Our hole of the day is sadly one which no longer exists. The old 17th hole at Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland (along with the 18th) have just been replaced with two new holes to be played on the front nine in preparation for the 2019 Open Championship.
The old 17th hole at Portrush was a mid-length par 5 that had one of the most defining features in golf…. the Big Bertha bunker. The hole design, by Harry Colt, was masterfully done. The tee set you up pointing right at Bertha. There was mounding that encroached on the left side which hid half of the fairway. The tee shot required a draw (or fade in my case) off Bertha to find the short cut. If you found Bertha, you were basically pitching out of the 20-ft. deep hazard.
Up by the green, there were three cross bunkers which your needed to navigate before you reach the putting surface.
It’s a shame this hole will not be seen by the world in a few years. The new 7th hole on Portrush has a bunker in honor of Bertha. While they have tried to replicate Bertha, there is no way the new bunker is a duplicate of the original Harry Colt designed on old #17.
Believe it or not, there is already some absurdity being mentioned (usually on Twitter) when it comes to how the decision by the United Kingdom to leave the European Union will affect the game of golf. So, I thought I would list some things on how the Brexit will (or will not) affect the golf industry.
1. The US will still play Europe in the Ryder Cup--Even though the UK is leaving the European Union, the Ryder Cup will still be staged between players from the two continents. Technically, the UK is on the European continent...they are just leaving the economic and governing structure known as the EU. So, for all of those people hoping the US could go back to dominating the Ryder Cup by just playing English/UK players....think again.
2. In the foreseeable short term, the cost of playing golf and traveling to the UK will decrease--The British Pound fell to a 30-year low against the US Dollar immediately this morning upon the UK referendum results. The cost for golf trips, greens fees, hotels...really anything in the UK will immediately decrease in cost for US travelers because of the exchange rates. Likewise, any products you like t purchase from the UK (Twining's Tea, HP Sauce, etc.) will also take less out of your pocket. Donald Trump already said Brexit will bring more people to his renovated Turnberry...you may not like him, but he is right on this issue.
3. Travel between Ireland and Northern Ireland MAY be affected--Ireland is part of the European Union and there has not been a border check between there and Northern Ireland since the Troubles. With the UK (which Northern Ireland is a part of) out of the European Union, there is talk of adding a border check at the IRE/NI border. Now, you can stay in Dublin and drive straight up to play courses like Royal County Down or Ardglass in about 2 hours. With a border crossing and customs check...you better add at least a 1/2 hour to this trip...making your golf day-trip just a bit longer and bothersome. Stay tuned on this issue.
One the north side of the Peninsula lies a hidden gem in links golf courses that I been fortunate to play several times. Dooks Golf Club is often overshadowed by its neighbor to the southwest, Waterville. However, after playing Dooks, you will find a wonderful layout that can stand up to any other course in Ireland.
The first thing you will notice about Dooks is their club logo. Perhaps one of the most unique club logos you will find, it features the Natterjack Toad. The Natterjack is native to this area in Ireland and gives Dooks its own brand identity that the moment you see it, you know the exact course it is associated with.
While only 6586 yards from the back tees, Dooks offers a great mix of holes to test your skills. After playing the first hole with the mountains to the southwest in the background, the second hole is a short par 4 that is no pushover. Two bunkers sit to the right of the fairway about 250 yards off the tee. Should you choose to hit driver in an effort to get close to the green, you will then be faced with a pitch shot to a raised, undulating green, with a fall-off short and left and a huge ridge to the right…similar to one you would find at Pinehurst #2. It may be only 318 yards, but birdie is definitely not a given on this hole.
The par 3’s at Dooks are very good also…and the fourth hole is a perfect example. Measuring 174 yards from an elevated tee and Cromane Bay on the left, you hit to a green nestled perfectly amongst sand dunes. On a blustery day with the wind off the left, you will have to start your shot over the dunes to have any shot in hitting the green. One great aspect about the design of Dooks is that all of the green complexes look like they fit naturally in the landscape.
The 7th hole is perhaps my favorite on the course. At 470 yards, it is without a doubt the most difficult hole on the course. Your tee shot must thread the needle of two large dunes guarding each side of the fairway. Your long-iron approach shot is to a green set at an angle to the fairway, making it a challenging target to hit.
The par 5 10th hole is the second of back-to-back par 5’s. Running the right along the Bay, two precise shots are required to put yourself in position for your approach to the elevated undulating green. Look to your left as you play and you will probably see the next line of weather approaching from the coast. As they say, ‘if you don’t like the Irish weather, wait five minutes and it will change.’
Right after the par 5 comes a unique hole. The par 3 11th actually requires you to hit uphill over OB to get to the green. The target is guarded by a pesky bunker in front. Just another one of the fun par 3’s at Dooks.
The 15th is another example of one of the quality holes at Dooks. Two bunkers guard the corner on this 90-degree dogleg right 357 yard hole. You can choose to hit a long iron/hybrid left of the bunkers and have a short iron approach. You could also choose the aggressive route and hit driver over the corner to get close to the green. Beware though, rough/brush and gorse line both side of the fairway on the approach to the green.
The 426 yard finishing hole is also a challenge. After your tee shot, your approach must thread dunes guarding the entrance to the green complex. When I have played here, I have had mid-irons on approach and sometimes because of the wind, I have hit as much as 3 wood. Once again, you find a green that is perfectly set amongst the mounds and dunes. The hole is a perfect finish to this enjoyable layout.
Once you have finished your round, there is no better place to visit than the Dooks clubhouse and restaurant. While you are having a pint, the members are extremely welcoming and love to talk to visitors about their rounds and impressions of their club. Once you have played the course, you will understand why the members are so proud of their club and layout. Dooks is must play if you plan a golf trip to the SW of Ireland.