Sunday, 2 January 2011

15th at Portmarnock


At 195 yards, the next hole is as beautiful and diabolical as it is simple. There is nothing fancy at the 15th at Portmarnock, the hole is pure in its design and clear in every facet of its challenge. There is nothing to figure out, just a shot to hit.

What makes the hole is position over everything else. The hole sits hard up against the ridge of sea side dunes that separates the beach from the course. The green is placed on a naturally occurring plateau that is very close to the dunes on the right. The shot is further complicated since the dunes are also covered in think vegetation and there is an out of bounds fence running along them too. What makes this hole great is the effect of the out of bounds combined with the prevailing winds. If the wind is coming off of the ocean, the only way to find the green is to hit at the out of bounds and bring the ball back in. If the wind is in the opposite direction the player must guard against over cutting the tee shot out of bounds.

There is some room to bail left but the up and down is quite complicated. The left is much lower than the green and is a mixture of rumples covered in short and long grass. There is no guarantee that bailing left will bring a favorable lie, and a bunker cut deeply on the front does swallow any shots in that area. You may be forced to play around that bunker costing you more shots. There is also a deep front right bunker but that one is more of a catch to overly daring approaches than anything else.

What I learned from this hole. Out of bounds was an incredibly well used an effective hazard in the origins of golf. It is used much less now because of liability issues with adjacent properties; but if the right situation could be found, placing green hard up against a boundary has a huge psychological impact on the way the player will tackle the hole. The other issue is providing a bail that will leave very mixed results and a lot up to chance. That left bunker can make the bail the worst possible choice. All this strategy is further emphasized by the green being up on a plateau.

A fine par three indeed.

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