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Shots across the border - by design

DERMOT GILLEECE WE shouldn't be concerned that, in the wake of IRA decommissioning, there is still the prospect of shots across the Border. For happily, we're talking about those launched with golf clubs.

In a unique development, three-time major championship winner, Nick Price, is designing a high-profile course which will traverse the Border. Which means, for instance, that you will drive off the first tee in Northern Ireland and play your second shot in the Republic.

And since so many good things in Irish sport seem to be happening in Tyrone these days, where better to build such a project? In fact the ?50 million Favour Royal development, which will include a five-star, 128-bedroom hotel, is located on the Blackwater River, close by the A28 between Augher and Aughnacloy.

American laywer, Jay Liddy, who is managing the project, explained: "It has meant getting planning permission in Co Monaghan as well as north of the Border, but we haven't encountered any serious problems. Nick Price has been signed as designer because I like his work.

"A routing has been done and we're looking at a start to course construction next April with an official opening in spring 2008."

It is the brainchild of Co Tyrone native, Patrick Donaghy, who owns a major construction company in the US. He emigrated there in 1959. When he bought Favour Royal with its listed manor house in 1996, the estate was reduced to 79 acres, but Donaghy later acquired an additional 215 acres, 15 of which are in Co Monaghan. Hence the cross-border element to the project.

Price, who captured the 1994 Open at Turnberry and two USPGA Championships in 1992 and 1994, has designed 14 courses in collaboration with other architects, including Tom Fazio. But it was only last year that he decided to go out on his own.

"Since Favour Royal happens to be my first project over there, I want to make a loud noise," he said. "I want to do something special; something I would enjoy playing every day. This will represent product in the ground, which I can show to prospective clients with a view to expanding my European presence."

The 48-year-old South African went on: "My playing days are coming to an end. Though I'll probably play a little bit on the Champions Tour, I've basically had such a wonderful career that I'm not sure I want to play golf that hard any more.

"A year ago I launched my own company, Nick Price Design, and brought a young man named Warren Henderson on board, who has worked with Gary Player and Jack Nicklaus. Apart from Favour Royal, we have projects in South Africa, the Dominican Republic, Florida and a TPC in Mexico. So we're busy."

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Price concluded: "For the Irish project, there will be no question of doing an American-style course. With dramatic changes in elevation, it's a beautiful, heathland site where the native flora will be retained and earthmoving will be kept to a minimum. I will be trying to achieve a wild, natural, windswept look."

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