Baltray ‚?? or County Louth Golf Club, to give it its proper name ‚?? has long been a place with which I‚??ve had a fascination. ¬†That fascination stems from a story my father‚??s told on one or two occasions, dating back some years to a trip he and mum did around The Emerald Isle. ¬†First of all, he raves about the course. ¬†But that‚??s not overly interesting in the scheme of things. ¬†It was the fact that the pair of them got locked inside the clubhouse overnight and couldn‚??t get out that stuck in my mind. ¬†Baltray has one of the last remaining clubhouses in Ireland at which you can spend the night ‚?? they have 12 bedrooms upstairs, much like Victoria GC in Melbourne.
The club sits at the mouth of the River Boyne, 4 miles down the road from Drogheda. ¬†It shouldn‚??t be a hard place to get to, but Michael and father Jeff (‚??fresh‚?Ě off a direct flight from Nu Zillin) managed to have something of a mozza en route. ¬†First, they ended up overshooting the turn off on the motorway. ¬†No problem, really, other than we were a little pressed for time given daylight was evaporating and we were playing at the end of the field. ¬†Second, a tyre blew. ¬†Badly. ¬†Fortunately no one was hurt, and Michael was able to veer off to the side of the road safely ‚?? but obviously a bit inconvenient. ¬†Thank Goodness Jeffrey was there to change the tyre ‚?? neither Mike nor I would have the foggiest about how to do so. ¬†Mechanically inept to say the least.
All the while, I was standing in the pro shop with Paddy watching Manchester United swindle a victory from poor Liverpool, then Down taking an early lead against Cork in The All Ireland Football Final at Croke Park. ¬†(I‚??d zipped up the road earlier with Carmel Cahill, with whom I‚??d been staying; Carmel being the lovely lady who‚??s taken custody of our old holiday home up in Portnoo...). ¬†Carmel was diligently practising her putting while all the calamity was unfolding. ¬†Paddy being the good natured soul that he is put us all at ease, and offered up a cart in case we needed one to zip round. ¬†Our 3.30pm tee time would be pushed back to after 4...cutting it fine.
Eventually the Goldstein boys arrived, Jeff with oily hands and Michael with a harrowed look on his dial. ¬†In the melee we did the introductions and moved swiftly towards the first tee. ¬†Our four, however, became five ‚?? when Aidan, a local just back from a weekend‚??s golf up in Donegal (at Narin & Portnoo and Rosapenna, no less!), decided he‚??d come down to show us around. ¬†A gentleman. ¬†He heaved our clubs onto the back of the buggy and zipped from player to player as we marched down each hole. ¬†It would‚??ve looked rather curious to the fly on the wall, but apparently this is how he and his mates do their golf.
The balls deemed that Carmel and I would take on The Gentlemen Goldstein. ¬†Luckily for me, Carmel is a demon putter and a quite brilliant ball striker to boot. ¬†There had been hints from various people that Carmel was a bit of a player, but even they couldn‚??t have prepared us this dazzling display up ahead from the red markers. ¬†Dare I say it, a competitive streak was also evident ‚?? I wouldn‚??t have liked to come across Mrs. Cahill on the squash court, another battleground where she has inflicted damage on opponents over the years (at a high level too).
There‚??s something quite charming about Baltray. ¬†It‚??s not a course that kicks you in the nether regions then laughs unceremoniously. ¬†Rather it invites you to play your shots and, if you play a bad one, it‚??ll turn away to hide its grin. ¬†A good natured, polite golf course.
Mind you, there‚??s nothing good natured about the bracken that lines many a fairway. ¬†I was taken back to our day at Glasgow Gailes ‚?? some 55 days ago ‚?? which I would say is of a similar character. ¬†Easy enough if you keep it straight (not being too long), but nigh on tyrannical if you stray far enough. ¬†The kind of course that‚??s great fun to play, because you‚??ve only yourself to blame if you get in strife, and if you don‚??t you feel in total command.
Grey skies loomed large as the round progressed. ¬†As Aidan‚??s predictions got more apocalyptic ‚?? he had a penchant for making each hole sound much harder than it was, probably because his handicap isn‚??t what you might call proximate to scratch ‚?? the cumulus gathered in numbers. ¬†Darkness wasn‚??t far away. ¬†The atmosphere was intensifying. ¬†Would we be running around under the night sky with standard issue puregolf2010 night vision goggles on?
More or less, yes. ¬†Here are a few snaps we took along the back nine ‚?? some with a flash, some without (it‚??ll be obvious which are which). ¬†
My Partner, the star of the show, held her nerve on the long par 3 17th to knock a 4 footer in for the match. ¬†2 and 1 it finished, Team Goldstein looking dejected as a pair of wet hens. ¬†Buzzing with the contentedness of victory, Carmel very nearly managed a birdie up the last too ‚?? no gimme par 5; one of the more majestic finishing holes we‚??ve seen in Ireland.
Paddy who‚??d so kindly looked after us had gone for his dinner, so I didn‚??t get the chance to thank him in person. ¬†Email will have to do for the moment, until my next visit ‚?? which will be a much anticipated one! ¬†Smashing spot.
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