If Paul McGinley were a stick of rock, he would surely have a strip of green, white and orange in his center, so patriotic he is about his homeland.
Like so many Irish emigrants, he longs for home, and his love for the country returns every time he sets foot on the old grass.
This was true when he hosted the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open in Lahinch in 2019 and that sense of pride once again filled him as he shot a new series, Golf’s Greatest Holes Ireland & Northern Ireland with the broadcaster. Chris Hollins.
Initially split into six 30-minute episodes, the first of which aired on Sky Sports earlier this week, the program is expected to reach more than 500 million homes in 189 countries with support from Tourism Ireland, the tourism umbrella body. north and south. from the border.
The series takes viewers on a golf journey that encompasses all parts of the island and highlights the many reasons why Ireland is a must-see destination for golfers as we count until the 2027 Ryder Cup at Adare Manor.
With the Irish government investing at least Â£ 50m in the game’s biggest televised event, they expect a Â£ 100m tourism spin-off and McGinley’s new TV project ticks all the right boxes because it features routes, not only along the 2,400 km of the Wild Atlantic Way, but in the Ancient East of Ireland, the Hidden Heartlands of the Midlands and the Shannon region, as well as Northern Ireland, which has so brilliantly hosted the Open at the Royal Portrush in 2019.
The episodes that aired on Sky Sports to 25 million homes were filmed earlier this year, when McGinley and Hollins roamed the island up and down playing iconic courses such as Royal County Down, The K Club, Portmarnock, Druids Glen, Royal Portrush, Adare Manor, Lahinch, Enniscrone, Rosapenna, and Mount Juliet, to name a few.
âIt was filmed during the lockdown and it was very difficult as you can imagine with all the hotels closed,â says McGinley, who filmed the entire series on two separate weeks, so tight and strict was the movie schedule. .
âWe had to stay in our own little bubble the entire time, so we did our own cooking and rented houses with a decent sized crew of around 10 or 12. A lot of the crew are not golfers, so the idea was to have another perspective that wasn’t just golf.
While Tourism Ireland largely picked the chosen courses, McGinley was able to pick an exceptional hole on each of them, and while many sites are old favorites, he was also able to see places he had never before. played before.
âThe premise behind this was to highlight golf courses that might not necessarily be on everyone’s list,â says McGinley. âWhen people come here, they go to the famous links courses, which we promote. But it was also wonderful to see places like Carne in Mayo and Enniscrone in Sligo. It touched me a bit as I hadn’t been to most of these courses since my amateur days, so going back to Rosses Point, where I won the Irish Close in 1989, was fantastic.
âIt was also great to go back to Lahinch and see Paddy Keane and all the guys after the success we had at the Irish Open there. They were also closed at the time, so they were excited to see us, and we were able to look back on 2019 and browse through old photographs from this week.
During the planning phase, McGinley and Hollins had hoped to include local figures, pubs, hotels and restaurants in their rooms at each site, but as the Covid-19 lockdown severely curtailed their plans, they have been overwhelmed by the hospitality of the people.
“I have to say that the hospitality we received from all clubs made me proud to be Irish,” adds McGinley. âEach club had leaders there to meet with us, and it gave me great pride to be Irish to see the welcome we received.
“Keep in mind the team weren’t golf folks – they were from TV production and film production – and they kept saying, ‘my God, people are so nice here. . âJust little things like having soup and sandwiches waiting for us everywhere we’ve been, those touches are heart warming.
The first episode features the fourth at the spectacular Old Head Golf Links in Kinsale, the 11th at the historic Ardglass district, the 11th at Royal Belfast overlooking Belfast Lough and the 10th at Eddie Hackett’s Carne Links in Belmullet.
In episode two, they head to Ballycastle Golf Club near Giant’s Causeway (7th), Christy O’Connor Jr’s Glasson in Athlone (5th), Portstewart (1st), Mount Juliet (3rd) and The K Club (16th) before leaving for Adare Manor, Lough Erne, Holywood, County Louth and Ballyliffin (episode three); Portmarnock, Druids Glen, Rosapenna, Galgorm Castle and County Sligo (episode four); Lahinch, PGA Slieve Russell, Malone, Carton House and Killarney (episode five); then Enniscrone, Waterville, Royal Portrush, Royal County Down and Luttrellstown (episode six).
McGinley has a long list of other courses he wished he had time to visit, but if all goes well, he will be back to film more.
Tourism Ireland is keen to ensure it gets maximum visibility for its support for the 2027 Ryder Cup at Adare Manor and McGinley knows Ireland is an integral part of the European Tour plans for the next six years.
âThe government needs to recoup its investment in the Ryder Cup over the years leading up to it, and Tourism Ireland is a big part of it,â he said.
âThey fully understand the importance of golf to the Irish economy and that is why they have played a leading role in this program. It has a lot to do with their golf marketing plan.