Sunday, 2 January 2011

4th at Royal Portrush


The interior bunkers and semi blind approach

Royal Portrush is as good a golf course as any I have ever played, while there are many fantastic views, the course is not what I would call beautiful. There are so many more spectacular looking courses like Royal County Down or The Island Club, but it is undeniably a design that has few rivals. No course puts pressure on your driving quite like Royal Portrush. No hole does it better than the 4th.

The tee shot on the 4th may be to the widest fairway on the golf course. The tee shot is downhill with out of bounds hard up against the right edge of the fairway, but what causes so much more problem is the incredibly deep pot bunker 20 yards inside the edge of the fairway on the right. Colt has placed a bunker right where you want to play. You can not afford to be short because you won’t get home in two and you certainly can’t carry the bunker, so to hit this fairway you face a choice of flirting with the bunker or the out of bounds. It’s your choice.

Once you have finally got on the roller coaster fairway, you face a daunting approach to a green set in between the dunes. The back half of the green is hidden by an enormous dune on the left. It takes courage to try carry the fescue covered dune to get to the back left pin, particularly because the carry is longer the further left you go. The right is open but you must thread the needle between the fronting dunes to find the green. All in all, a great challenge when you have a long iron in your hands.

What did I learn from this hole? At a certain point in every course a player must be asked to reach down and find their best. If an architect never asks this from a player, then they have not created enough challenge to hold the player’s interest over the long term. These are the holes that we measure our ability against. It is important for a player to know they can make two great shots under pressure, or for a weaker player to make the par of their life against an insurmountable foe.

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