Every two years, around this time in September, the Ryder Cup takes center stage in world golf. It heats up the temperatures in the biennial competition “We against them” and lets advertisers, sponsors and viewers drool.
The course on which the tournament is held is inevitably debated about which team will suit it best, whether it’s a sufficient test, and what it will look like to such a large global audience.
This month’s Ryder Cup may be in Wisconsin, but as we count the last few days, conversation in Ireland will no doubt turn to Limerick. Adare was selected to host the 2027 Ryder Cup in July 2019, just over a year after the Fazio redesign was unveiled to the world. That is an achievement. The condition of the course was phenomenal from the start – well above any other in Ireland – and the general boast (perhaps from the Adare team and certainly from Irish golfers) was that the course could have hosted the Ryder Cup on site.
The track and the set-up were so impressive … and it will stay that way. In truth, however, everything about Adare Resort is impressive. The experience takes you beyond anything you’ve been through – no matter who you are.
There are so many notable hotels on this island and so many are in golf resorts. In a recent Golf World ranking of the top 100 golf resorts in Great Britain and Ireland, we had five in the top 10. The best Irish resort in third place was Adare.
I must confess that if Adare is ranked number three, the quality of the two resorts above it doesn’t have to be out of this world.
But here’s the thing: Adare has a single golf course, while Turnberry (2nd) has two 18-hole courses and Gleneagles (1st) has three. On this basis alone, you could easily reverse your ranking.
Adare is great. No stone is left unturned, no wish is ignored, no wish is too small.
That’s luxury from start to finish, and that’s not even the best. The best is something much simpler.
And if you think I am mentioning the golf course, you are wrong.
No, the greatest highlight of Adare’s luxury and quality are – at least for me – the people and the hospitality. So often a five-star luxury like this makes you a bit timid, cautious in its behavior, but it couldn’t be more welcoming, charming and warm here. You are known by name and treated as a friend. Combined with the setting, it’s no surprise that the awards and accolades keep pouring in.
If you can afford to stay here you will find it truly memorable.
You get what you pay for and, like any luxury resort, there is this constant urge to improve and offer even more exceptional services. The newest of these is the Padel Club.
This imposing, yet subtle, cedar-clad ark sits amid some of the resort’s enchanting forests – yet only a two-minute walk from the mansion. The Padel Club was created for guests who want to enjoy a range of leisure activities.
The most important among them is padel tennis, Europe’s fastest growing sport, and there are two courts with qualified staff to teach you the simple rules of the game. There is a 17-meter pool, a hydropool, a state-of-the-art fitness room, and a yoga studio. The state-of-the-art Sports Simulation Room is also of particular interest to golfers.
With all of the technologies available, you can play baseball or football or even soccer.
There are other games too, but golf will always be the focus. The simulation room uses both a TruGolf multisport simulator and a Trackman 4 Launch Monitor to give you and your family / friends the best of both worlds. You can analyze your swing, your swing speed, your spin, your starting angle, etc., receive indoor golf coaching or play on a global selection of golf courses. There is also a PuttView putting green that comes with a variety of games. And you can enjoy all of this with a bite to eat and a beer. It’s an excellent addition and adds a touch of extravagance to the resort’s golf product.
The Adare Manor golf course – to give it its official title – opened in 2018. My visit was to see how things went during busy but difficult times.
Covid had a massive impact on hospitality across the country, but the famous JP McManus Pro-Am not only had to close for nearly a year but had to be postponed twice.
JP McManus with Limerick’s Senior Hurling Manager John Kiely after the All-Ireland Final. Image: INPHO / James Crombie
This is no easy feat considering the economic benefits to the local and regional economies as well as the charities involved. The event is now planned for July 2022.
I thought there would be special maintenance schedules to prepare the course for the arrival of the best golfers in the world, but I missed the point. That earlier joke that the course would be ready to host the Ryder Cup from the day it opened has not been idle.
I’ve played the new Adare course twice – 2018 and 2021 – and there have been some subtle changes during that time. This has largely to do with the maturity and familiarization of the course, but time has also allowed the Adare team to assess where extra attention was needed.
The drainage was improved during the closing times, the traffic patterns around the route were analyzed and the treads were then sanded. Elsewhere, large trees have been planted on the sides of holes 5 and 7, ironically adding a much sweeter rhythm to a course that has a lot of trees removed. Interestingly, the 5th hole on the old Adare was index 1, but on the new course it is index 17 despite being the same length (421 yards back tees).
It has one of only four greens that are not raised and soaring over a sea of slopes and valleys, and with an amphitheater of banks to the left and behind the green, it’s the easiest putting surface to play on.
The reputation Adare has for his immaculate condition is second to none. With 50+ greenkeepers, that might seem like an obvious assumption, but it overlooks the passion and know-how it takes to hold a spot at this level. Alan McDonnell is the instructor. He has been here for over two decades and his knowledge is critical to the development of today’s degree. Just look at the grasses – dwarf ryegrass on fairways, Penn A4 bentgrass on the borders, and pure bentgrass on greens – and you’ll appreciate the knowledge it takes to keep these playing surfaces so pristine.
For many golfers (including myself), talking about grass types can sail a little over your head. But if you had the privilege of playing Adare, you’d see the sweet perfection of every blade of grass here. If not, just take a look at the photos of the course.
Despite Covid and postponements, Adare is ready and waiting for the JP McManus Pro-Am. Planning has already been done and only the things that are beyond the control of the resort remain to be considered. Of these, the Covid restrictions are perhaps the most worrying, but July 2022 is still a long way off. Under ideal circumstances, 35,000 spectators are expected, which five years later will be an excellent test run for the Ryder Cup.
Another challenge is attracting the world’s best golfers to Limerick for a charity event that takes place two years later than expected. Professional golfers plan their schedules well in advance – especially the best in the world – but the Pro-Am and JP McManus himself have always drawn them here. For these golfers, the Pro-Am offers a completely different adventure.
As for the Ryder Cup, one of the most common comments about Adare is that it will suit the American bombers. The rough is limited and the fairways wide. But here’s the thing: who knows who will be on the American team in six years and who says the Europeans won’t be populated by bombers too. The only thing that is guaranteed is likely that Ian Poulter will be a captain’s choice.
The European captain will also have a huge impact on the design of the course, which could result in adjustments to the rough and green speeds, which are easily adjustable with the sub-air system. There is no doubt that the course will be an exciting tournament and look fabulous for selling Ireland and Irish golf around the world.
Finally, let me say this: When I first played Adare in 2008, I rated it as the best parkland golf course in Ireland.
Today that is no longer the case … and that’s because the Adare Manor golf course has established a new category of “luxury parkland” … one that it currently occupies alone.