GBN talks to Andy McMahon, Director of Golf Operations at The Golf Course at Adare Manor, about how the club has coped during the pandemic and the plans in place for its hosting of the rescheduled Ryder Cup in 2027.
With golf courses across the UK and Ireland having been open for several months now following the two-month closure caused by the pandemic, how have operations at Adare Manor changed in the light of Covid-19 restrictions?
Our members, guests and staff’s safety have always been our number one priority and, given the current pandemic, we have introduced a number of measures to ensure their safety goes uncompromised. Throughout the resort we have introduced external hand sanitizer stations, removed podiums and other common touch points, ensured rental equipment can be sanitized (or made it unavailable) and installed a temperature scanner on entrance to the Pro Shop.
We also have placed signage throughout the resort to remind everyone about their responsibilities regarding social distancing, something we are taking very seriously.
The next stage of the journey had been to reopen The Carriage House on July 1 and following that, our hotel, which reopened on July 30.
With golf courses being busier than ever, how have you managed the maintenance of the golf course?
Initially I feel that there has been an expectation for courses to benefit from this rest period, particularly with the lack of traffic, there is an expectation that courses will return in a much stronger position and condition. However, the reality is that many have been playing catch up on some of the finer details with general course maintenance, and this has been a large focus of staff and resource for clubs.
In Ireland, the phased approach to reopening, starting with 3 balls, allowed golf courses to monitor the wear and tear. We have introduced a maintenance block in the afternoon and resumed tee times a little later on the tee sheets to ensure that our maintenance team can stagger starts whilst following the social distancing measures in place.
Adare Manor recently celebrated the second anniversary since the unveiling of the redesigned and renovated golf course. How pleased have you been with the reaction to the course specifically, and more generally to the wider resort?
The accolades have been incredible, and we have not taken our foot off the pedal. As a team, we are motivated to deliver a golfing experience like no other and strive to continue to exceed expectations. I firmly believe that the course is going from strength to strength and improving with every month that goes by. Likewise, with the hotel the awards are really the icing on the cake, the reaction of our guests who play and stay with us is what gives me the most pride and sense of achievement.
Has the European Tour asked for or suggested any changes in terms of the way the course might be set up for the Ryder Cup in 2027? Do you envisage any holes being tweaked or redesigned at all over the next few years?
It is still some time away and it will be great to hear the feedback from the best in the world at the rescheduled JP McManus Pro-Am in July 2021. Of course, it will also depend on who is captain and their visions, however the course already has tournament tees which are designed with large scale tournaments in mind, so I can’t see many major changes being required.
What features of Adare’s design make it a good match play course and which holes standout in that respect? Where can we expect some Ryder Cup drama playing out?
I think the closing holes of 14 through 18 is where there are the most dramatic risk and reward opportunities on the course.
On its diagonal green there are a few tricky pin positions on the 14th which bring the water into play and could really penalise players trying to take on too much. The 15th is a driveable par 4 with water running down the right and should you play safe and left you can have a difficult bunker shot or an even more wicked pitch, so it asks questions of the golfer and calls for a decision to be made under unforgiving circumstances.
The 16th is perfectly staged to recreate some of the drama of Le Golf National, with water short and tight A4 run offs at the back of the green it has real potential to make or break a match. The green here is our largest on the course at 85 yards long, so the pin can change this hole dramatically over the three days and bring a whole new challenge each time.
The penultimate 17th can play 523 yards from the back and the green has three different levels, so as a par 4 it may well find itself being the toughest on the course. The finishing hole has the River Maigue running through it, and is a traditional risk and reward par 5, where the scores are never as low as you may think. Playing down the river, towards the Manor House there is a real chance we could see some quite spectacular scenes and drama here.
Do you think its design favours a particular type of player? Or what part of the game is key to score well at Adare Manor?
It is fairly open from the tee, with generous fairways. The Pure Distinction greens are very smooth and for those from the PGA Tour they will not take long to become accustomed to. A sharp wedge game is key. Around these greens can really punish, with the tightly mown approaches it can be particularly intimidating for players and the right shot choice here will be crucial. There are opportunities for birdies, however if you short side yourself on many of the holes out there you will need some good imagination and a great deal of talent to get off the hole unscathed.
What kind of viewing course will Adare make, and what seating arrangement will you be looking to create to generate that first tee atmosphere? How is the course set up to host large crowds?
1st tee atmosphere is key and a huge element of the Ryder Cup. The fans’ passion and tribal enthusiasm it what makes it so special. The details are yet to be confirmed, we are aware that there are three Ryder Cups before ours and we will be keeping an extra close eye on these. Part of the Fazio design remit and the renovation work was to commit to having areas for these large crowds around tees and greens, so we will have some great vantage areas for spectators. Working closely with the wider resort, particularly the hotel, we strive to offer guests a beyond everything experience and it is certainly something we will take into creating a 5-star atmosphere for our crowds.
Have you an idea what kind of capacity crowd the estate will be able to manage for the matches. What limit has the European Tour set?
At present we have not confirmed a number. The estate is 842 acres, of which 240 acres are the course, so we have a very large estate, which means there will be plenty of room for spectators to create the Ryder Cup noise and the potential for a truly formidable atmosphere.
The SubAir system under the greens at Adare must have come into its own during last winter’s rain, but this must also have been a consideration in deciding to award the Ryder Cup matches to a course in the West of Ireland in late September.
Indeed, the SubAir is a huge benefit given our climate, so it’s great to have it in place and even better if it is not required. Throughout the course, we have an extensive drainage plan that we were able to implement during the renovation. We all know what the West Coast weather can be like, so it was definitely a key consideration as part of the initial project.
In addition to this, all of our fairways and the rough are sand capped too. As for our stringent agronomy plans, these include increasing the levels to create fast and firm playing conditions for players.
Finally, given that Darren Clarke, Paul McGinley and Padraig Harrington have already had their turn, who would you like to see captain the European Team at Adare?
For me personally, I would love to see Sergio Garcia take the reins. He has been a key part in Europe’s success over the years and has a great Ryder Cup record. It would be amazing to see his passion for the tournament leading the team and I would hope that he could transfer this success into captaincy like his fellow countrymen, Seve Ballesteros and José Maria Olazabal, have before.