THE GOLF COURSE AT ADARE MANOR - 17 POINTS
You may not have heard much about Adare Manor, but that is going to change. The Irish Billionaire JP McManus bought this Robert Trent Jones course a few years ago and got to work. He closed it down, hired the man who consults on Augusta and Pine Valley (Tom Fazio) to give it the mother of all facelifts and then spent bajillions to ensure it was one of the very best presented golf courses anywhere in the world.
He put infrastructure in place underneath the ground, including fibre optic cables, meaning the course is ready to host a major golf event at the drop of a hat then asked all of his friends to come and play in a pro-am (Tiger, Rory, Phil, I could go on) to showcase it to the world. Before they had a chance to get there he announced the 2026 edition of the Ryder Cup - the highest profile golf event in the world - would be hosted there. As I say, you are going to hear a whole lot about this place.
It would be fair to say that the Ryder Cup hasn’t exactly impressed with its choices of venues over recent years. The Belfry, Celtic Manor, The PGA Centenary and Gleneagles - all golf courses that flatter to deceive.
The Golf Course at Adare Manor is in a different league to any of these. The one abiding memory you will have of this course is the phenomenal conditioning. However, that is not intended to play down the design which is pretty darn good. But the conditioning takes it to a whole new level.
When Fazio did his work here they put SubAir systems into the greens and put down a mind-boggling 220,000 tonnes of sand. No matter what mother nature throws at this course it will stand up to it. Greens and tees are hand-cut daily by the army of almost 50 green keepers and playing there is like playing off off carpet.
There are two particular conditioning features that will be of note. Firstly, like at Augusta, there is no rough. There is slightly longer grass next to the fairways but that’s about it. Secondly, the shaved, run-off areas around the green are unlike anything you will see on these shores. It’s a bit of a cliche, but this is a second-shot course if there has ever been one. From the tee you will be able to open your shoulders, around the green you will have to clench your buttocks. The SubAir means that the greens run fast and true, but the ball can roll and roll into places where it is almost impossible to get it up and down.
Make sure that you leave plenty of time to experience the whole Adare Manor experience, starting on the practice range. Caddies are compulsory for all visitors and that wasn’t an idea I initially warmed to. Caddies aren’t really an integral part of the European golf experience and I find they can sometimes put unwanted pressure on my already fragile golf game. However, there should be no such worries here. My guy was both relaxed and professional and managed to more or less fight the desire to give me some much-needed swing tips.
The range itself is an impressive affair. You hit from a nice little pyramid of Pro V1s, to proper target greens, framed with lovely white bunkers (actually filled with gleaming white composite rubber). Make sure you spend some time at the vast chipping green as you are likely to be doing a lot of chipping out on the course. Be careful which way you are facing though, the helipad is just behind and I thinned a bunker shot within an inch of calamity!
On your way to the first tee, be sure to spend some time on the putting green too. The SubAir on the greens means that they can get them running pretty much as fast as they want and it’s well worth attempting to get the pace of them before heading on to the course.
You will get a pretty good idea of what is to come on the first tee. There are a selection of tees - the courses stretches from 5,100 yards to 7,200. I went off my usual 6,500 which suited me just fine.
This is not a particularly intimidating course from the tee. The fairways are wide and not massively bunkered. However, on the first you will find there is some water to navigate in front of the green. Welcome to Adare Manor!
The first 9 holes are laid out in fairly open land and it takes a little imagination to understand what makes the course such a good test. It really is quite a straightforward looking card on the strokesaver. The front 9 has a good selection of holes and while only one of the par 4s is over 400 yards there are no short ones either. You will enjoy hitting from the tee but it is only when you experience the real trickery of the greens that the course bares its teeth.
The day I played it was the Captain’s Day for members (or President’s Day, I forget!) and the course had been set up with some particularly demanding pin positions. Most were at the edges of greens or on top of ridges and finding the green in regulation was no guarantee of a par. Miss the green by a yard and with no chance of getting up and down, a bogey could be a fantastic score. The front 9 finishes with an almighty crescendo at the par 5th 9th. Go long or to the right and you will find yourself in a run-off the likes of which you may never have seen before.
The course does change character a little on the back 9. You go into more established trees and every hole is memorable from the par 3 11th onwards. The 13th is a sweeping, majestic par 4 - one of the best parkland par 4 holes you will ever see. The short par 4 15th is a wonderful short hole. With the river down the right, the conservative play is a mid-iron from the tee and then just a wedge in. However, you need to hit the green or you are doomed. I was playing against the head pro who went for the green, just to find himself stymied on the left by a tree, while my approach shot went just through the back into one of those devilish run-off areas. Disaster struck us both and we agreed to half the hole when we got to 7 shots apiece. It just goes to show you can’t judge a hole by its yardage...
And then to the 16th. This is a simply brilliant par 3. The green is almost 90 yards wide, set at an angle to the wide river you have to traverse. With the pin on the left you are looking at wedge, with the pin back right and into the wind it’s a long club, and all carry - I smacked one into the wall and shook hands on the walk up to the green! This is a hole made for matchplay golf and should make for a great spectacle when the Ryder Cup visits, as should the 18th. It is a par 5 where the brave will be tempted to get on in 2 but again there is water to be crossed. The setting in front of the Manor is stunning, and the walk across the bridge and past the ancient cedar tree is something really very special.
In some ways I found this quite a hard course to rate. The magnificent conditioning and beauty of the setting, combined with the luxury of the hotel and excellent service in fairly blinding. However, underneath all of that there is also a course which gives a really good challenge and is fun to play too. This is definitely a top 50 in the UK & Ireland course for me and I think it may be knocking on the door of the top 100 in the world. If JP does ask you to make up the numbers in his pro-am, don’t think twice!
BOOKING THE COURSE
Deep breaths. This is a very, very expensive tee time to secure. They spread them out to 15 minutes intervals and precedence is given to members and hotel visitors. If you are not staying at the hotel you may not be able to get a tee time but if you do get one you are looking at €320 in the off-season (March, April, October, November, December) to €395 in the peak months. Oh, and don’t forget the caddie fee of €75 plus a tip. So, around €500 per person. I know, that’s fairly expensive. There’s no way around it really though. Don’t expect to find many discounted deals or packaged offers as the course is pretty close to capacity without them doing that. Is it worth it? That’s a really personal thing to answer, however you will remember playing this course for a very, very long time - I can assure you of that.
There is plenty of golf in this area. Adare Manor is only a half hour drive from Shannon airport and therefore within a drive of an hour and a bit you can be at Lahinch, Doonbeg, Ballybunion or Tralee. Links golf is the name of the game around here but mixing those up with Adare Manor brings a whole new dimension to a trip.
I was lucky enough to stay in the Manor House and it may be the best hotel I have ever stayed at. The rooms were great and the restaurants wonderful but the service is what truly elevated the experience. If you are looking for one ridiculous splurge hotel in your life then make it this one. It is impossible to rave about it too much!
One last thing, there is a rather odd quirk you need to be aware of. Next to the entrance to The Golf Course at Adare Manor is, wait for it, Adare Manor Golf Club. Warning, dear reader, this is not the same place. You can get a tee time there for €30 and while I’m sure the course has its many virtues, it’s not a top 100 in the world offering. Alas, not everyone realises this. I heard a tale of an American visitor who played an entire 18 holes there before discovering back in the pro shop it wasn’t the Ryder Cup venue. Maybe worse still, players turn up at the real thing thinking they have a tee time booked only to be told (very nicely I’m sure) that they are booked in the course next door. Check your reservations carefully...
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