This is a book that doesn’t scrimp on quality and is one of those great finds when it comes to producing that extra special present. Of course, it’s not cheap… but ‘cheap’ is not a word you’d ever use to describe this particular publication. It costs €225, and is primarily aimed at the US market.
Now then… what about these 18 ‘greatest’ holes. How were they chosen and by whom? It should be noted that as well as playing numerous courses themselves, the authors sought the advice and recommendations of many, many people, including Open champion Darren Clarke, and US Open winners Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell. Input also came from club professionals, course architects, greenkeepers, and regular low and high handicappers like you and me. And, of course, the venerable Pat Ruddy. In other words, a large number of people got to express their opinions, so picking the 18 holes that made the final cut must have been a nightmare.
When I picked my 18 best holes, I decided to put together a round of golf that started at the 1st (Scrabo) and finished at the 18th (Carne), with four par threes and four par fives to make a classic par 72. Here, the authors simply decided to take the best 18 holes, regardless of par or number.
[Photo: Druid Glen's par four 13th - one of the most spectacular and difficult holes on the island. A large pond awaits your 2nd and a narrow river runs across the front of the fairway.]
How do the holes break down?
There are only three holes from Northern Ireland, with a further two from Donegal. There are 13 links holes, which is not that surprising on an island fêted for its coastal courses. And there are five par fives and five par threes.
Of course the list will spark debate. Why wouldn’t it? When you get so many people throwing in their penny’s worth, it is highly likely that even those singled out for their expertise will disagree with holes on the final list.
[Photo: Adare's par four 13th slides quietly right over the brow of the hill]
Me? There are only three holes on this list that make my 18 Best Holes (Tralee, Ballybunion and Royal County Down) so, theoretically, I'm going to disagree with most of the choices... but then I was unencumbered by others’ opinions and able to wallow in the delights of my subjectivity. And I am well aware that plenty of people disagree with my top 18 so you're never going to keep everybody happy.
The 18 holes in this book are all very strong, but Lough Erne and Ballyliffin wouldn’t even have made my runner-up 18, and on several of the other courses (Enniscrone, The European, Waterville, Doonbeg, Royal Portrush) I would have given a different hole the ‘best’ status. But there you go – we all look at things in different ways and, as authors Andrew Ross and Craig Morrison pointed out:
“The end result was basically what we thought was a decent list and a pretty democratic choice."
However you look at, the final 18 holes will take you a merry and spectacular dance across this fair island. And the book will give you all the motivation you need to go and play them.
You’ll find more details on http://www.18greatestgolf.com
[Photo: Waterville's famous par five 16th 'Tranquility'. This shot hides the steep rise to the green]
The 18 featured holes are:
The European Club 7th Par 4
Lahinch Golf Club 6th Par 4
K Club, Palmer Course 16th Par 5
Tralee Golf Club 16th Par 3
Enniscrone Golf Club 16th Par 5
Lough Erne 10th Par 4
Druid's Glen 13th Par 4
Portmarnock Golf Club 15th Par 3
Royal County Down 9th Par 4
Adare Golf Club 13th Par 4
Old Head Golf Links 12th Par 5
Royal Portrush Golf Club 14th Par 3
Rosapenna, Sandy Hills 6th Par 4
Ballyliffin, Glashedy 13th Par 5
Doonbeg Golf Club 14th Par 3
Waterville Golf Links 11th Par 5
Ballybunion Golf Links 11th Par 4
Killarney, Mahony's Point 18th Par 3