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Go on Your Donkey

Scottsdale Collection

Today is my lucky day. By the excitement I’m feeling, you’d think I am going to play golf at Augusta. But no, we are playing at the Sandfield House Pitch & Putt course on the Lahinch Road. I have passed by this wee course, what, a hundred times? Five hundred times over the last two summers?

We are taking just our wedges and a putter, plus two balls each, and going out to hit the links. Really, this is a pure links course, just like the other famous 18-hole courses.

“Sweetheart, are you sure this is all I will need?” I wonder aloud.

“No pitch and putt hole can be over 75 yards,” Kevin assures me, “so yes, that is all you need to bring.”

In fact, a little research reveals that there is even a Pitch and Putt Union of Ireland, and that any club formally admitted by the Constitution must comply with the rule that says:

“Maximum distance from tee to green shall be 70 metres, measured from the forward edge of the teeing ground to the centre of the green.”

Furthermore, many of the courses are graded and they are split in two divisions—Championship and Provincial—the Championship Grade being permitted to host National Championships and Competitions.

There is even a club called Royal Meath Pitch and Putt, established in 1962, which, according to the club’s website, adopted the name thusly: “The county of Meath is called Ireland’s Royal County because the ancient kings of Ireland lived within its confines at Tara.” A partial description of the course layout reads: “The tiny seventh green has broken many hearts. The raised green of this 25 metre teaser has delivered many a card wrecking double bogey!”

We turn in to the car park and go up to the “clubhouse” which is really just a shed. When I poke my head inside I don’t see anyone, so I call out, “Hello? Hello?”

A trim looking sixty-something gentleman emerges from a room behind the front “desk.” I promptly announce, “I’ve come all the way from Arizona to play your course!”

He is pleasantly amused. I ask him for a scorecard and want to know, “Is it nine holes out and nine holes back?”

“Oh yes,” the man says, his blue eyes twinkling, “It is indeed eighteen holes.”

“Does the color of the flags tell us which way to go?” I press.

“Red out, yellow in,” he nods, then turns to Kevin. “Are you McGrath? McGrath from Kilfenora?”

“I am a McGrath—we are the McGraths from Cork,” Kevin replies, a bit surprised that the man recognizes him. “Do I know you from Lahinch or Egans?”

“Oh it would be Egan’s,” says the man. “From the good old days when we could have five or six pints and still drive home. Now the only way you can go is on your donkey.”

I fear our exchange will end without the Honorable Secretary-President-Captain volunteering who he is, and ask, “What is your name?”

“Slattery would be my name. Eamon Slattery.”

It’s not quite like meeting Bobby Jones, but hey, it is pretty darn special and we haven’t even started our round yet.

It turns out that our chat with the famous Slattery of County Clare puts us past the last tee off time of 5 PM. I barely took note of the sign by the car park, and at this time of year, with the days being so long, it didn’t occur to me that we couldn’t just mosey on over and tee it up.

Oh well…we left with a good story, and like my dear friend Steve Goscin said, “It gives real meaning to the phrase “drunk on your ass!”

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