K Club Preparations

Jodie Ginsberg of Reuters writes about Ryder Cup preparations at K Club, where Ian Woosnam has brought the Hootie Pine Fungus to the Irish course.

"We have been focusing over the last number of years on strengthening the golf course as a whole," Byrne said in an interview on a rainy day at his K Club office in County Kildare.

"Our emphasis has been on creating long, tight and interesting holes".


Stretched by 300 yards, the par-72 layout will play to around 7,400 for the Ryder Cup, providing more of a challenge for big hitters such as Americans Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson.

Several of the changes made by Byrne's team of 22 permanent greenkeepers were prompted by suggestions from European Ryder Cup captain Ian Woosnam, who visited last year.

Among these were the addition of 13 new trees at key turning points on six of the holes and the introduction of tightly-mown swales, or collection areas, around eight of the greens.

The installation of tall, mature trees, most notably on 16 and 17, will prevent power drivers of the ball from cutting off the doglegs.

"Now, if a player wants to cut the corner on some of the holes, he's going to have to carry a certain amount of trouble," Byrne said. "You could call that 'Tiger-proof' if you wanted to."

The introduction of the collection areas replaces the deepish rough that existed at the K Club around the greens, rough which demanded the flop shot beloved by many of the leading American players.

With a faster runoff, the swales will provide players with the choice of "a pitch-and-run shot, using the putter or executing a flop shot from a very tight line", Byrne said.

And this is fun...

"Because many of the greens are raised, they're suitable for these runoffs which have actually given the course more of an Irish feel," he added.

"Because a very European-type shot will now often be required, it might be an advantage to European players.'

Oh and take your rain gear...

Byrne is preparing for a worst-case weather scenario in September: an inch of rain every day.

Greens and fairways would be cut with the lightest possible equipment and viewing areas drained and sandcapped to ensure that expected crowds of around 40,000 are able to get round the golf course with their feet relatively dry.