Carton House is back to its best. It is bristling with confidence following substantial investment by owners who acquired the resort at the end of 2017. What was already one of Ireland’s top golf resorts has been given added finesse following renovations to the clubhouse… as well as elsewhere.
The ‘new’ clubhouse has only recently re-opened and comes with a revised layout, new facilities and a chic look. This is not the first resort to receive a makeover (think Adare, Portmarnock Links, Druids Glen) and it demonstrates that certain sections of the Irish tourism industry – and golf – continue to thrive.
The goal at Carton House was transformation. The old courtyard is an embracing and unique way to arrive as you walk between old stone walls that stand resolute and ageless. This space has not changed but what has been transformed is the inside of the building. A fully refurbished private members lounge will prove extremely popular, while the changing facilities have been upgraded, too.
The showers have remained as good as ever and provide a deep lashing after your round. The golf shop has been changed entirely with dark wooden alcoves home to upmarket golf attire and a spacious air that oozes calm confidence. You’re unlikely to be buying golf clubs here – this is much more about attire adorned with upmarket logos and cashmere flourishes.
But it is ‘The Carriage House’ that takes centre stage. This gastro-style pub presents guests with two options. On one side is the restaurant wrapped in dark walls, rich red leather chairs, comfortable banquettes and luxury flourishes of marble and brass. Old wooden beams stretch across the high vaulted ceiling and it feels like a step back in time. The other half is the bar with its cosy nook feel, open fireplace and green leather chairs and sofas. Except for the golf flags, pennants, posters and art on the wall, you might even think you were in first class on the Titanic. It has that warm, plush atmosphere that exudes sophistication.
In fairness, the old restaurant and bar were impressive too, but The Carriage House raises the bar (no pun intended) considerably. This was once the Fitzgerald family’s carriage lodge. Seven carriages were housed here and while the horses and carriages are long gone, you only have to look around you to understand how history clings to the walls and original features have been cherished.
If you like a bite before or after your round, The Carriage House presents an adventurous new menu. Guinness and Maple Shorthorn Braised Beef rib now sits comfortably alongside the Full ‘Monty’ Burger and Bangers & Mash. For those with a sweet tooth, desserts promise a lash of Lemon Queen of Pudding or Sticky Banana Pudding Sundae. The bar is stocked with artisanal brands such as Glendalough Gin, Dingle Vodka and Teelings Whiskeys, and a cocktail could be the ideal sign-off to that perfect round of golf… if there is such a thing.
Live music adds to the ambience on the weekends. The entire vibe of the clubhouse has changed and the leafy surroundings give the place a tranquil air… and one that is enjoyed all the more when you are out on the terrace.
There is often a debate over green fees and GUI rates. A lot of golfers don’t even realise that belonging to the GUI entitles them to discounted green fees at the majority of Irish golf clubs. At Carton House – home to the GUI – you can challenge yourself on either course with a GUI members rate that starts at €50, Monday through Thursday, and €55 on Fridays. The offer is valid through October 2019.
Or why not take advantage of the long summer evenings after work with a twilight rate that starts at €40 per person, or €50 per person in a shared buggy? There is also their superb Titleist Tuesday Open offering which is priced at €45pp and includes complimentary use of the range and a monthly draw to win merchandise and prizes.
The club has also announced a new mid-year membership offer for the first time. You can now join from July 2019-June 2020 at an annual fee of €2,500 + GIU fees and levies and your membership includes;
- membership of GUI National Academy
- 15% discount at F&B and Pro Shop outlets throughout the resort
- complimentary balls at the warm-up range before play
- weekly competitions
- golf at both championship courses
- reduced rates for leisure membership and golf lessons
The resort is just 25 minutes from Dublin city, which makes it accessible to thousands of golfers looking to experience two very different courses. And, with the Irish rugby team conducting its training here, you just never know who you might bump into.
The Golf Courses
Investing in your course is a never-ending commitment if you are to provide the best playing conditions for golfers. Spring course renovation at Carton House included over-seeding the greens with high quality creeping bent. Combined with new soil this has produced exceptional putting surfaces. I have always considered the Monty to have some of the finest putting surfaces in the country. On the O’Meara, new planting includes rhododendron, azaleas, hydrangea and camellias, adding colour and complexity to your round.
There has also been additional tree planting including exotic cherries, flowering tulip and handkerchief trees which will greatly enhance the course landscape. Older tree species that had been lost to the estate are also being replanted. When you consider the beauty of O’Meara’s three holes down by the River Rye you will appreciate the added attraction that such colourful flowers, shrubs and trees can bring.
The majority of Irish golfers know these courses even if they haven’t visited. The Montgomerie has hosted the Irish Open and both courses were home to the World Amateur Team Championships last year. Golf World magazine voted O’Meara’s 16th hole among the best in the UK and Ireland, while the same publication bestowed the Montgomerie with the ‘“Best New Design of the Year” in 2005. In 2014, Carton House was ranked Irish Golf Resort of the Year and now, under new ownership and continuing investment, more accolades will surely follow.
About Carton House
Carton House dates back to 1739, and is large enough that it straddles two counties. The Manor House was once the ancestral home of the Earls of Kildare, and Dukes of Leinster. This 1,100 acre walled estate has also hosted celebrities from all over the world including Princess Grace of Monaco, Mick Jagger and, in its earlier days, Queen Victoria. It is believed that the much-photographed lakeside boathouse opposite the Montgomerie 18th green was custom-built for the queen.
Investment has been made in the hotel, too, to ensure the property retains its charm, elegance and rich heritage. Today, you can enjoy the Manor House’s whiskey library and your own personal tasting… of the finest Jameson whiskies among others. At the other end of the scale – away from all of the sporting facilities and activities – the Carton House Spa promises a place of peace and relaxation. It is a perfect couple’s destination.
Careful restoration of the unique historic surrounds is complemented by the upgrading of the hotel’s modern amenities. The banqueting suites and meeting rooms have been refurbished, while all bedrooms located in the newer wing of the hotel are also being completely refurbished. The ambitions of the new owners will see further upgrades and additions as Carton House seeks to offer the highest quality experience to everyone.
A Sibling Rivalry
Carton House O’Meara (par 73) vs Montgomerie (par 72)
Two more different inland courses you will not find in Ireland. It is one of the great strengths of this championship 36-hole resort. There was so much space to lay out these two courses that both the O’Meara (2002) and the Montgomerie (2003) have a wide, lazy feel… but there the similarities end.
In terms of appearance, challenge and difficulty they are polar opposites. The O’Meara is a classic, lazy parkland flowing over heaving, wooded terrain. Its famous three holes down by the River Rye attract the plaudits but there are several other beautiful holes: the 12th and 13th build the excitement as you head towards the River Rye, while the 5th is a delicious short par four with a green perched on a ledge, the 7th is a dark and brooding par three and the par four 8th is a daunting Index 2, wrapping around trees.
The Montgomerie presents a links-style challenge with its open, low and rolling rhythm. It is hypnotic at times and with so few trees it is left to the 127 bunkers to snap you into shape. The green complexes are big and dramatic but you need to be so smart on all your shots if you are to do the Monty justice. One visit to the bunkers will encourage you never to return to the sand.
Carton House gives the two courses equal billing but the results of my social media poll (Twitter) make it quite clear that the O’Meara is the preferred course: from 380 votes it received 240 (63%). The Monty grabbed 32% with the final 5% expressing no preference. It is the difficulty of the Montgomerie that always pushes golfers towards the O’Meara… little surprise as the Montgomerie appears in my top 10 most difficult courses in the country. The choice is yours… or just play them both.
FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT CARTON HOUSE DIRECTLY
Carton Demesne, Maynooth, Co. Kildare / Tel: 01-5052000 www.CartonHouse.com