Scrabo Golf Club
Par 4 404 yards.
[Photo: Scrabo's 1st. Beautiful views to your right and a beautiful hole straight ahead]
Wherever you go there’s a certain expectation when you walk up to the 1st tee. You want to be amazed and thrilled. For many, Portstewart ranks as the best opening hole in Ireland, with its stunning views out to sea, Mussenden Temple in the distance and the amazing dunes into which you're about to head. Portstewart promises the most delicious opening drive in Irish golf, from a high tee down to a flat fairway that whips right (Sorry, no photo!).
But it is not, in my opinion, the best 1st hole.
Scrabo's 1st is awe-inspiring and terrifying. You get to see the entire hole rising above you and to fully appreciate the hole play from (or at least walk back to) the back tee. There are glorious views (better than Portstewart's) and your drive rifles up a hill flanked by razor-sharp gorse. At the top sits Scrabo Tower and the green. It’s Index 1 and it’s a brutal start that introduces you to one of the toughest inland challenges Ireland has to offer. Two mighty shots required... beware golfers firing over you from your right as you approach the green (they're playing the 3rd)
[Photo: Doonbeg's 1st on a wet day]
Other excellent opening holes:
Doonbeg's straight par five, from right in front of the bar/clubhouse, with the ocean to your left, has a green sitting dwarfed beneath a giant dune. You'll receive some very friendly (and very useful) advice from one of the Doonbeg boys as you're standing on the tee.
Ardglass's par four tees off in front of a line of canons and heads up into a pulpit of rocks beside the sea. You almost drive over the sea (to your left), so if the wind's coming in you need to have some serious guts to aim out over the water.