- Neil White
“Have yourself a magical time!”
It was as if we had entered a Disney resort rather than a Ryder Cup venue, as the gent in the top hat waved our people carrier through to one of the most opulent settings in golf.
For 24 hours only, we had the chance to live how the other half do and play the same track as a dazzling array of stars in a pro-am this July.
Yep, like us, Tiger Woods will be able to have his photo taken and see his face in the foam of a pint of Guinness, thanks to laser technology.
Details matter at Adare Manor and, as the robotic lawn mowers did their stuff, we bathed in our surroundings rather than consider the astronomical cost for a game of our favourite sport.
From this season, it has become compulsory to stay at the hotel before booking the already expensive tee time and mandatory single-player caddies.
The service from the chap at the entrance onwards is of the very highest standards, matching the glamourous surroundings, created by JP McManus.
But does the golf course stand above all else? In some respects, yes, but in others, no.
The backdrop makes for some spectacular holes and the caddie adds to the experience but not all of the 18 are memorable.
We played as the mist was lifting but it was already clear that three days of balls rolling on dry links courses on our trip to the west of Ireland had not prepared us well for Adare Manor.
Put simply, we had to hit the ball a lot harder and have no slip-ups on the way to the green.
I recognised early that decent course management was imperative and consequently laid up at the first which has a stream in front of its target.
Sadly, I duffed my chip and carded a six. It would not be the last time that my touch deserted me on this day.
The stream, a pre-cursor to much wider water features to come, is again present on the straightforward second but my undoing here was my inability to read the subtleties or pace of the putting surface. This theme remained throughout.
The run-offs at Adare are also extreme as I discovered after a tee shot was just short of the greenside bunker on the par-three sixth.
I flicked a chip which seemed spot on only to watch the ball cruise past the hole and then, annoying slowly, slink off over the bank and into the water.
The first hole which set my pulse racing was the par-five seventh which bends around a trout-filled lake.
Its beauty is surpassed by the ninth on which the manor house provides a stunning backdrop to a monster green guarded by deep bunkers.
Attempts to avoid them could well result in the ball swirling down the huge fall-away to its rear.
A salmon gate is in the stream at the side of the picturesque par-three 11th with its two-tier green and dangerous slopes.
For me, Adare Manor requires too much hammer for a course which prides itself on finesse.
I played pretty well off the tee but was constantly reaching for my three-wood or long irons in order to score. However, neither had the pinpoint accuracy required.
Perspective was provided by my caddie who reckoned my drive on the 12th was “as long as Bryson’s – but he’ll be teeing off about 150 yards further back!”
In saying that, the final five holes will guarantee excitement at the 2027 Ryder Cup.
The 14th emerges from Adare Manor’s woods to a target which has a ruined abbey at its rear and a lake to its right. I tried to play it cutely but again the pace and borrows were my undoings.
One of the few that I felt I conquered was the short par-four 15th, alongside the River Maigue and the awe-inspiring manor house. My ball landed in a bunker off the tee but I found the back of the green from the sand.
Emboldened by a rare moment of glory, I armed myself for the wonderful par-three 16th only to slap my ball straight into the water.
This was a waste of a classic tour hole with a slither of green between the lake, sand and extreme slopes. I can’t wait to see how the pros handle it.
Similarly, the 18th will give them an enormous challenge.
I have never seen a hole like it – a long par-five which has fairway all the way down the side of the river but its target on the opposite bank.
A par would have been one of my finest but I missed the putt. However, testament to the acceptability of my bogey was the huge number of balls which could be seen at the bottom of the river.
And that was it.. a quick wash and brush up in the impressive changing rooms, a final Guinness with the clubhouse name in its foam and it was time to return to normal life.
As for Adare Manor’s golf course – there is no doubt it has a very high-quality run-in and some very attractive holes but I am a man of quirks and courses which require more clubs in the bag than it did.
Nevertheless, my compadres and I loved the experience.