Royal Dublin: Golf among Ireland's golf starsMay 18, 2009
David Brice, Golf International, Inc.
Last week the entire membership of Royal Dublin Golf Club were holding their heads especially high as one of their own was elected to the World Golf Hall of Fame. At a sprightly, 84 years young and 63 years after turning professional, the great Christy O'Connor Sr. had been officially recognized for his lifetime achievements, both on the golf course and off. The tribute to one of golf's and certainly Ireland's, greatest ambassador ever, was long overdue.Hard to imagine Royal Dublin sits 3 short miles from the heart of Dublin.Christy O'Connor Sr., an enthusiastic Royal Dublin member, has just been elected to the World Golf Hall of Fame.Flat it may be, but don't be misled into believing Royal Dublin is easy.Royal Dublin's bunkering is something to gain your attention.Recent improvements by Martin Hawtree have extended Royal Dublin to 7,250 yards.
BOOK YOUR TRIP For other ideas on golf trips to Scotland, Ireland, British Open, Spain & Portugal, click here or call Golf International at 1.212.447.5003.
Known affectionately in Ireland as "Himself", this is the man who played on the Britain & Ireland Ryder Cup team on ten consecutive occasions between 1955 and 1973, including the 1957 event when he helped break a 12 year winning streak by the USA. Christy played for Ireland in an amazing 15 World Cups, winning gloriously in 1958. This is a remarkable, yet very humble man, who saw unprecedented success on The European Tour and after, on the Senior European Tour as well.
Just as Royal Dublin Golf Club has a very special affection for "Himself", Christy responds in kind -- this is his favorite course on the globe and he's not shy about telling everyone that it's also the best in Ireland. Perhaps influenced by the fact that he joined Royal Dublin as the club professional in 1959 and was made an honorary lifetime member in 1988, it's been a half century long love affair between two champions.
Listen to the wisdom of this seasoned octogenarian, who still plays Royal Dublin on a regular basis and you'll have no choice but to add it to your must play list of Dublin's impressive collection of top-drawer courses.
Founded in 1885, Royal Dublin is one of Ireland's oldest and most prestigious clubs, located on Bull Island, a nature reserve in Dublin Bay, a scant 3 miles from the heart of the city. After serving as a military base during the First World War and suffering severe damage in the process, the course was totally rebuilt in 1920, by the English architect, Harry S. Colt, one of the great geniuses of course design. His outstanding work at Royal Dublin, would later gain Colt celebrity status through two other masterly creations in Northern Ireland, one at Royal Portrush and the other, Royal Belfast.
During the past few years, noted English designer, Martin Hawtree, has undertaken improvements to Royal Dublin, bringing it to modern-day standards and a true championship length of 7,250 yards from the back tees. There has also been some aggressive sharpening of Royal Dublin's teeth with additional contouring of the greens and some special work on the closing 5 holes, sometimes criticized in the past as being anti-climactic - The critics have now been quelled, unless they start complaining the finish is now too tough!
Improving on the work of a genius can never be easy, but Hawtree has managed to succeed and with flying colors. The Royal Dublin of today stands shoulder to shoulder with the very best on the Emerald Isle.
It's a classic, out and back layout, reminiscent of a top Scottish links, not often found in Ireland. The exposed, island location is relatively flat, making the wind, always unpredictable, a particularly important factor, complicated further by narrow fairways and extensive stretches of out-of bounds -- accurate drives are demanded.
Generally the front nine plays down-wind, making the back nine much more difficult, though bear in mind, the swirling winds coming off Dublin Bay are always cantankerous and defy generalizations. Nothing about Royal Dublin is easy or to be taken for granted. If you don't do well on the front-nine, nothing short of a miracle will help you on the back, which at best is a very stiff test, even for the professionals and at worst, a pending disaster for mere mortals.
Royal Dublin is an especially strong links and it would be difficult for even the most ardent links connoisseur to find fault, but there are several aspects to the course that deserve special mention, not the least of which is the bunkering, a Harry Colt specialty.
The greenside bunkers are set perfectly, almost to the extent of being deviously so, visitors will likely spend more time than planned, extricating themselves from these dangerously deep, steep-faced monsters. Miss the greens and you are all but guaranteed to find a bunker, they almost act as magnets to the ball. Even an approach shot that lands on the putting surface, but doesn't hold, is seemingly sucked into yet another bottomless pit.
The fairway bunkers are only slightly kinder, but don't expect anything like the pussy-cat fairway traps of home -- those slight indentations that serve more as decoration than a hazard. With any Harry Colt design, nothing is built into a course without a purpose and the purpose is always the same - to make players think and execute, then add a few more strokes to the scorecards of those who don't.
Adding even more spice to Royal Dublin's challenge is a meandering stream that comes into play on more than one occasion, serious rough that must be avoided at any cost and a couple of blind drives. There's no question this is an exceptionally demanding examination of links golf that will keep any player on their toes from the opening tee, through the 19th hole. To conquer it you will need the precision of a brain surgeon, the ability to use very club in the bag, putting skills, a good short game. If you have a good sense of humor, make sure you bring it along as well, it can only help.
No discussion of Royal Dublin Golf Club would be complete without including mention of the generous hospitality served up in generous portions, by staff and members alike to every visitor. As one of only five Royal golf clubs on the Emerald Isle, you'd be excused for perhaps anticipating a little snobbishness, or at least the hint of a cold-shoulder, but nothing could be further from the truth. There may be no friendlier or more welcoming clubhouse in all of Ireland, so make the most of it and enjoy it to the fullest. Who knows, you might even get to meet the man Himself -- and when was the last time you got to chat with a golfing legend, who just happens to be in the World Golf Hall of Fame?
For a few ideas and suggestions on how to include the very special, Royal Dublin Golf Club on you Irish golf trip, click here.
©2009 David Brice / Golf International, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Golf International -- Providers of quality golf travel arrangements since 1988.