The revamped and reimagined Druids Glen is getting close to opening. We asked its new designer, Peter McEvoy, to give us some insight into his and ReGolf’s work:
On your early visits, what did you think were the course’s strongest elements?
PM: The big thing about Druids Glen is what a fantastic natural site it is. I can’t think of another course where nature has blended so beautifully, working through the valleys, creating holes like the 8th, 12th and 13th. I was lucky enough to play in three Masters and you can’t help but compare the two. Some of the things are so similar – the natural shapes – but I have to say that Druids Glen is a better site. It’s much less hilly and has more features than Augusta, which is also a bit artificial.
Where did you see the greatest opportunity for change?
PM: It wasn’t so much the greatest ‘opportunity’ but the greatest requirement for change. Because the game has changed so much in 30 years, particularly the distance the ball goes, and the bunkers were in the wrong places for elite players. The course yardage at 6,900 was also on the short side, particularly if the aspirations were to host another Irish Open. So, the requirement was to gain some length and reposition some of the hazards to keep up with the modern game.
How are the changes going to affect the member/visitor from the more forward tees?
PM: If anything, we have actually tried to make it easier for the club golfer. The semi-mature trees planted when Druids Glen was first designed had matured. As a result, the course had become a little claustrophobic with some narrow fairways. The bunkers originally intended for elite players were now in play for club golfers. So we widened the fairways and thinned out trees, and, in many cases, the bunkers are now beyond the reach of the higher handicap golfer. The new greens are also bigger, typically, albeit that pins can be hidden away.
If you are now playing off forward tees, you are playing to wider fairways and bigger green targets. I think the course is therefore a little more playable. However, it is playing harder and yet easier at the same time… depending on which tees you are playing from. For example, on the 8th hole we have made that green much bigger but we have also created some very difficult pin positions on the back left and the back right.
What was the most challenging element you and the team faced?
PM: Finding that extra length. We wanted an extra 300-400 yards to get it up to 7,300 yards which, by today’s standards, is not that long. That was a challenge as most of the tees were already up against the back walls. But we found some good length when the new 4th green allowed us to relocate the 5th tee. On the 11th we moved the tee back onto the island, and on the 1st the back tee is part of the new practice green. The 16th back tee was an easy one as we could go back almost as far as we liked. It’s close to 600 yards now.
What will really impress members and visitors?
PM: Technology has moved on in the past 30 years and that means the discipline of, say, designing and building greens has also moved on. We were extremely fortunate to be given the budget to complete this project absolutely properly. That has made a big difference and we must thank the Nevilles for that. We were able to build everything to top spec which means golfers will enjoy superb conditioning.
What is your proudest design achievement (Not Druids Glen)?
PM: I’ve designed 33 courses in eight countries but I really like the two holes I’ve designed in walled gardens – at Coollattin and New Forest. I’ve never seen them anywhere else. In terms of one course, I do really like New Forest. It’s a lovely site and I thought it turned out really nicely. Obviously though, Druids Glen is the answer if it was allowed.
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