Saturday, 1 January 2011

14th at County Louth

photo by Aiden Bradley

One hole that really caught my eye on my trip around Ireland was the short but demanding 14th at County Louth (or Baltray as some refer it) called “The Cup”. The hole is a mere 332 yards from back tee. While “possibly” reachable with a strong wind out of the north, most players come up short and find there is no recovery, after finishing the hole they realize that it is really a two shot hole.

The tee shot is from a high dune with the hole completely visible from the tee. While you have a clear option to lay the ball back for a full shot in, the dune that juts out at the corner of the dogleg invites a player to cut the dune leaving a short pitch shot into the green. The player certainly faces some inviting options, particularly when down wind. Most players can’t resist such an obvious carry angle, even though the reward other than distance from the hole is so questionable.

The tee shot
The real test of the player comes at the green where Tom Simpson found a natural plateau. This plateau falls away in all directions meaning any marginal shot will fall into, at best chipping hollow, and a worst into wild fescue rough. The green can be very comparable to the green sites found at Royal Dornock where Donald Ross found some of his inspiration. Where Simpson was so brilliant was his choice to leave the natural terrain around the green and grass only part of it. Leaving the unconventional front mound short of the green is the key. It completely throws off the depth perception making the green seem much closer and since it is covered in fescue, it also has a psychological impact on the player too.

Photo of green by Aiden Bradley
Finally the green is one of the finest in the game. It has a series of roll-offs around the outside leading a marginal ball away, but also a clever roll in the middle that makes the player have to be precise in order to have a makeable birdie putt. The green site has all the presence of the 8th at Pine Valley, but without a single bunker. Tom Simpson at his finest.

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