Irish golf is blessed with many amazing venues but the addition of The Golf Course at Adare Manor to Ireland’s extraordinary suite of great destinations is a remarkable achievement that is likely to bring the Ryder Cup back to Ireland.
The resort's owner JP McManus has told the European Tour's Chief Executive Keith Pelley that he wants to host the biennial tournament at his Co Limerick resort as soon as possible, which is 2026.
And Pelley has promised him they’ll talk after the dust has settled in Paris in September.
It’s not a done deal by any means but given the magnificence of the course — a classic Robert Trent Jones layout that’s been redesigned by Tom Fazio and given a new coat of perfect, wall-to-wall grass, SubAir greens, a 220,000-tonne bed of sand (170 acres were covered to a depth of nine inches) and 50 miles of gravel drainage trenches, it would take a brave man to turn down the chance to play a Ryder Cup there.
Thousands of trees and bushes were removed and new species planted, airing the playing corridors for velvety fairways — there is almost no rough — sown throughout with A4 bentgrass. The greens, on the other hand, are the first in Europe to use Pure Distinction bentgrass and with the SubAir aeration system in place, they can play as firm and superb fast at all times. Think Augusta National in Ireland and you have a perfect picture.
As Pelley himself said on Friday: "The golf course is an absolute masterpiece. Truly remarkable. The condition is impeccable. And the design as good as I've seen."
The European Tour's Chief Executive confessed to feeling a little envious, given the challenges he faces, at seeing Rory McIlroy and Paul McGinley willingly roll up to play Pádraig Harrington and Shane Lowry in a charity fourball to mark the opening of the course and promote the return of the JP McManus Pro-Am in July 2020. (See JPMcManusProAm.com for advance ticket sales).
It's a great cause and is likely to attract all the world's great player, including Tiger Woods and a host of A-list Hollywood stars and world sports figures.
The common denominator in it all is McManus, who made millions as a bookmaker, racehorse owner and legendary gambler turned financier and philanthropist.
The JP McManus Foundation has donated millions to charity and the Pro-Am has raised around €140m for good causes in the southwest of Ireland.
As Harrington explained, an invitation to play in the pro-am is something event the pros covet.
"It's an "occasion" pro-am and it's not an occasion that happens every year, but we wait for it every five years," Harrington said.
"The pros talk about it. Pros come up to me and ask 'is JP going to have the Pro-Am? Can you put a good word in for me?'"
Tiger Woods always plays, which says it all about McManus, who lives in lavish luxury and has all the trappings of a man worth a reported €1.8 billion but remains a folk hero in his hometown because he has not forgotten his roots.
That loyalty was summed up when he explained how the gave the contracting job to Ballybunion-based Atlantic Golf Construction.
"Basically there were only three companies who could do the job — two of them established and a third an honest, hard-working guy. So I said, let's give them six holes each and let the Fazio organisation manage it," McManus told dinner guests, assembled in the ante-room of a massive new ballroom built in the new wing of the hotel on the eve of the exhibition.
"Then we got word back that the other two companies would only do it if they got nine holes each. So I was asked what are we going to do. And I said, you know that guy wanted to do the six holes, give him the 18. So Anthony (Bennett) from Atlantic in Ballybunion just down the road, we are so proud he got the job. And they did a wonderful job."
As McManus pointed out at a gathering on the eve of the charity fourball that launched the Pro-Am, it all comes down to people.
It's been a strength of the European Tour over the years, especially in the Ryder Cup arena
"You can have great buildings but for us, all the family, it is not about buildings it is about people," said McManus, who paid tribute to the previous owners, the Kane family, turning Adare Manor into a hotel and golf resort.
"I’d like to think that Adare will always be remembered for that, the great people who work here, who’ve worked here, who’ve made it something that we want to make it. Without them, it wouldn’t work.”