Monday, August 9, 2010

Best 18 Holes in Ireland: Hole 5

[Photo: Royal Portrush comes to life in dazzling fashion]

Hole 5 Royal Portrush (Dunluce) Par 4, 379 yards. ‘White Rocks’

Most golfers will tell you that Royal Portrush’s ‘Calamity’ (par three 14th) is the signature hole of the Dunluce course (more on that later), but the 5th holds a special place in my heart. After a tame start (holes 1 to 3), the 5th delivers the full beauty of the course in one splash of brilliance. It is your first introduction to the sea, the dunes and views of other holes.

You walk up to the tee to be faced with a tumbling, darting dogleg that breaks sharply right as it heads for the sea and Skerries Reef. It’s a beautiful shape and it offers two choices: the short, safe drive to the corner of the dogleg, leaving a long second; or the chance to cut the corner and reduce the hole to a short iron. The wind will dictate your choice, but remember this: do not go over the green as it drops sharply to the beach below.

[Photo: the drive on Bangor's 5th. A big hit needed]

Elsewhere, Bangor has an extremely difficult par four. It’s 455 yards and Index 1. You drives out of trees, across a dip, into a right-hand dogleg. If you’re lucky enough to hit it into a position where you can see the green (a drive of close to 300 yards), the small hedge that runs in front of the green makes it hard to gauge your distance.

[Photo: The superb 5th at Cork]

Cork’s par five 5th is the start of ‘Little Island’s’ famous run of holes that takes you into a disused quarry. I don’t often advise going to the back tee, but here (and on the 4th as well) it’s an absolute must as the tee box sits on the waters of Cork Harbour, and shows off the hole in all its glory. The green is visible to your right, out on the tip of the water. “How do I get there?” you ask. By driving blindly over blazing gorse and a disused kiln.

As at Portrush, the 5th at Strandhill holds a special place in my heart. This was where I took a photograph, looking back down the fairway, of perfectly shaped bumps and hollows that no artist could ever have imagined. The image still adorns my ‘business’ card. It is a par five, from a high tee box, that again gives you an option of how much of the dogleg to cut off. The hole drifts uphill and the green is found in a small hollow that makes any approach a lottery.

[Photo: Strandhill's 5th, from the tee box, with the clubhouse and Benbulbin dead ahead]

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