|5th - The Dell Hole from the back left|
It did have some unusual and brilliant holes in the Klondyke (4th) and Dell (5th) but each was very compelling despite a blind shot on the first and not being able to see 80% of the green (including the flag) on the par three. They just felt right despite what some would question as flaws.
The opener was my favourite of all the starting holes despite the fact the two previous days brought green sites and holes set in massive dunes. The others were beautiful but they were fairly easy due to the surrounding dunes collecting everything in. This one sat on a plateau with every miss leading to an uncomfortable recovery shot. It seemed to tell me – game on!
The front nine on Lahinch was by far my favourite with a run of “world class” holes beginning at the 4th and running through to the 8th. Even the 3rd and 9th were no slouches either. The fascinating thing to me was that once you finished the front, you were done with the largest dunes and as the round progressed you knew were going to head into lesser and lesser dunes as you go. I initially wondered whether the finish would be weak.
The 10th was played through a valley of dunes finishing on plateau, the 11th (either one since there are two) was a short but fun three (I preferred the new one by Hawtree mainly because of the ocean backdrop and more attractive setting) and the long five along the river was an excellent par five. So far so good, but once again we know we are heading into lesser dunes.
The first surprise was the wild short four playing back into the bigger dunes. What made the hole super cool was the wildly undulating green. Throw in some giant short grass drop offs on the front and left and two super deep bunkers for emphasis and you got a great site. This led us to a progression of long fours and once again I worried about having a let down.
The long 14th was a tough hole straight into the prevailing wind, what made this really neat were the two “large” sentinel dunes on either side of the approach and the narrow neck leading a great slightly hidden green site behind. The long four heading back through the dunes was even better with an outstanding plateau green requiring real precision or creativity to reach. OK, wow, these are still great!
The downhill 16th was a surprise, tough into a quartering wind but mainly due to the big drop from the tee to green. The hole must be Hawtree design since the shaping was a little too pronounced, but the hole was quite good all the same. The long 17th was set in the flattest piece of land and with the least pronounced dunes. I was a little underwhelmed at the tee, but found the fairway full of some great internal contour (huge lesson when presented with a flat site) and the two sentinel bunkers flashed high in the fronting dunes which created a unique and interesting approach shot. Something from very little always leaves me impressed with a hole.
The 18th was a bit of a let down as the dunes finally disappeared at this point. The tee shot was fine, but the second was fairly dull, even the approach seemed to lack something, until the green itself. The green was very good and the hidden short grass contours at the sides and back were actually wonderful (too bad they were hidden so well). I do expect they will eventually try and add something, I hope not too much, but it could use a few small flourished to get a great design to the finish.
In my opinion Lahinch was the best design we saw.