TOM Fazio is driving down the interstate in North Carolina, but walking every inch of Adare Manor’s 220 designed acres with you.
“Let me ask you first”, asks the most important golf course designer in the world. “Have you played in the field lately?”
In the last six weeks, he is told.
And in a word, how did you find it?
Opulent and playable, if I can have two.
“Well, the playability is my style of golf,” agrees Fazio, 73 at the time of the interview in 2018. And then he wanders through varying levels of amazement at what the generosity of JP McManus and the creative intelligence of Fazio have toasted in Limerick. It is a thing of beauty.
For any golfer whose experience at Adare Manor golf predates its majestic redevelopment, there is a modicum of consolation in the fact that the footprint and course are essentially the same.
There are significant elevation changes on some holes (the 5th, for example) but, if anything, one is less likely to spend time looking for wide shots because so many trees have been removed. There is air and light and everything is very breathable. One would have to work really hard to miss a ball now, but here’s the rub: racking up a score could be even harder.
The reason? tiebreakers Environments shaved to the bone around the greens, 12,500 square meters in total. Employing 50 greenkeepers is almost unheard of in the industry, but these loopholes and carefully manicured exit areas triple the mowing work every day.
Walking to the first tee, look directly at the back of the ninth green. You’ll quickly learn how standard approaches quickly get complicated.
“Adare is set up on purpose to make it look very easy to play,” laughs Fazio.
It certainly is fun to play. All the detail of the positions you can play shots to give you so much variety, but next thing, you’re counting afterward and thinking ‘geez, I didn’t really score that well, did I?’
Andy McMahon, Adare Manor’s director of golf operations, agrees. “It’s one of those courses where it’s easy to get a decent score on, but it’s a very difficult golf course to get a good score on. No one gets 42 points, but you don’t get 21 points either.”
JP might have offered the euphoric giddy excuse if Limerick had won an All-Ireland hurling title by the time he got down to discussing with Fazio the renewal of all the refurbishments. Instead, he could only trust wistfully as he neared his glorious completion: “If I had to count the checks, I would have stopped.”
Maybe it would. Somehow though, I doubt it.
McMahon might not dignify such gossip like the staggering cost of the Adare Manor resort, but he smiles at his own misunderstanding of what a ‘renovation’ at Adare would mean.
“I had been at The Grove in Hertfordshire for 12 years but until I came here for a chat I had no idea of the scale of the changes.
“That word (renovate) doesn’t come close to describing what’s happened. It’s gone from being the best park in Ireland to, well, just taking the ‘park’ away from it. It’s one of the best golf courses in Ireland. So we can decategorize ourselves”.
Fazio has 17 grandkids, writes his checks with seven zeroes and is worldly enough at this stage not to be swayed by worries about checkbooks and portions of expenses.
“We had a good discussion, JP and I, to get an idea of what he wanted to do. It’s not about what I want to do, it’s always about what the owner wants and can afford to do. He had no idea what JP and his family would do with Adare. I don’t think anyone did. I’m not even sure they knew from the start that they were going to get as far as they did.
“When you get to a golf course and a stately home, you never know how big the job is going to be until you start working. What the McManus family has created at Adare Manor, if you want a world class experience, not just Ireland or Western Europe, there is no better experience you can find than going to Adare Manor. It is one of the best places in the world. It is difficult to explain.
“People would like to say that these things can be done somehow without a lot of money. Unfortunately, financial capacity affects everything in terms of how things are done,” says Fazio.
“The number of jobs, the number of people who worked at Adare for two and a half years. The number of tradesmen, carpenters, electricians, builders, landscapers, created so many jobs.
“How do you achieve that? If a government were to do that, it would involve so many rules and regulations that it would take twice as long. JP’s love for Ireland, for Limerick and for golf made that commitment and that’s how it’s done. People say ‘ah, only rich people can do that’. Well, JP didn’t create that system, it’s God’s doing. How do you pay for all the people who work there?
“Doesn’t it make a lot of economic sense to do what he did? As a businessman, you probably wouldn’t do this as an investment or something you want to start making a profit on.
“People may think it’s expensive. It is not about that because you cannot justify what you did from the point of view of the return.
“The commitment that he made is so fabulous, so wonderful. This is something bigger, this is a big, big problem for Ireland. This is a world class must see. Its a big problem”.
McManus and Fazio had the golfing eye of Pádraig Harrington and Paul McGinley during the recreation.
The designer had Harrington approach the shallow and treacherous 18th green from all sorts of eyes and angles to see how it could be played. “I gave him 20 balls,” recalls Fazio, “and he took his putter, wedged it, bounced it off a seven-iron, hit it. What makes it difficult, Pádraig said, is that he was asking him a question, but at the same time he was giving the player options. I like that. It’s a special course.”
The course is one of the few in the world to use ‘Sub-Air’ technology under the greens (Augusta National was the first), essentially absorbing moisture and keeping the greens working fast and true.
Curved turf of pure distinction has been used on those greens, feeding off the aforementioned surroundings and teeing areas, as penal and severe as you can imagine. Anything slightly off course can and will end up 30 yards to the left, right, or long. Are you putting it down or hitting it towards the flag?
You’ll notice the aesthetics soon too. The emerald color of rye grass was chosen for its appearance and playability.
Every green is hand-cut, every approach to every green is hand-cut, and the tee boxes are the same.
On Twitter, an English PGA pro posted a photo of himself strolling the green surfaces. Except it was the 6th tee. It takes six green-keepers to do the 18th green by themselves every day. Handmade takes on a whole new meaning at Adare Manor.
Fazio is in no doubt that Adare Manor is ready for whatever, or whoever, calls. The infrastructure, the parking, the facilities, the practice areas, every piece, the place is ready. This is a worldwide deal. This is a complete package and the commitment made to it makes it one of a kind.
It’s also not hard to attract the director of golf operations to that space.
“When we had an invitational fourball a few years ago with McIlroy, Lowry, Harrington and McGinley, there were 2,500 people there and we had a great atmosphere there, it was perfect. It was good to see where people travel on the course, a nice little test in terms of traffic. They were following just one match, so the (JP McManus) Pro-Am is going to take it to another level. It will be great to hear the noise because acoustically it is a super golf course. You will hear the roar of the little birds.”
Fazio’s passion for design must have been beside himself when McManus provided the basis for the work.
While his son Logan runs the family business now, and Fazio Snr may not be hungry for a new job, he was consumed by Adare.
“People say you’ve retired and I’m thinking ‘why would you retire from my business? It takes you to great places to meet great people and have fun doing it. Oh, and by the way, people pay me very well to do it, why would you stop doing it?
The language in which he details the work at Adare is rich. The second hole is a ‘magnificent’ par 4, the elevation changes at 12, a par five. “The setting for that has a great feel about it.”
There’s a scent of Augusta herself on the approach to the 13th green, drawing away from all the places you want the ball to land. “What I like is the finesse of that golf hole,” says its designer, “only the brave go to that silly pin (left side) unless you’re a tour-level golfer.”
“No. 13 is pretty special,” agrees Andy McMahon, “a tee in the trees, a big bunker on the right side of the fairway. That bunker is a focal point, and the trees to the left and right frame the hole beautifully.” .
Explains Fazio: “My goal was to create an experience where you really want to come and play on this parkland course. Visiting golfers don’t necessarily want to play in a park in Ireland, so how do we make it play like a links course? That was the challenge. Irish golf is played through the elements of wind and moisture, bouncing and rolling. How do you achieve that without a sandy, rough and dry soil as it can be? At Adare Manor, you can chip or putt 60 or 70 yards from the green.
“It has links gameplay in a park setting, which is very different and unique.”
The designer is delighted with Index One No 5 (a par four) which required large earthwork lifts on difficult terrain. It was dropped 15 feet, so players now see the bottom of the flag. He has turned one of Adare’s weakest holes into one of his strongest and starts a series of holes towards the curve that are really strong.
The often-shown par-three 16th hole is now 85 yards long from front left to back right and could easily require a change of four clubs overnight, depending on the elements and pin placement. .
Fazio has cleared much of the left side across the exclusive par 5, encouraging players to cross the river to the left of the 18th green. The director of golf operations (a professional by trade, of course), feels that going for that route makes the hole a half-shot easier, but that assumes that player has the touch to take advantage of going the length of the green rather than the shallow depth. path from front to back. He is probably the lesser of two evils.
“Also, when it comes to gameplay, players will quickly see that there is no penalty on the golf course, meaning you won’t miss a ball unless you’re in a hazard,” says McMahon. “We can go 7,500 yards off the back tees, but it can also be a 6,000-yard test, which is a completely different golf course. It can be configured for the elite golfer or the recreational golfer.”
What Adare Manor potentially adds to Munster as the premium golf experience will only be determined by timing and packaging.
Despite the lure of the North West, there can be no such varied and delicious source of golf as is now on offer from Lahinch, Doonbeg, all the way to Ballybunion, Tralee, Dooks and Waterville, all the way to Old Head and all the way to Adare Manor. .
“I think we bring that completely different feel to the area in terms of the style of the golf course. A pristine inland golf course to complement the fabulous links. And maybe you won’t get hit as much here.”