Home & Away Places to Play: Co Westmeath resort and Lynn McCool the perfect partnership
Glasson is an old Scots nickname for a person with grey hair and if you’ve stood on the 17th tee at the golf club of the same name, with the wind cutting in off Killinure Bay, you’re liable to age quickly.
The challenging carry over the inlet to a green which seems the size of a postage stamp is enough to put the frighteners on golfers of all handicaps.
It remains a signature hole, a card-wrecker of renown. Anyone completing the punishing par three with the same ball they’ve started with is one up, or more, on the rest of the field.
The County Westmeath club is almost 30 years on the go and what the late Christy O’Connor junior invented, fellow Tour pro turned architect David Jones has improved immensely.
Jones has given the Glasson lay-out a major makeover, notably over the final stretch of six holes, which was always a delight to play before, and is even more so now.
“The closing stretch provides the wow factor,” observed Lynn McCool, the Director of Golf.
As part of the makeover under the ownership of the Press-Up Hospitality Group, Glasson is now formally known as Glasson Lakehouse, embracing a hotel, outdoor heated pool, a new spa and cocktail bar and golf, naturally.
Just as every golf club has a story, so do the folk at the ‘front of house’.
Some have had more adventures than others. McCool is living proof of that.
McCool is a bright and bubbly personality who has crammed much into her rich golfing experiences since teeing off at her home club, Strabane, where her father, Liam, is President this year.
Where to start? How about chatting with Barack Obama about the good ol’ days in Hawaii?
Or being on first-name terms with the late Arnold Palmer?
Or taking down Annika Sorenstam on the US College circuit?
McCool was a very fine amateur who won a scholarship in 1990 to the University of Hawaii in Manoa, which is not exactly across the road from Strabane.
‘There were other offers, but I wouldn’t have changed Hawaii for the world,’ said McCool. ‘I got to play No 1 for Hawaii. Annika was No 1 for Arizona and we had some great battles. I beat her once in Utah. She’s an amazing person.’
In Hawaii, McCool’s studies often took second place to golf and she played catch up on her lessons at the weekend in Punahou School, where Barack Obama was formerly a student.
Scroll forward to 2013 when the G8 Summit was held in Lough Erne in Enniskillen, where McCool was Director of Golf.
Why not welcome Obama in person, have a chin wag about their Hawaii connection, and maybe play a few holes with him at the acclaimed Nick Faldo design, she thought?
McCool wrote a letter, as you do, and before she knew it, there were Secret Service suits knocking at her door in the days before the G8 gathering.
“The golf game never happened, but I got to meet President Obama at Lough Erne,” recalled McCool. “He asked if I enjoyed living in his hometown. He has a real aura about him.”
McCool turned pro after leaving Hawaii but found the breaks going against her.
In her first year on Tour, she played 22 events and missed nine cuts by a shot. The following year, the Ladies European Tour capsized.
McCool duly earned her spurs as a qualified teaching PGA Professional which provided a link to golfing royalty, Arnold Palmer, The King himself.
As McCool recalled her friendship with Arnie, she automatically referred to him as Mr Palmer.
They met in Bay Hill after McCool was in Orlando for a PGA trade show.
“We just hit it off and I became great friends with Mr Palmer,” she said.
At one point, McCool was invited by Palmer to play Bay Hill and got to play in front of the seven-time Major champion. ‘I was shaking with nerves,’ she recalled.
McCool has more than done her bit to recognise Palmer’s astonishing golfing legacy by staging The International King’s Cup in Glasson.
It’s a team event between amateur players of all ages, and handicaps from the USA and Ireland, and it is growing in reputation.
Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, Pádraig Harrington and Paul McGinley sent messages of support before this year’s event in Glasson, which was won by the USA.
McCool takes great pride that Palmer, who died in September 2016, “knew about the event,” which took place for the first time earlier that year. Palmer’s own Bay Hill club hosted the event in 2019.
McCool oversees a staff of 15 at Glasson and is responsible for all golf operations, including membership, course upkeep, running golf schools, and event management.
Along with fellow professional Hazel Kavanagh, McCool runs the Lady Golf Retreat at Glasson Lakehouse, which takes place from October 9-10. “Hazel does the short game. I do the long game,” she says of their double act.
“It’s our first class in three years. It’s about learning golf and having fun.”
Glasson Lakehouse has much going for it, not least its location. Is there a more central course in Ireland? Arguably not. It’s within easy reach of Dublin and Galway and is just off the M6 at Athlone.
Plans for a new clubhouse are well advanced, and there is talk of a Ladies’ Legends Tournament down the Lough Ree road.
There’s no excuse for not going to Glasson. And when you get to the 17th, take a breath, swing slowly, and say a little prayer. The knees you hear knocking are your own.
Address Killinure, Glasson, Co. Westmeath, N37 HX45
Telephone no. Reception: +353 90 6485120
Bedroom Reservations: +353 90 640 9072
Email: reservations@glasson lakehouse.ie
Golf Group Bookings: golfsales@glasson lakehouse.ie
Email: reservations@glassonlakehouse.Website: www.glasson lakehouse.ie
Green fees: Golf Ireland rate, Midweek €60pp; Weekend €75pp
Society rates: Summer midweek from €45, weekend from €50; Winter from €40pp. Stay & Play packages available.
Buggy hire: Yes €40
Club hire: Yes: Taylormade €35, Wilson €25
Electric trolleys: No
Range Balls: Yes €2 per 20 balls
Signature hole: 17th Par 3 (original 15th) Blue 184 yards, White 172 yards. Yellow 123 yards, Red 109 yards.
Director of Golf Lynn McCool’s tip: Set on the shores of Lough Ree, anything short will be swallowed by the lake which spans the width of the green. Into the breeze fight the urge to swing harder. Precision is everything so be sure to select a stronger club which will carry the full distance, usually a club more than you think.
Membership rates: Full Member €1,089 per annum; Couples €1815 pa; Overseas €499 pa; Student €350 pa; Junior €180 pa.
Nearby clubs: Athlone GC, Mount Temple GC, Moate GC.