Wednesday 18 July 2018

Irish Open 2018: Everything you need to know about the tournament at beautiful Ballyliffin and a hole-by-hole guide

Ballyliffin Golf Club in Donegal
Ballyliffin Golf Club in Donegal

Adam McKendry

With the 2018 Dubai Duty Free Irish Open hosted by the Rory Foundation jalmost upon us, here's our handy guide on everything you need to know about the tournament.

This year's event is being held at the picturesque Donegal links at Ballyliffin, and if you're heading there next week then you're in for an absolute treat!

What are the dates?

Tuesday 3 July: Practice Day

Wednesday 4 July: Pro-Am

Thursday 5 July: Day One

Friday 6 July: Day Two

Saturday 7 July: Day Three

Sunday 8 July: Day Four

Who are the favourites?

Defending champion Jon Rahm has to be one of the favourites as the highest ranked player in the field, although he'll be well challenged by tournament host and World No.7 Rory McIlroy.

Spain's Rafa Cabrera Bello, a former Ryder Cup player, has good form on links having won last year's Scottish Open, while Graeme McDowell and Darren Clarke will of course be in contention on a links course.

Top names such as Matthew Fitzpatrick, Thomas Pieters and Thorbjorn Olesen have also confirmed they'll be playing, as will local hopefuls Paul Dunne and Shane Lowry.

The final entry list and tee times for the opening two rounds will be released early next week.

What's Ballyliffin like?

A stunning links course set on the northern tip of Donegal, it may be a bit out of the way but Ballyliffin is going to be an absolutely fantastic venue for the Irish Open.

Consistenly ranked in the top-10 of the best courses in Ireland, it's lauded by casual golfers and seasoned professionals alike as a true test of your golf game.

Sitting at just over 7,200 yards, the course features both unique holes and incredible scenery, with its signature par-five 13th hole one of the best around.

Take a look at each hole below:

Ballyliffin_Hole1.jpg
Hole 1: Par 4, 422 yards Welcome to Ballyliffin, where a brilliant par four opens your round. Playing downhill off the tee, keeping it short of the fairway bunkers still leaves you a mid-iron into a green that sits well above you. It's two-tiered, but there's plenty of space to hit into so don't be afraid to go long. This isn't the toughest opening hole.
Ballyliffin_Hole2.jpg
Hole 2: Par 4, 427 yards A misleading yardage as you can't take driver off the tee without cutting off a significant chunk of the dogleg. Instead, most will hit an iron towards the second fairway bunker and leave themselves a mid-iron into the elevated green. Don't be short, the false front feeds all the way back into the bunker in front of the green.
Ballyliffin_Hole3.jpg
Hole 3: Par 4, 426 yards A brute of a par four, the contours of this fairway means you can pitch the ball exactly where you want to and still find the deep rough. One particularly nasty bunker lies where you'd love to pitch the ball to let it release out, so finding the fairway is crucial from the tee as you have to fly it all the way to the green with your second.
Ballyliffin_Hole4.jpg
Hole 4: Par 5, 477 yards The card says 477 yards, but a new tee box set a long long way back into the hill behind the third green means this can play nearly 550 instead. A narrow landing area off the tee, accuracy is a premium on this hole, which should play as a real three-shotter for most.
Ballyliffin_Hole5.jpg
Hole 5: Par 3, 172 yards A delightful little par three that's well protected. You play slightly downhill into the hollow the green is in, but finding the green is a must here as everything rolls away to the edges. Short is better than wide.
Ballyliffin_Hole6.jpg
Hole 6: Par 4, 406 yards Right in the heart of the dunes, this hole will either be severely wind assisted or you're playing into a gale. A blind tee shot greets you, and you will either be trying to feather an iron over the ridge or trying to crush a driver up as far as you can.
Ballyliffin_Hole7.jpg
Hole 7: Par 3, 181 yards A severely downhill par three where you're at the mercy of the wind. Water right of the green, bunkers on all four corners, if you can find the dancefloor from this tee you've done very well.
Ballyliffin_Hole8.jpg
Hole 8: Par 4, 424 yards Careful with your first shot, you want to take driver off this tee but you don't want to overshoot the fairway and find the bunker. Keep the approach right into the green, there's plenty of room out there.
Ballyliffin_Hole9.jpg
Hole 9: Par 4, 378 yards Plays slightly longer than its yardage due to the rise up to the green, but this is a nice finish to the front nine. An iron off the tee will do, leaving a short shot into a generous green.
Ballyliffin_Hole10.jpg
Hole 10: Par 4, 394 yards Players will take an iron off the tee to stay short of the fairway bunkers on this hole, the first of three that will play into the wind. That should leave a short iron into a green that slopes from back to front and is guarded by pot bunkers on either side.
Ballyliffin_Hole11.jpg
Hole 11: Par 4, 418 yards The gentle start to the back nine continues - another par four where you can take an iron off the tee and have a short iron in for your second. The bunkers off the tee don't really come into play, and staying left into this green is a smart choice.
Ballyliffin_Hole12.jpg
Hole 12: Par 4, 441 yards How lucky do you feel? Are you going to take out the big stick and cut the corner or will you play safe and knock an iron down short of the bunkers? The latter leaves a long iron into a narrow green protected by bunkers right, the former gives you a much better shot in but it's a narrow landing area. So I ask again: you feeling lucky?
Ballyliffin_Hole13.jpg
Hole 13: Par 5, 571 yards Ballyliffin's signature hole, and a stunning one at that. You're always playing uphill between the dunes, with bunkers conveniently positioned at the two landing zones. Watch out up at the green, which sits at a deceptive angle - there are hidden bunkers off the back of the putting surface. Two shots are only possible for the biggest of hitters, provided the wind isn't against you.
Ballyliffin_Hole14.jpg
Hole 14: Par 3, 182 yards It may only be a short hole, but this needs all your concentration. A shallow green that slopes severely from left to right needs the ball to land softly, which means it needs to come down from a height. Easier said than done though, from this elevated tee you will get as much of the wind as possible.
Ballyliffin_Hole15.jpg
Hole 15: Par 4, 451 yards A really tough tee shot that has bunkers lining both sides of the fairway to snatch any drives that don't find the short grass. If you do, the green is receptive and has generous run-off areas as well. If not, take your medicine and play for bogey.
Ballyliffin_Hole16.jpg
Hole 16: Par 4, 436 yards Grip it and rip it, as long as you keep it on the right side of the fairway with your first shot then this is a hole you can attack. The front edges of the green feature lurking bunkers, but anything that clears them can set up a good birdie opportunity.
Ballyliffin_Hole17.jpg
Hole 17: Par 5, 562 yards The line off the tee is a slight cut off the fairway bunkers, just don't overdo it too much. That should give you a shot into the green, but it'll take two perfect shots to get you there. Favour the right side when approaching, and watch for a deceptive false front.
Ballyliffin_Hole18.jpg
Hole 18: Par 4, 452 yards A beautiful finishing hole that needs a well-struck tee shot to put you in the right position. The second shot is played between the dunes to a green that sits down in a hollow and is well-protected. This is by no means an easy par, making it an intriguing finishing hole.

 

The facts

The first Irish Open was held in 1927

This is the first time the Irish Open has been held in Donegal

The prize fund for the event is $7million

Jon Rahm could become the sixth person to defend his title after Faldo ('91, '92 and '93), Ballesteros ('85 and '86), Colin Montgomerie ('96 and '97), Ian Woosnam ('88 and '89) and Mark James ('79 and '80)

Only four players have won the Irish Open three times: Ballesteros ('83, '85 and '86), Bernhard Langer ('84, '87 and '94), Faldo ('91, '92 and '93) and Montgomerie ('96, '97 and '01)

Ballyliffin has two courses on its grounds: the tournament Glashedy Links, which the pros will play, and the Old Links

Jon Rahm's winning score of 264 at Portstewart last year is the lowest in Irish Open history

Graeme McDowell holds the record for the lowest round at an Irish Open when he shot a 61 at County Louth in 2009

The Irish Open is a qualifying event for The Open Championship - the top three finishers at Ballyliffin who have not already qualified for The Open will earn a place in the field at Carnoustie

Only seven Irish players have lifted the trophy: Fred Daly ('46), Harry Bradshaw ('47), Christy O'Connor Jr ('75), John O'Leary ('82), Padraig Harrington ('07), Shane Lowry ('09) and Rory McIlroy ('16)

Can I still go?

Absolutely you can!

Tickets for the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open hosted by the Rory Foundation are on sale at www.dubaidutyfreeirishopen.com and begin at €20 for Pro-Am Wednesday, with tickets for Thursday and Friday costing €32 and day tickets for the weekend costing €34 each.

An adult season souvenir ticket, which covers five days of world class golf from Wednesday to Sunday, costs just €110.

Concessions are available for customers aged over 60 and between 14 and 17, while children up to 13 are permitted free entry when accompanied by a ticket holding adult.

Official Hospitality tickets are also available on the ticketing page, or alternatively contact the European Tour’s dedicated Hospitality Sales Team, who will be happy to answer any queries and discuss the various hospitality options, on hospitality@europeantour.com or +44 (0) 1344 840681.

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