In his weekly Limerick Leader golf column, Ivan Morris writes about the unfortunate local golfer Pat Rice who missed out on making the final stage of qualifying for the European Tour.
When you mess up the last hole in an important tournament, it can be hard to take. It can send you home depressed and feeling that golf isn’t fair and not worth the hassle.
One can easily imagine how Limerick GC’s unfortunate Tim Rice must feel.
His future career was once again put on hold when he scored a ‘nightmare’ double bogie on the water-infested, devilishly difficult 18th hole in both the third and fourth rounds in the second qualifying stage for the European Tour at El Valle in Murcia and thereby missed out on the crucial final stage by one, lousy, miserable shot.
As if that wasn’t bad enough, he took 7 to complete the 16th in round one and ‘made’ a double bogey 5 at the medium length par-3, 9th during his fourth round.
His reaction to that ‘calamity’ showed that he clearly has the courage and ability to compete at the highest level by covering the next 8 holes in 6-under par but one loose shot on the last hole cost him dearly.
It brings up one of my pet projects. My ideal golf course would always end with a ‘sporty and birdieable’ 18th hole. As the easiest holes to birdie are par-5s and par-3s – so be it.
The marvelous par-3, 18th across the edge of a constantly expanding and ebbing Lough Leane at Mahony’s Point in Killarney springs to mind. Portumna is another fine golf course not too far away that closes with a par-3.
I like par-3s as finishers because they are ‘get out of jail’ holes, if you are down in a match. One good shot can save you and one bad shot can lose it for the opposition – but, generally speaking, birdieable par-5s as finishers are more common.
If you think that golf should be fun, to finish with a tough par-4 isn’t ideal because it has the potential of sending ‘customers’ home feeling mugged and miserable.
Whenever you complete a round of golf you should be immediately thinking of your next game and looking forward to it rather than feeling downhearted or depressed.
I’d much prefer if the 17th hole was the toughest hole so that the opportunity for a morale-saving reprieve would be part of the experience.
Two of the best 18th holes in that regard are at Lahinch and Thurles; two eminently ‘reachable’ par-5s. They often yield a face-saving and heart-lifting birdie or eagle when you might need it most.
Although, I wasn’t deleriously happy when the late, Jackie Harrington eagled the 18th at Thurles many years ago to pip me for the scratch cup!
It’s hard to think of a better finishing par-5 than the Robert Trent Jones creation at Adare Manor Hotel & Golf Resort. Only a perfect tee shot will put the green in range in two blows and it takes a brave golfer indeed to take on the big carry over the swift-flowing Maigue River. If caution is the preferred choice the lay up is by no means a formality – line and distance have to be spot on to provide a clear shot in. Then, to cap it all finding the right section of the large green is imperative if a 3-putt bogie is to be avoided.
I enjoy playing the 18th at Adare Manor next door too. It’s vital to hit as long a drive as possible as close to the left edge of the fairway without styming yourself behind the trees that guard the entrance to the green.
Of course, finding the green in regulation doesn’t mean recording a par is certain on the slopey green. I’m not sure if it is the misjudging of the borrow or the curious eyes looking on that is the cause of so many missed short putts?
Of course, the 18th hole at Castletroy is another fine finisher – perhaps the best par-4, 18th in these parts. It has seen plenty of drama, some of which I provided myself in the annual scratch cup. A long straight drive is rewarded with a medium iron second off an uphill lie, otherwise the second shot could be a distinctly more difficult proposition of hitting a fairway metal off a downhill lie or trying to ‘swerve one in’ from behind a tree.
It’s a deep green with many subtle borrows and nasty pin positions. To make life extra difficult, the 17th at Castletroy may be an even tougher proposition.
At Nenagh, the uphill drive gives the feeling you are hitting into the wide end of an inverted funnel. Finding the ‘maximum position’ in the right half of the fairway is essential if you want to attack the pin.
It takes a well-judged, well-struck, mid iron approach shot to set up a birdie putt on this ideally situated 18th green, overlooked by imbibing members that only notice one’s errors!
Words of the Wise
Playing 18-holes is not merely a question of getting around, like traveling over a racecourse or walking around the block. It’s rather a question of taking eighteen separate little journeys, each of which presents its own distinct pictures and its own distinct problems as part of the grand tour.