The holes that stand out in my mind are the holes that would keep you awake at night. The ones that I like and would design are risk-reward holes that give you a birdie if you play them well, but mean double-bogey if you get them wrong. So there are two types of holes.
On one side, there are the high-tariff holes, where you are just trying to avoid a big number but where a bogey is fine and a par is great. That’s a hole like the seventh at The European Club. The night before, you are thinking, ‘How do I get through number seven without having a blow-up?’ While you are trying to make four, you are very happy to be somewhere near the green in two and having a chance of a chip and putt, reducing the chances of a big number.
The 15th at Portmarnock is like that too, though not as intimidating as it was back in the day. While it is still a difficult hole, it is not hole where you are going to make a really big number as you could playing with the old golf ball and equipment. It could be a one-iron back in the day and out of bounds was always on your mind. Now it can be a seven iron, but it is still one of those you want to get through.
The seventh in The K Club, Michael’s Favourite, is one of several holes where the intimidation factor is there. It was always a hole with the most blow-ups in a tournament. The 17th in The K Club is another one with the Liffey all down the left side.
Baltray is the king of risk-reward, where good shots give you birdies and bad shots give you double-bogeys. You’d be intimidated on a few of those holes and the short, par-four 14th would be a perfect example.
The fourth at Royal County Down is still an intimidating hole that players want to get through. The ninth there is another one, where you can lose a ball off the tee — and the next shot is even harder.
Royal County Down is the same. You can lose a ball coming over the hill on the ninth. Druids Glen, like The K Club, has three holes that are similar. The K Club has the seventh, the 16th and 17th as three extreme, intimidating holes. At Druids Glen, you have the 13th and 17th and 18th always had that too. Playing Irish Opens at Druids Glen, you were never comfortable until you’d gone through the 13th. And the 17th, which is a four-iron to an island green, and the strong 18th up the hill are two great holes.
Probably one of my favourite holes — and there are a few — would be the 18th at Adare Manor. I know we love our links but it’s a great parkland hole and you can play it many ways. Disaster is lurking but if you are two shots behind you can easily make it up playing that hole.
The setting is beautiful, but it is a very intimidating tee shot because you have to hit it down the water line. Secretly, players are hoping to hit an average tee shot so they can lay up. Hitting a good tee shot only puts more pressure on you. It would be my ideal in terms of designing a golf hole for pressure and intimidation. It also gives you something if you hit the shots.
The 18th at Royal Dublin is another I’d mention — an intimidating hole you have to wait all day to play. It’s a disaster hole and it’s the last hole. Get through the seventh at The European Club and you have the rest of the day. But you are never going to be comfortable in Royal Dublin until you are finished.
I love short par fours like Royal Dublin’s 16th but it doesn’t have the out of bounds or water. If you make a mistake, it’s a five. But on 18, hit it out of bounds and where do you go? You are just digging a deeper hole. So for me it’s the intimidation factor that’s the key.
I could name many favourites but cutting it down to five is too difficult so I am going with the seven below in no particular order.
MY TOP SEVEN
7th, The K Club (Michael’s Favourite) Par 4, 430 yards
7th, The European Club Par 4, 473 yards
18th The Golf Course at Adare Manor Par 5, 585 yards
4th Royal Portrush Par 4, 479 yards
13th, Druids Glen Par 4, 491 yards
17th Portmarnock Par 4, 472 yards
18th Royal Dublin (Garden) Par 4, 483 yards
Top 50 Holes in Irish Golf Premium
Everyone loves a par three. Over the last three years, one of the most popular features in our weekly Tee To Green supplement, in association with AIG Insurance, has been A Quick 18 where Irish sports stars and personalities tell us what the game means to them. Here we bring you a selection of their favourite short holes.