|The opener at Doonbeg|
When Greg Norman put together the routing for Doonbeg he was presented with a “snail” problem. Environmentalist had identified some key areas of great dunes where the project could not go into because of snails. All architects face restrictions and I’m sute these were frustrating.
The opener at Doonbeg is one of the very best of the holes on the course. You stand at the clubhouse and look at the glove like dunes at the end of the fairway and clearly see a logical green site for an opening five. This obvious choice eventually would lead to complications.
The front nine was pretty good. I found most of the holes made sense and the flow was generally fine (ignoring the fact I could clearly see what was to come on the back). The ocean side 6th was a personal highlight. I enjoyed his bunker style with marram grass edges and blow out style. I found his use of many central hazards was refreshing. The bunker on the 3rd hole was epic. Finally the ninth was a super end to the nine, a short three set right on the beach with dunes that he clearly made (and were very well done!). After nine holes I was largely impressed.
The back nine left me not only flat, but really disappointed with many choices. There were great holes like the 13th and 15th, but the routing decisions and constant cross-overs were horrible. In my opinion he got enamoured with natural holes and never stepped back and looked at the overall impression that he would create.
Some holes did not sit right to me like the 10th and 11th. Others had safety issues like the 12th where the 8th tees were very much in play from the 12th tees. The fact that the 15th crosses the 5th and then the players walk across the 5th was again dangerous. A few of his architectural ideas were ill conceived such as the central bunker in the 12th green which did not work (nor did the green contours on that green). Some holes were unplayable in high wind, like the 14th, where the strange back angle of the green made the shot impossible in “any” prevailing wind. I found conceptually that hole made no sense. Finally the walk across the middle of the fairway of the 1st fairway to play the 18th was another head-scratch.
My conclusion was the routing was flawed. Greg found the obvious holes and included them in the routing, but never showed the experience or restraint to understand you must abandon some obvious holes to achieve a comprehensive routing.