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Lahinch proves to be an Irish winner from start to finish

I've posted before about golf courses in southwestern Ireland. Now some comments on Lahinch Golf Club.

Lahinch is located about 40 minutes from Shannon Airport which makes it convenient for play on the first day in the republic. As you descend into town from Ennistymon the golf course's sand hills are one of the first parts of the village you see. In the distance to the north are the giant cliffs of Moher.

Lahinch doesn't have dunes the size of those found at Ballybunion or Tralee, but the course meanders through dunes of differing size throughout its 18 holes. The first tee is near the club house and caddie master's office and one is aware that many eyes are watching you when you make your first swing.

The first hole is an uphill par 4 with a difficult second shot due to the left to right cant of the fairway. No. 2, a par 5 takes you back down the dune you just climbed, out towards the sea. No. 3 plays along high dunes along the coastline and is quite exposed to the wind, an outstanding par 4.

The next two holes are famous for their blind shot requirements. No. 4, known as Klondyke, demands a tee shot down a dead-end dune alley where your second shot must be directed over a substantial dune to an unseen green. No. 5 is a 150-yard par 3, once again requiring a blind shot over another sand hill to a green in a bowl surrounded by dunes. These holes were designed in this fashion because when the course was laid out: bulldozers didn't exist to eliminate the dune-blockaded entrances. Quirky, yes, but challenging and fun to play. I am glad that Allistir McKenzie's design has not been altered with dune removal on these two holes.

The links now proceed up and down dunes back out to sea. The seventh hole is an outstanding dogleg left uphill to a green with great views of the crashing Atlantic. No. 8 is a medium-length par 4 with deep bunkers guarding the green. No. 9 Takes you back inland, a fine straight away par 4 with a canted and rumpled fairway.

The back has a number of outstanding holes. No. 10 is a monster par 4 heading back out to sea and into the teeth of the prevailing Atlantic breeze. No. 12 is a long par 5 along a river whose name I don't recall, complete with views of a nearby Norman tower.

We then turn inland and play through dunes, tacking our way towards the clubhouse. Nos. 14 and 15 are great long par 4s requiring approach shots aimed between dunes. No. 16 is a downhill par 3 of about 200 yards that plays in a cross wind. No. 17 is another long par 4 and No.18 is a medium-length par 5 with a road left and a difficult green to hit.

Lahinch is criticized for its blind holes. I've already made it clear I don't agree with that backhand. The removal of the guarding dunes while easily accomplishable now would ruin the holes and destroy what old Tom Morris and Dr. McKenzie made a virtue of. Blind holes are not my favorite but they possess great challenge in that they require visualization of execution in order to play them successfully. It's fun to see how the shot turned out as you crest the dune.

Lahinch is a wonderful test of golf in a beautiful setting. I can't wait to stand on that first tee again knowing well what is about to unfold before me over the next four hours.

Any opinions expressed above are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of the management.

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