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Royal County Down back on course as the best in Ireland

By Peter Hutcheon

Northern Ireland golf has been given another huge boost with the news that Royal County Down has reclaimed its position as the top course in Ireland.

newcastle’s right royal success Beautiful backdrop: The picturesque scene enhances Royal Co Down which has worked hard to regain top spot from Portmarnock as Ireland’s leading venue

The famous old links is back on top of the prestigious annual Golf Digest Ireland top 100 after losing the number one spot last year to Portmarnock.

With Graeme McDowell joining Rory McIlroy in the top 10 of the world rankings following his victory at the Andalucia Masters at Valderrama at the weekend, it’s another shot in the arm for the local game.

McDowell and Darren Clarke last month said that a deal to bring a European Tour event to Northern Ireland was very close to being completed.

Last year Clarke’s manager Andrew Chubby Chandler was on the verge of bringing the British Masters to Nick Faldo’s brilliant new design at the Lough Erne Resort, although the deal fell through at the last minute because of the lack of a main sponsor.

Lough Erne, incidentally, is a new entry on the Golf Digest Ireland list, coming straight in at an impressive number 22.

The list is compiled annually by a panel of golf architects, administrators and players, including former Walker Cup captain, Bangor’s Garth McGimpsey.

There are 22 Ulster clubs in the top 100, six of them — Letterkenny, Ardglass, Farnham Estate, Royal Portrush’s Valley course and Lough Erne — all new entries.

Royal Portrush’s Dunluce links has risen one place to third.

Notable courses missing from this year’s list include The Heritage, Fota Island, New Forest, Castleknock and Moyvalley with a total of 21 new entries.

“Since we started this process of grading courses, it has served to highlight the splendid work clubs throughout the country have been doing to upgrade their facilities,” said a Golf Digest Ireland spokesman. “This year, the panel has been modified from 2009 with the addition of some fresh blood to help ensure this massive undertaking got the attention it deserves.

“Eddie Connaugton, an esteemed agronomist; Kate McCann, an experienced Curtis Cup Player; Valerie Hassett also of the Curtis Cup ; Cecil Whelan, founder of the famously charitable Links Society and a man this magazine voted as one of the Top 50 most influential people in Irish golf; and Ally McIntosh, the course designer and a writer of regular architecture columns in these pages are all new to the panel, but have the kind of expertise in the industry that is indispensable.”

“They joined our existing panelists Declan Branigan, agronomist and course-designer; Mark Gannon, a Royal and Ancient selector; Michael McCumiskey, the Secretary of the PGA Irish Region; Garth McGimpsey, a former Walker Cup captain; John Quigley, of the Association of Irish Golf Club Secretaries and, of course, the panel’s chairman: Pádraig O hUiginn.”

The panel visited 105 clubs which contacted them with details of upgrades and improvements.

Belfast Telegraph

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