Castlemartyr is a busy place right now and the August weekend will be one of the busiest with their annual scratch cup weekend. Starting on Friday 4th August, the event is set to attract well over 400 golfers over the three days and there’s a large prize fund in place. The event is again sponsored by McCarthy Insurance Group who have been on board for the past four years. The course is set to be in great condition for the showpiece event, the recent fine weather has allowed Trevor Norris and his team to speed up the course which is always a treat for handicap golfers. The three scratch cups (Junior, Intermediate and Minor) take place from Friday to Sunday and the timesheet is filling fast. Since the course opened it became an immediate favourite for both societies and casual golfers. The weekly open singles series are always popular and the membership has grown steadily over the past decade.
Now celebrating 10 years, the facilities in Castlemartyr are being upgraded with the addition of some new practice facilities. Strict planning guidelines at the time meant that course designer Ron Kirby could only build the course on the hotel side of the property. At that stage he was limited to building 18 holes only and now the owners are investing in a new short game area. Located to the right of the 9th green, the new short game will be a welcome addition for members and guests. “The new chipping area is currently being set and grown in,” said Breffne McKenna who is Castlemartyr’s Golf Operations Manager. “It will be a chipping area that will be approximately 60yards. Golfers can chip to flag markers from grass tees and the area should be ready to use from early August. A new putting area is also being created beside the chipping area which located by the hotel. This is a flat surface for teaching putting technique and will be available to members and residents with lessons available from Club Professional Alan Gleeson.” Further developments have been planned for the five star resort. The existing two storey gym is set to be replaced by a new function and conference centre, and extensions are planned for Knight’s Bar and Fanchini’s Restaurant. Additional car parks will add to the guest experience although an increase to the existing stock of 103 bedrooms is not thought to be part of the current plans.
On the course the club has gone from strength to strength, and between gents, ladies and juniors they now boast over 400 members. The ladies club was affiliated to the ILGU in late 2015 and is growing rapidly. The fact that the course in Castlemartyr has gone a decade without any changes says much about the Ron Kirby design. Kirby came to Castlemartyr with a growing pedigree in golf course design. He had worked for Trent Jones Snr, Gary Player and Jack Nicklaus, and was behind the designs in Dromoland, Skellig Bay and Old Head. Kirby approached Castlemartyr with the concept of an inland links and he achieved that with a mix of running fairways framed by fescue rough, and fast rolling shallow greens that demand accuracy. Kirby has been a regular visitor to Cork and while he continues to tinker and improve the design in Old Head, Castlemartyr hasn’t seen that same level of evolution thanks to a strong initial design. He’s especially proud of the way that Castlemartyr has matured over the past decade and made a point of mentioning he head greenkeeper Trevor Norris when speaking at a members event last year. “Trevor loves it just as much as I do” said Ron, “and he has thought me a lot about grassing and what grasses I would plant in different areas because I wanted the three dimensions of a links course. To get the links course you got to use fescue and you got to use sand and sandbased fairways. We wanted it to have that appearance and you can see it now when you drive in a see the 5th hole in front of you.” There are several signature holes in Castlemartyr, the 5th, 10th and 11th all stand out as special holes, each requiring a different approach.
Kirby stands firm though on his own favourite, probably picking it out with his course designer hat on. “My favourite hole is pretty difficult, I probably think that it’s, you got to be shocked that it’s probably the 14th. I sat there forever trying to figure out what the hell to do on that hole. You know a lot of times when I get stuck I say what would Jack do? Because I had seven years finishing school with Nicklaus, so in those times I think what would Jack do here. I sat there and said you know that you can do this, a 200 yards par three. Ok I put the bunker half way up on the fairway, it hadn’t been done but maybe Nicklaus would do that, so fourteen is probably my favourite Hole because it came out nice.”