Greenkeeper Dan Ashelby represents The Mere on Dubai Duty Free Irish Open

This July, greenkeeping supervisor, Dan Ashelby, was offered the chance to represent The Mere as part of the volunteer support team for the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open. The event was held for the first time in its history at Lahinch Golf Club, located on the south west coast of Ireland.  We caught up with Dan to find out more about his recent trip…

‘Lahinch has had a long, esteemed history, first being laid out by Old Tom Morris, the architect of St. Andrews and redesigned in the 1920s by Dr Alister Mackenzie, designer of Augusta National Golf Club. The course carves its way through the dunes and opens to greens back dropped by views of the Atlantic Ocean. It is a stunning example of Links Golf and is characterised by some very unique golf holes, including Hole 5 The Dell; a blind shot par 3 with the green screened by a 30ft sand dune. Throughout the week I worked with a team of six volunteers, charged with maintaining the bunkers for the competition. This was a wonderful experience as it meant I got to work on various signature holes and was very enlightening, seeing the effort that goes into keeping bunkers maintained to a highly specified standard. Depending on the position of the pins each day could bring certain bunkers into play and make your work the feature hazard on the hole.

Lahinch is a small town known primarily for its surf culture and can offer bright, but blistery weather through the season. Fortunately Lahinch experienced unusually calm sunny weather throughout the week, which made for some great golfing scores as the players could play less cautiously.  The course as a whole was highly praised by both the players and the tournament officials. The greens were fast and true, as is typical of a links.

As always, the Irish Open offers an amazing atmosphere and entertainment to compliment the golf. Of an evening, the pubs displayed their famous hospitality and the whole town was a buzz with activity.

Early starts and late nights were required to keep the course in top tournament conditions. The support team of about 30 volunteers were expected on site for 4am to complete the morning setup. Throughout the day we would either watch the tournament unfold or catch up on sleep, before we were back out at 5pm to repair the course, ready for the following days action. We would typically finish at 10pm before heading back to our lodgings.

It was a thoroughly rewarding but tiring experience, which in the end is all worth the effort to be part of golfing history and a very successful event. The week culminated in the support team being privileged to be present on the 18th green once the tournament was finished, to watch the winner Jon Rahm receive the trophy in front of 20,000+ viewers. We even had the opportunity to take a group photo with the winner and personally congratulate him.

I have taken a lot away from my experiences volunteering, seeing the enjoyment a truly quality golf course can inspire and I am energised to get back to work to help continue to improve our course and the experience of our golfers’.