The ISPS Handa World Invitational Men | Women, Presented by Modest! Golf Management is a first of its kind event in Europe and with two courses to contend, we’ve got the lowdown from two of the people who know them best.
Five-time European Tour winner Michael Hoey plays out of Galgorm Castle Golf Club while Irish amateur Tiarnan McLarnon is a member of Massereene Golf Club, the track which each player will play once before the cut on Friday night.
Hoey is expecting a tough test at Galgorm – where every player who makes the cut will tee it up over the weekend – with thick rough being one of the key components of the course set-up.
“They get the rough thick at Galgorm,” he said. “They set the course up really well and make it difficult for the players if you’re in the rough. We’ve had quite a lot of rain in the last few weeks so I think it’s going to be quite rainy this week as well, unfortunately.
“They grow the rough quite thick for the tournament, which is good, but you do have to hit the fairways. It’s quite easy if you do hit the fairways, you can make birdie because it’s not that long, but the rough is going to be wet so you have to hit the fairways. The greens are very true so you can hole putts.”
While Galgorm may suit the longer hitters in the field, Massereene might offer those whose strengths lie elsewhere the chance score well, according to McLarnon.
“Galgorm is going to play quite long especially because of the weather we’ve had over the past month or so,” McLarnon said. “Despite that, with the soft conditions and the ways the scores go on the Challenge Tour, I imagine the scores will be pretty low, especially around my home course. I can see someone shooting a 62 or 63 in the right conditions.
“I have the course record at Massereene, which is an eight under par 64, so if at the end of the week it was still there, I’d be very surprised. The greens are the best I’ve ever seen so I think someone will go low.”
The amateur knows the course inside out and has singled out a few key holes which will need to be carefully navigated this week.
“The sixth is likely to be one of the most challenging holes,” he said. “It’s a dogleg right par four where you need to carry a corner and you’ll normally play driver and a seven iron. It’s a very positional drive and I can see it causing a lot of problems, especially if the players are only playing one practice round.
“The tenth is a par four this week which I would usually play as a par five and with out-of-bounds all the way down the right that’s likely to prove a tough hole.”
While the pressure is naturally going to be on the players, there is also an added onus on the tournament organisers this week, with Hoey noting that the difference in ball flight between the men and women could cause headaches when it comes to course set-up.
“They can’t set the pin positions too difficult because the women tend to flight the ball lower so the course has to be set up to make it a test for both the men and women, according to the different ball flights,” he said.
“You don’t have to worry about the practice rounds because the yardage books are so good, you almost don’t need to play practice rounds.
“You can walk the course in an hour with your yardage book; I’ve been doing it for 15 years. If you don’t know the golf course and you have a really detailed yardage book, you can really learn the course in about an hour and a half.”