Ring of Kerry greens 'revamped'
By Trevor Ledger
Irish Golf Review 2000

KENMARE BAY, Ireland - Last years debutante, Ring of Kerry Golf Club, is to receive a major renovation of its greens following criticism of their playability and severity of slope. Director Dominic Reid explains the situation: "Both myself and co-director Tommy McNicholas have listened to comments made over the last year regarding the shaping of the greens and their playability. Having done so we have taken the decision to rebuild eight greens initially, with two of them, (the 8th and the 11th), being relocated to improve the overall enjoyment for the players." This is the crux of the matter - enjoyment for the golfer - and the extreme nature of the original greens at Ring of Kerry saw many people struggling to come to terms with them. Alongside this enjoyment issue is one of maintenance; greenkeeper Ian Morton being unable to find suitable pin positions on a number of the greens.
Award winning British design duo Gaunt & Marnoch Ltd. have been appointed to carry out the initiative with work getting under way immediately. Jonathan Gaunt gives a basic view of the process and its implications: "We're rebuilding eight greens now, ready for a Spring unveiling - it's likely that we will also do the other ten greens over the next three years. Currently they [the greens] have very few pin positions available and our brief is to change that situation and create greens which will afford the opportunity for golfers to enjoy themselves and not be humiliated." This contract sees G&M in Ireland for the first time and is a natural expansion for two of the United Kingdom's most renowned golf course architects following rave reviews for both their new projects and renovation work on historic designs by MacKenzie, Park, Colt, Simpson and Braid.
Returning to Ring of Kerry are golf course construction company, Contour Golf Ltd. of Daventry, Northants who were the original contractors when the course was built. A strange choice? Not according to Reid: "I have great faith in Contour, they are a class outfit and I'm glad that they are back at Ring of Kerry. They did a great job originally in creating a beautiful golf course in a wonderful location - its playing surfaces are second to none." High praise and deservedly so for a company that has also just completed a rebuild at Fota Island Golf Club in readiness for a reported Irish Open. Ring of Kerry is the first course in Ireland to be built with all sand fairways and it is testimony to Contour that they have been so successful in creating a golf course of such high quality with such an innovative technique. Director of Contour, Ingrid Eichler (unique herself as the only woman to head up a golf course construction company in the UK), is delighted to be back at Ring of Kerry, especially as it is with Gaunt & Marnoch: "Jonathan [Gaunt] gave us our first big break in golf course construction back in the early '90s and we have worked on a lot of projects together since then. We've built up a good understanding of each other and this really helps when work is under way."
A lot of the difficulties with the greens at Ring of Kerry are due to the natural topography - effectively built into the side of a mountain - and this fact alone requires a lot more earth movement than one would normally associate with building golf greens. "Basically we are creating plateaus on the side of the hill," explains Gaunt, "therefore we need to move a lot of earth. Simple as that."
The story at Ring of Kerry is not one of great disappointment though, indeed Reid described the first twelve months as "A corking year!" with some 15,000 rounds played over the upland layout to date. Reid elaborates: "We aim to constantly improve our course and maximise the enjoyment potential for visitors. We have also had an official visit by the Professional Golfers Association from Wentworth to assess Ring of Kerry as a tournament venue and we have listened to their advice in order to ready the course for major tournaments." The further news that Ring of Kerry has expanded its fleet of 'carts' to thirty - the most in Ireland - is sure to expand upon its already impressive stream of visitors from the United States.