Friday, June 4, 2010
I have been asked a few times why I didn’t include Ireland's 9 hole courses in 'Hooked' - especially as there are so many great 9 hole tracks. Cruit Island, Borris, Helen's Bay spring to mind but there are many more. And let's not forget that there are some truly awful 18 hole courses out there that should be turned back into the farmland from whence they came.
[ A security camera watches over the 10th tee (it used to be the 1st), with the M50, Killiney Hill and Irish Sea beyond]
On my travels I drove past several 9 holers and I was sorely tempted, but I was always on my way to another course - perhaps I shouldn't have let that stop me. One such course is Carrickmines - a place I played a fair bit during my youth as a friend of mine is a member there. It sits on a hillside on the outskirts of Dublin.
I hated the place. Unfair bounces, sloped fairways, fast greens, gorse and deep rough, together with some quirky green settings, made Carrickmines a disastrous score waiting to happen. Charlie kept asking me to play and I kept finding excuses.
[Photo: the par three 4th, up hill, into the gorse. It's no place to go left, but you can bump and run up the right]
Finally, I had to play the course in a competition.
All those reasons that I hated the course came flooding back - only now when I played it, I loved it for those very same reasons. You need to play it with guile, and the fact that it's 9 holes means that by the time you play the 'second' 9, you'll have learned a few things about the slopes and the greens. And there's a lot to learn.
[Photo: the 8th/17th green with vicious banks protecting it]
It is a short course - par 69 and 6,000 yards - but it has 18 tee boxes which adds variety and length: the 9th is a par four the first time around, but a par five as the 18th.
The last few times I've played it the condition was excellent and the greens are the most natural you'll find - things of beauty and deceivingly fast. You'd describe it as heathland, but during the winter it plays like a links, and the links tactic of bump and run will serve you well here all year round - even on the par three 4th/13th.
The M50 now races below the course, and if you look up the hillside as you pass the Kilternan exit, you'll catch glimpses of the course and golfers stamping about. There are still views over to Killiney Hill and the sea beyond, but that gash of cement, tar and ant-like cars draws the eye more than it should.
[Photo: the 5th/14th green looking back down to the tee. It's Index 1 and the rumble strip fairway that can throw your ball anywhere]
It is the naturalness of Carrickmines and the simplicity of it all that captures the imagination. It is a tricky test