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|The Old Course at Lahinch is as spectacular a piece of links land as you'll find in the world. (Brandon Tucker/TravelGolf)|
LAHINCH, COUNTY CLARE, Ireland -- When Alister MacKenzie completed his redesign of the Old Course at Lahinch Golf Club in 1927, he left with high praise for the land and the course he'd just worked with.
"Lahinch will make the finest and most popular course that I, or I believe anyone else, ever constructed," MacKenzie wrote.
It was high praise from the Scotsman who went on to build Cypress Point in Monterrey, California the following year and later Augusta National in Georgia.
Mackenzie wasn't the first to be awestruck with Lahinch. In 1894, Old Tom Morris remarked that Lahinch's land made for the best natural course he'd ever seen.
A century later, the superlatives still ring true at Lahinch's Old Course. It's a visual stunner, rivaling the British Isle's most spectacular stages. This especially holds true after the club's five-year restoration project from 1998-2003. Among the improvements was the amplification of trouble around the greens. Bunkers, swales and mounding make approach shots from any distance a challenge.
Despite this reputation for its eye candy, Lahinch's two most famous holes have gained their reputation based on blind shots. The fourth, "Klondyke," and fifth, "Dell," are Old Tom Morris as his most deceptive.
Klondyke is an odd par 5 that plays closer to a par 4 in the modern era, but the second shot is straight over a towering dune. You can't see the green or anything for that matter, you just have to let it rip over the white aiming stone and hope it lands soft.
The par-3 "Dell" hole features a shallow green tucked entirely behind a dune. It's also been the sight of some dirty tricks by some caddies at Lahinch in the past.
"If the ball was on the green or near the hole, the caddie might rush up and put the ball into the hole," John Rouine, superintendent at Lahinch. "The golfer might come along looking for the ball and the caddie would say, 'check the hole' and sure enough it would be in there. I think the club caught onto it and put a stop to it though."
Lahinch's finest hole in terms of overall beauty comes right after Dell: the long par-4 6th: Playing uphill from the tee, there's little visibility, but once you turn the corner, the downhill shot to the green on the cusp of the sea is a sight to behold. The giant "Mine" bunker is more of a black hole, funneling anything near it down into the depths.
Most of the front nine plays on the club's most rugged links land, but the back nine doesn't drop off much at all.
The par-5 12th, playing along the edge of an inlet and bridge, with the Castle Dough in the distance as the line off the tee is one of the course's best tee shots.
The par-3 16th, playing downhill to a green heavily protected by bunkers and a stone wall separating the green from the road in back requires perfection to hit in high winds.
The course finishes with a par 5 that has been lengthened, crossing through the fourth and fifth holes. It's about as flat of a hole as you'll find here, but there are enough undulations to make the fairway -- with bunkers on both sides -- difficult to identify.
Mackenzie's words upon completion set a pretty high bar, and the Old Course at Lahinch just about lives up to the hype all these years later, thanks in part to his influence, the modern restoration and of course the stunning property.
There isn't a mundane shot on this golf course, and your jaw will drop on many occasions.
April 19, 2007
Brandon Tucker is the Managing Editor for Golf Advisor. To date, his golf travels have taken him to over two dozen countries and over 500 golf courses worldwide. While he's played some of the most prestigious courses in the world, Tucker's favorite way to play the game is on a great muni in under three hours. Follow Brandon on Twitter at @BrandonTucker.
Any opinions expressed above are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of the management.
Referred to by its hosts as a "hidden gem," the greens alone at Sterling Hills Golf Club in Camarillo, Calif. make this a stone worth turning over. Located an hour northwest of L.A., it's a pleasing, quiet and generally engaging round that will appease players of all levels.
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