Bear-like and almost childishly enthusiastic in his love for the game, Pat Ruddy has spent the better part of two decades shaping and reshaping his links masterpiece, The European Club at Brittas Bay on the rugged County Wicklow coast.
But time stands still for no man and when the Irish Amateur Close and Irish Ladies Close championship are held at his course next summer, the top amateurs in the country will discover no fewer than 30 new bunkers waiting to gobble those errant drives.
The 14th at The European ClubHis vision is to see The European Club take its place as one of the great golf courses of the world and he has employed what he likes to describe at “20-20 vision” to combat advances in new technology that are threatening to take the skill out of playing so many wonderful golf courses around the world.
The “20-20 vision” he is referring to has nothing to do with eyesight, but rather the year 2020.
“The days when a 370 yard par four was a good hole and the 420 yarder seemed almost impossible are long gone,” says Ruddy, who lists Druids Glen, Druids Heath and St Margarets amongst his creations. “That is not the case any more, especially when you see fellas hitting par fives with mid irons and driving the ball over 400 yards.”
To keep pace with new technology, Ruddy has rebunkered his golfing work of art to challenge not only the 260 yard hitter, but also the player with the skill and strength to blast the ball 320 yards in normal conditions.
“I’ve done it because the game has changed so much in the last ten years,” he explains. “My initial strategy was to take a minimalist approach to bunkering - putting in a few but where they are needed.
“But then, when the game changed, I had the choice of moving the bunkers up or adding more. I am trying to measure up to the world game and I wanted to to deal more comprehensively with the 320-yard hitter and leaving something 260 yard hitter to worry about off the championship tees.”
Now boasting close to 100 bunkers, The European Club measures a testing 7,323 yards off the Championship tees and 6,710 yards from the medal markers, which Ruddy hopes will keep pace with technology give him “some years of peace.”
All the par fours now measure over 400 yards with 25 yards added to the fourth, 35 yards to the 11th, 20 yards to the 15th and terrifying 18th now a 477-yard monster.
The changes were prompted by the antics of former Ireland international Michael McDermott, now a professional on the PGA Europro Tour, who twice drove the green at the 459 yard 12th on his recent visits.
“The driver has made the three-wood almost obsolete, like the coal-miner,” Ruddy adds. “Golf is now in a position where courses will have to be 10 miles long or tactics will have to be used whereby a player will be faced with the option of playing the nine iron off the tee, followed by the driver, rather than the other way around.
“Yes, you must leave the boom-boom aspect in the game to a degree. But there must be a combination of hazards and skill as well as brawn. It has to be a mixture of different ingredients like any good meal. You can’t just have meat. You need your two veg as well.”
The Golfing Union of Ireland visited the course this week and are reportedly satisified with the challenge awaiting the cream of Irish golf next summer. How long Ruddy will have to wait before further changes are required remains to be seen.