it really was “Ladies and Gentlemen serving Ladies and Gentlemen”, rather like the Ritz Carlton mantra but actually making it come to life.
I visited the newly-built The Padel Club, which is most impressive and houses their indoor padel courts, a sport that is currently soaring in popularity the world over. The one activity located there that I have not heard of, which Sarah explained is soon to be added to their long list of activities, is Axe throwing! The mind boggles!
Like clockwork, the tour finished on time and Sarah introduced me to Alan, but not before she had informed me that the JP McManus Pro-Am was just six weeks away when 40,000 people will watch some of the best golfers in the world, and a certain Mr Tiger Woods, compete over two days and raise more than £40 million for local charities. Now that, I think you will agree, is impressive and I will be eagerly watching to see what the final figure is and how Tiger gets on.
I was taught many years ago by one of the best CEOs running a top country club in America, always try the club sandwich, it tells you a lot about the overall food and beverage of the venue. As you would expect the Adare Manor club sandwich was exceptional.
Alan has worked at Adare Manor for 23 years and has seen many changes in owners, budgets, designers and expectations. Luckily for the venue, Alan chose not to follow in his father’s steps and join An Garda Siochana, the Irish Police Force and instead chose to become a Greenkeeper at Adare Manor. During his time there he would have had to make tough decisions to drop certain elements of maintenance as budgets and staffing levels were cut to the bone due to the recession in 2008.
Today, there are no such concerns but even though the budgets are healthy, and the owner takes a great interest in the course and demands the very best, Alan always remembers those dark days so as not to waste money and get the very best value he can. He has a team of 42 greenkeepers and 3 mechanics on the course and 14 gardeners, but this is justified as every day is a ‘tournament day’.
The course was changed from a Trent Jones course to a Fazio design and re-opened in 2018. The Pro-Am will be the first major event that the course has held since the refurb and Alan and the team see this as a nice practice run for the Ryder cup in five years’ time. Alan gives calm confidence that reminded me of David Cole, my course superintendent when I was CEO of Loch Lomond, and I know Alan will produce the very best surfaces perhaps the event has ever seen!
My final part of the day was to play the course with Andy McMahon, who I knew of but had never met. Originally from Stirling, Andy worked at The Grove for 12 years, holding various positions including Director of Golf, and joined Adare Manor five years ago before the renovations had finished. Like The Grove, the golf operation runs like clockwork and has the same atmosphere as the hotel where you really feel you are being looked after, but it’s understated and enjoyable.
We teed off the white tees which play around 6,500 yards. The wind was blowing on the front nine and the 4.10 am alarm call caught up with me slightly and I didn’t do justice to the course which was, as you would expect, in immaculate condition.
The two things I really found impressive were the runoffs, which really help define this parkland course, and the way the course wound its way around the river. You felt you knew the water was there, but it came into play very subtly, which is backed up by the fact I only lost one ball. I really enjoyed the course and it is certainly one of the top five parkland courses I have played in the world.
Andy is a great host and a true ambassador for the venue. Rightly proud of what he and his team have achieved, yet still keen to improve for what lies ahead. As we came to 18th, we were asked to join by a three-ball in front and played a five ball up the famous 18th. It summed up the friendly nature of the place.
Andy dropped me off at my hotel which was just opposite the main gate and mentioned I should walk into Adare as it is a lovely little town with thatched cottages and a couple of great pubs. One of which was called the Pat Collins Bar, where I enjoyed a couple of pints of the black stuff and fabulous seafood chowder, all whilst watching the first round of the PGA Championship.
I loved my 24 hours in Adare, and if you are lucky enough to stay and play at Adare Manor you can relax and feel the warmth of Irish hospitality at its very best.
Until next time