Rating golf courses is no picnic. That’s why I don’t take my golf meals from beverage carts or halfway houses, preferring to save my appetite for the more dependable caterers at Chik-fil-A and Panda Express. But I recognize that many golfers do dine alfresco, so our Cal Sci algorithm grades courses on their club sandwiches, hot dogs, and Gatorades, awarding bonus points that marginally influence the rankings.*
*The Pebble Beach Golf Links briefly lost its top-ten status some years ago, when a seagull assaulted my cellophane-wrapped ham-and-cheese sandwich on the tenth fairway.
Hotels, unless they are part of a golf resort, are different. I don’t have time right now to explain why they’re different, but they are. The Top 50 doesn’t reward the Fort Meade City Mobile Home Park Golf Course because you were clever enough to stay at the nearest W hotel, and it doesn’t punish Pine Valley Golf Club because you stayed at the Bates Motel.
But sometimes we are sorely tempted to acknowledge an accommodation when it makes a significant contribution to a course’s bottom line. That was the case seven years ago when the Carne Golf Links of Ireland jumped from third to second upon the opening of the three-star, 72-room Broadhaven Bay Hotel & Leisure Centre. It is happening again now — and, amazingly, Carne is again the beneficiary.
The hostelry in question is the Talbot Hotel, Belmullet’s new 21-room boutique hotel. Situated on Barrack Street, just off the town square, the Talbot presents as an elegant storefront adjacent to the popular Anchor Bar, with which it is affiliated. Behind the row-house facade, however, is a warren of luxuriously-furnished corridors leading to themed bedrooms, no two alike. With more fainting couches and gilded consoles than you’ll find in Dublin’s legendary Shelbourne Hotel, the Talbot teeters between contemporary and traditional. The ambiance, however, is dictated by a wealth of natural lighting, the designers having worked windows and skylights into every conceivable surface.
We’re not in the hotel rating business, but golfers often ask us where to stay when they play our top-ranked courses. “What’s your call in Belmullet?” my wife asked me last night. “Which hotel is best?”
I could only shrug. The Talbot, with its crystal chandeliers and designer fabrics, is clearly the more luxe of the two. But the Broadhaven is better for people watching; its lobby is much bigger and features generous seating around a Yamaha grand piano. The Talbot easily wins the art battle, displaying more Chinese artifacts than you’ll find in the British Museum. But the Broadhaven has a spectacular leisure center, the Éalú Health and Leisure Club, that offers Indian head massage and seaweed oxygen facials in addition to a stunning lap pool and workout facility.
“The Talbot is right in the heart of Belmullet,” points out the desk clerk at the Talbot.
“The Broadhaven has the bay views,” volleys the desk clerk at the Broadhaven. “And we’ve got loads of parking.”
Well, I’m just glad I don’t have to make that call. The bigger point is that little Belmullet’s sudden prominence as a destination resort owes almost entirely to the late Eddie Hackett’s magnificent work at Carne. Both hotels offer golf packages, and if you mention the Top 50 at check-in you’ll get a blank look from the clerk. (Coincidentally, Carne gains .02 points in the rankings to close in on top-ranked Askernish Old.)
Top 50 on TV: Nothing this week, but I’m looking forward to catching up on missed episodes of Burn Notice when I get back to the States.