|Larry lets fly on Kilmore's 8th hole
Not to be outdone, Bob raised a hand and shielded his eyes. “Oh sure, I can see the Statue of Liberty.”
Larry, Bob, Pat and I were playing at the soft opening of Carne’s new Kilmore nine holes. Soft was an apt word, seeing as we were having one of those ‘soft’ Irish days that brought equal measures of swirling rain and golden sunshine.
|The first flag you'll see driving in to the club is on Kilmore's 9th green
|Views over Kilmore's 5th fairway from the 7th tee. Mind the nosebleed.
|The startling par three 2nd hole on the Kilmore 9
|The serpentine bunker and views back to the tee on Kilmore's 6th hole.
I was honoured and privileged to be invited along to the celebration. It’s a six hour drive from Wexford, but heading up to the north-west is never a hardship. I have found myself in this beautiful part of the world many times over the last few years – lured by the golf courses and the people.
|Bob putts across Kilmore's par three green. Yes, that bunker's in play!
Not surprisingly, therefore, there are a couple of steep climbs (up the 6th hole and from the 3rd green to the 4th tee) and a buggy may be required by some. But all the energy expended will be richly rewarded.
The Kilmore nine venture into the dunes where the existing back nine reside. They therefore use the biggest dunes on the 280-acre property. At times the scale can leave you speechless, as my experience on the new 5th fairway accentuated, but McIntosh, with Engh's outline and Hackett's vision, has created the most dramatic holes of all. The style is very much in keeping with the original 18, but McIntosh has introduced a few quirks of his own as any good designer should: some greens have heavy ridges to follow the flow of the land; and the bunkering is more punitive, nowhere more so than on the 6th, where a small serpentine bunker to the right of the green will cause havoc.
Every hole has intrigue. Every challenge is exciting. On a windless day (if there is such a thing in Belmullet), only the par three 7th will prove seriously tough. The rest will need to be tackled with care and placement, thanks to the dunes and rolling fairways. It is a big challenge because it is a big course - possibly the biggest - but there is little that would be deemed unfair, although you may be inclined to disagree when you walk off some of the greens with their serious slopes.
|Bob drives on Kilmore's long par three 7th
The Best Holes
Always tough to pick the beauties after only playing the course once, but the par three 2nd will live long in the memory, slotted in delicately between two dunes and with wicked green slopes. The par three 4th and 7th are beautiful, too, but it is the drive on the 9th and the approach shot on the 8th that made me go weak at the knees. Delicious shots and tough ones too - with dunes this big you are always aware that an errant shot will mean big trouble, and these two holes epitomise that.
When I play a course I want to be enchanted and enthralled, I want to feel a thrill on every tee I step onto and be mesmerised by the challenge that lies ahead. If, as Carne has indicated, the main 18 will comprise the old back nine and the new Kilmore nine, then this heavenly spot in Mayo will come as close as any course I know to achieving that.
|Tee shot on Kilmore's 9th
|The beauty of Mayo and Carne opens up from Kilmore's 1st fairway,
back towards the clubhouse.