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Bunclody Golf & Fishing Club Feature Review

By: Andrew Picken | Tue 25 Jan 2022 | Comments


Review by Golfshake Ambassador Andy Picken


Cradled in the visually stunning parkland of Mount Leinster, Bunclody is set among verdant farming pastures on the border of counties Wexford and Carlow. The colours in autumn are simply breathtaking and the surrounding pastures are the green of rural Ireland.

Bunclody is a pretty town where the Slaney and Clody Rivers meet in the valley of the Blackstairs Mountains and flow gracefully under an old granite bridge.

In Gaelic, Bun Clóidí means ‘the end of the Clóideach’, where the little river flows into the Slaney. Given the rich, 5,000-year heritage in the ancient east this is a relatively young town founded in the seventeenth century.

The town centre is lovely with lines of lime trees and a babbling stream taking pride of place in the middle of the main street, which is lined with quaint shops, cafes, traditional pubs and restaurants. Our schedule did not leave enough time for a full exploration of the town but it does provide another legitimate excuse for a return visit in the future.

The Venue

Bunclody

Bunclody Golf and Fishing Club is situated in 300 acres of prime pastures in the former Hall-Dare Estate on the Carlow Wexford border. Opened in 2009, it is a relatively new venue, but it is already establishing for itself a reputation for excellence. It ranks highly, within the top 21 parkland courses for the entire country and was also recently voted as ‘The Best Hidden Gem in Ireland’.

Designed by Jeff Howes, the championship course runs over 7000 yards on the banks of the river Slaney and has a rich diversity of golf holes. There are some superb elevation changes and the views around this venue are simply stunning.

Canadian golf course architect, Howes has an enviable design pedigree, partnering with the likes of Jack Nicklaus, Seve Ballesteros and Retief Goosen on other projects. He looked after the greens at Mount Juliet prior to the WGC American Express World Championships in 2002 and 2004 that prompted Tiger Woods to remark that “the greens played were the best he had experienced that year, including the Opens.”

This is an ambitious club and it has an aspirational feel throughout. There is a long meandering drive through woodlands to arrive at the excellent driving range and training facilities. Substantial car parks surround a very impressive circular clubhouse of two stories that has been purpose built for the discerning golfer guests and members.

It is as impressive inside as outside.

The Ambition

Bunclody Clubhouse

I have never seen a reed thatched roof on a circular clubhouse before. It is stunning and the local architects of Beer and Burgess are to be congratulated. There are superb verandas and gallery areas that offer access to some stunning views whilst eating or drinking in the excellent clubhouse. Inside the changing rooms I was immediately reminded of the interior fittings of TPC Sawgrass. An impressive comparison.

There are well advanced plans for accommodation lodges to be in operation at the site. Having seen the drawings for this enterprise, they are equally impressive. I can see this venue developing into a premium stay and play venue in the country.

This is a venue to keep an eye on as it evolves and develops as it will become a prime site for the travelling golfer. They have partnership deals in place already for other local venues that currently offer remarkable value for the society golfer. I haven’t played Carlow or Mount Wolseley, but they are now both on my wish list as this offer seems excellent value.

Designed by the late, great Christy O’Connor Jnr, the Golf Course at Mount Wolseley is an idyllic and lush parkland course that tests every face your game while also providing enjoyment. Carlow also has an excellent reputation with it being described as an inland links. Combine those venues as a package with Bunclody and that seems like an excellent deal.

The Golf Course at Bunclody

Bunclody Course

The front nine at Bunclody requires accurate shaping of tee shots to offer any chance of success later on the greens. A common theme for these shots is trying to aim towards the water hazards but leaving enough room for error to prevent a soggy demise.

All the short holes are all interesting and challenging but I really enjoyed the 5th and 7th as they offer a visual challenge due to the obvious hazards of water and sand from the tee. 

The 9th hole is another cracker. A great example of a risk and reward par 4. Loads of sand visible for the ambitiously talented eagle hunter but of equal enjoyment to the lesser player for whom par would be an equal pleasure.

The 12th is another design that encourages a tee shot to tempt proximity to the bunkers at the shoulder of the dog-leg. Achieve this and it offers a much easier approach into the green avoiding another cluster of greenside bunkers.

The 14th is a great short hole with a beautiful setting protected by some very well-placed bunkers.  

Bunclody

The 15th is another excellently situated hole requiring real accuracy off the tee. A centrally placed tree adds further to the challenge. Water hazards cover all shots short of the green and anything long is devoured by more well-placed bunkers.

The Index 1 hole, the 16th is an absolute beauty. The tee box sits on the bank of the River Slaney giving a glimpse of the green over 400 yards away, an accurate drive is required through the mature pines with a little draw to avoid the fairway bunkers. A good drive followed by an accurate mid-to-long iron to the green which is part surrounded by the River Slaney is needed here. A par will be a memorable result. This is a visually stunning golf hole in every way.

Bunclody

The 17th is another cracking short hole again protected short by a stream that meanders across the fairway. A par here will give you a real “lift” as you approach the final hole.

I know this is a play on words but I would definitely recommend getting a “lift” from the 17th green. Not a mental lift from a successfully played hole but a five storey lift to get to the next tee.

The 18th tee is wonderfully elevated, giving views that are genuinely distracting. This is a made for TV golf hole. It is stunning. The green is protected by water left, sand right and the proximity of the gallery that awaits on the veranda of the clubhouse. This course is blessed with some exceptionally strong finishing holes and I can imagine many scorecards being destroyed by these intimidating challenges. 

The Facilities

Bunclody Locker Room

The bar and restaurant offer a warm welcome and tempting menu with panoramic views of the surrounding countryside and of Mount Leinster, open to visitors and societies every day.

I was genuinely astonished to find that that 16-month annual membership fees are currently less than 1,075 euros. I appreciate that there are not 16 months in the year but this kind of flexible package is to be applauded, as is the value it offers.

Check out the club website for current deals, but I would advise to do so quickly as when this accommodation is complete this is going to be a very busy venue as word gets out about the quality and value that it offers.

Don’t forget the fishing that is also offered as part of the tourist package. It was out of season during my visit but happily provides another reason to return as I also want to sample the other courses close by that are offered as part of a package for 99 euros.

Bunclody is a golf course I could play again and again. It is well thought out, well-conditioned  and definitely I want to see it in its summer splendour. In autumn the colours were awesome. I can only imagine how good it must look the height of the season. 

For more information, please visit https://www.bunclodygfc.ie/bunclody-golf-club/.


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