Imagine you could create your ideal golf course, bringing together the best and most challenging holes from any of Ireland’s links courses.
Just narrowing the choice down to 18 holes would be a mammoth task, and would probably lead to numerous arguments.
That’s why Richard Phinney and Scott Whitely have done the hard work for you, with the aim to “start as many arguments as they resolved.”
Their book ‘Links of Heaven’ is the result of 20 years exploring links courses from all across Ireland. They then put their dream course together “scientifically – over several pints of Guinness.”
The only rule they had was that only one hole was allowed from each course.
‘Links of Heaven’ is a lot more than just a list. There is a catalogue of every 18-hole links course in Ireland. Nearby attractions, accommodation, restaurants and pubs are also suggested, making it a vital guide to anyone new to golf in Ireland.
Experienced golfers will enjoy the histories of Ireland’s leading golf courses, as well as debating what should or shouldn’t be on the top 18 list.
According to Phinney and Whitely, the best links holes in Ireland are:
1st – Portstewart No.1 (Tubber Patrick) 425 yards, Par 4
An exciting opening to the dream course, with one of the best first holes in links golf. This is made famous by the dramatic descent from the splendid elevated tee.
2nd – Tralee No.2 590 yards, Par 5
This is a sweeping dog leg hole, with the beach providing a constant hazard to those that slice the ball. The tee allows a view of the entire course.
3rd – Portsalon No.2 (Strand) 430 yards, Par 4
A challenging hole that has been recently lengthened and altered. The tee shot has to skirt some impressive rock formations and there are some stunning views over the lough.
4th – Royal County Down No.4 217 yards, Par 3
This hole is at its best in June, when the gorse is in bloom. At any time of year, it is a very difficult hole. The tee shot has to carry over the gorse and avoid eight bunkers. The green is also hard and narrow, making putting a worthy challenge for any golfer.
5th – Lahinch No.5 (The Dell) 156 yards, Par 3
The shortest hole in the dream links is also one of the most difficult. Completely blind from the tee, this requires a bit of hit-and-hope, making it a unique challenge. This is the reason is made it onto the Best 18 and also why it is included in many people’s Worst 18 Holes list.
6th – Rosapenna Sandy Hills No.6 390 yards, Par 4
This is a picturesque hole, with views of the beach, sea and nearby hills. But don’t forget to concentrate on the golf – a natural chasm narrows the fairway and could cost a few shots if you don’t keep your mind on the game.
7th – Ballybunion Old No.11 453 yards, Par 4
An awkward left-swinging hole that has hazards surrounding the green.
8th – Ballybunion Cashen No.15 487 yards, Par 5
This hole has an atmosphere of real solitude. The tee shot takes you over the crest of a hill into a fairway surrounded by the some of the steepest sand hills on any golf course.
9th – Cruit Island No.6 160 yards, Par 3
The final hole in the out 9 of the dream links; this makes all the effort it takes to even find the Cruit Island Golf Club worthwhile. The hole is perched at the edge of a cliff with pounding white surf below.
Out: 3308 yards, Par 35
10th – Enniscrone No.13 (The Burrows) 338 yards, Par 4
This is a great links hole and, if you get the tee shot right, there is a real chance of a birdie. One wayward shot will mean making pair is a real challenge. The rough is formidable and the green is well protected.
11th – Waterville No.11 (Tranquility) 496 yards, Par 5
This hole certainly suits its name. Playing the long fairway is very relaxing, giving you the opportunity to enjoy the scenery around this hole.
12th – The European Club No.17 (Tom Watson) 392 yards, Par 4
More challenging than it first appears, this hole is a masterpiece of links design. The generous fairway means that the tee shot doesn’t have to be too exact. This can lure you into a false sense of security. A second shot to the green demands pin-point accuracy.
13th – The Island No.13 (Broadmeadow) 215 yards, Par 3
This is a classic short hole, with the option to play safe down the left for par, or go for the riskier right side for the chance of a birdie. The view of Malahide provides a lovely backdrop beyond the green.
14th – Portmarnock No.14 (Ireland’s Eye) 395 yards, Par 4
An elegantly designed dogleg left, this is a very challenging hole that needs very precise play. It was one of the great Henry Cotton’s favourite holes.
15th – Royal Portrush No.14 (Calamity) 213 yards, Par 3
Another hole that suits its name, there is a huge rough waiting to swallow any shot that is short of the green.
16th – Carne No.17 (An Murineach) 390 yards, Par 4
An Murineach is risky and exhilarating in equal measures. The hole is played on a narrow plateau surrounded by some of the best duneland available to golfers anywhere in the world.
17th – County Sligo No.17 (Gallery) 455 yards, Par 4
Easily one of the toughest holes in Ireland, this is a severe uphill dogleg left. There is a large green to aim for but hitting par is still a real trial.
18th – Laytown and Bettystown No.18 475 yards, Par 5
Finishing the links from heaven is a particularly fun and challenging hole. Two blind shots and a green surrounded by dunes will test any player.
In: 3369 yards, Par 36
Total: 6677 yards, Par 71
Richard Phinney and Scott Whitely are confident that even the best players would find it difficult to match the par of 71 at their dream course.
And of course, we all hope you enjoy creating your own ‘Links From Heaven’ as much as the two authors did.
Links From Heaven by Richard Phinney and Scott Whitely is on sale now.