The new year will bring many changes in the game and some of them will be in evidence at County Sligo Golf Club for the West of Ireland Amateur Open at Easter.
The great Harry Colt track is undergoing a major upgrade under the watchful eye of Pat Ruddy and many of the first phase changes, additions and enhancements will be in play when the curtain-raising “West” takes place at the Rosses Point links from March 25-29.
A run of good weather in the period before Christmas proved conducive to progress with new fairway bunkering on the sixth and seventh, an extension to the 10th green and the construction of a new 11th tee all complete.
There are plans to add five fairway bunkers to the 12th later this month and complete the new fairway bunker on the left side of the 11th.
The "new” first, second and third greens will be in play for the West as well as the new fairway bunker on the second, the new fifth tee and the remodelled sixth green.
The new fairway bunkers on the sixth and seventh (20m beyond the two bunkers on the right) will be of the risk-reward variety and offer players who are trapped the chance to take on the green if they draw a decent lie.
The extension to the seventh green has also been done but while it brings the stream more into play and leads straight to the new, eighth tee (15m further back), it won’t be in play until the end of 2016.
We're told the club has received positive feedback from members and visitors on the changes carried out so far but there are no plans to begin work on the second phase of the redevelopment plan until the first phase has been completed.
Plans are in place to budget for the proposed Phase Two changes to the 14th, 15th and 17th holes and present those plans to the members.
We understand that a new 14th tee would be built further back up the hill with two new fairway bunkers down the right hand side. The green would then be flipped over on itself into the hill on the right, closer to the beach and the stream that traverses the fairway.
This would clear the congestion in the current 15th/7th tee area and there would then be room for a new tee for seventh on the medal/championship tee for the 15th.
Changes to the 15th have yet to be decided but it is possible that the green could be moved 25m further back into the rough.
As for the famous 17th hole, there are plans for a fairway bunker on the right and another bunker on the hill on the left. The elevated green could be extended to the right and the false front removed, increasing the number of viable pin positions.