Sunday, June 10, 2012

The Perfect Golf Links- The European Club

This years Ireland golf trip started out by arriving in Dublin at 8:15 AM, getting the rental car and heading directly south to The European Club for a 1:00 tee time. It was probably the worst weather day of the trip with temperatures around 47 degrees, wind, and sprinkles. Only a handful of golfers had braved the elements on this day, so I would have the course all too myself and make a leisurely round out of it.

After, a nice lunch at the club I set out for the first tee. Upon arrival the first thing that hit me on this dull, dreary, day was the beautiful blend of colors I saw looking down the first fairway. You had the yellow flowers of the gorse in full bloom, the bright green fairways, the texture of the silver sleeper railway ties in the bunkers, highlighted with wisps of marram grasses accenting their edges. Only at Gozzer Ranch have I seen bunkering as beautiful as this using the marram. I said, this Pat Ruddy is not only an architect but an artist, using the natural dunes as his canvas. Playing around to the world class 7th hole, I came upon the first extra hole. As, Mr Ruddy, states "In the good old days a golf links was composed of as many holes as a group of villagers had land for or had a willingness to play." Hole 7A and 12A are two fine par 3's that further add to the enjoyment of The European Club and make up two ten hole loops. 12 A, he says is "A God given green" and"the big brother of Calamity Jane". The par 5 13th has a most interesting history of its green complex. Due to storms and Padraig's mastery of this hole, Mr Ruddy, put into play his "evolutionary design process" to create one of the world's greatest green complexes and golf holes(top 500). Following #13 you get a chance to play one of the greatest par 3's in the world(top 500), featuring some very innovative two tier bunkering. I would have to think long and hard to recall a better collection of par 3's than the the five at The European Club. Hole 17 is a beauty, playing from an elevated tee down a valley between two dunes. The bunkering on the 5th, 9th and 18th holes can be visually confusing as the bunkers appear to be all the same height which gives you a depth perception problem, thus adding some doubt in your mind. Pete Dye, would love the look of these three dandies. The approach on the 18th is somewhat atypical of any other hole at The European Club, i.e., that it has water coming directly into play. An old pond has been turned into a serpentine shaped burn short of the green. Pat Ruddy's philosophy that "It is always important to ensure that a golf course finishes with more of a roar than a whimper and the players are sent into the clubhouse reeling from the stresses and the strains, the joys and elation's of a great day", is something I would love to see at all courses."There is something daunting about an approach over water", which makes the 18th hole one stern test.

After my round, Mr Ruddy was kind enough to sit down with me for tea and some his clubs renowned apple tarts and ice cream. He puts out a challenge to anyone who thinks they can beat the flavor of his apple tarts, too bring it on. We could have chatted for hours but I needed to find my night's lodging before dark, so regretfully I had to move on. I hope to return someday and finish our visit on how The European Club has evolved.

I totally enjoyed my time at The European Club and my visit with Mr. Ruddy and his two sons. There are several courses out there that once the design has been put into place, that is the end, it is set in stone. What looks good on paper doesn't always work out in the dirt. Pat Ruddy realizes that there is no perfect course born on the first try, as he has shown by his 25 years of extended evolution at The European Club. If it is not to his likening yet, you can bet that it will be The Perfect Golf Links in the future. The book by this name, was just released a few months ago and I strongly recommend its purchase. It gives you insight into his ideas about golf architecture and has many beautiful photo's of every hole at The European Club. It will make a great gift for golfers who appreciate Links golf. You will notice that I only have a Preview of The European Club in the 24 photos I present, not the usual 125+, and I have intentionally left out any pictures of hole #7 which is one of the World's 100 Greatest holes. It was a dreary, wet, day I was there and my photo's wouldn't have done justice to the beauty of the course. The Perfect Golf Links can be ordered online at the Club's website for around 35 euro. If you are ever in the Dublin area the one course you must play is The European Club.

Notable holes: #3,#7,#8,#12A, #13, #14, #17, #18

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