Love and Hate!
Royal County Down is certainly one of the best golf courses in the world all categories. It’s been described as “the kind of golf people play in their ecstatic dreams”.
The scenery is breathtaking with the Mountains of Mourne on one side and the Dundrum Bay on the other. In between is a landscape destined from its creation to be home to a golf course with acres of sand and huge sand dunes, which the links wind through and over. You’ll fins stunning unique natural bunkers covered with heather and coarse that you don’t see anywhere else - you’ll do anything not to be in them.
Golf at Royal County Down might be compared to a roller coaster ride – moments of fear, even total panic, combined with sheer exhilaration. Every part of the game is put to test, with a premium of being straight off the tee.
Tom Watson described the course as “ a tremendous test of golf and the outward nine is as fine a nine holes I have ever played.
I agree with Tom, the front nine is the best. They are closer to the sea with higher dunes and some terrifying tee shots. Back nine is by no means easy, but not as tough as the front.
I have a Love & Hate relationship with this links course. It is a tremendous course with some of the best and challenging holes in golf and I love it. I love the natural elements of the course and the unique bunkers. I love the way the course is laid out with variation of the holes. I love the fact that it needs to be played differently depending in the wind. I love the stunning scenery.
What I hate is the numerous blind tee shots, which I mentally have a problem with. Not being able to see the landing zone is to me frightening and in particular on a course like this when your tee shot needs to be very precise. I’m slowly overcoming this hate, the more a play the course. When I’ve done it, it’s a Love only relationship.
With no doubt, this is an extraordinary links course and everyone who plays Royal County Down comes away with memories they will never forget.
My favorite holes are:
Hole 4 – 202 yards par 3
A breathtaking view with the Mountains of Mourne in the distance. From tee to green there is a sea of gorse and eight bunkers in front of the green, so you need to carry the shot all the way to the small green with large drop-offs to both sides and to rear. Well hit 3 iron slightly to the left, but with a lucky “bounce of the day” for a close birdie put – 2 put for a par
Hole 5 – 425 yards par 4
Slight dogleg right and a blind tee shot over a white stone in the distance, ideally with a fade. Any shot right of the stone is in danger of catching one of the deep bunkers or nestling in the thick heather. From the fairway the second shot is to a well-protected green with a large bunker to the left. No easy put from anywhere on the green. A fade to the right of the white stone and I’m very lucky to end up in between the deep bunkers. Blind approach shot from about 170 yards – 6 iron to about 2 meters from the in. Solid put for a birdie – well done.
Hole 8 – 415 yards par 4
A world-class hole that requires a good drive to reach the undulating fairway beyond the heather clad dunes whilst avoiding the deep bunker on the right side. The second shot requires a very precise shot on to the very fast green that have large drop-off areas on both sides. 250-yard drive on the left side of fairway in a good position for the approach shot. A 3 iron in to the wind reaches the green edge. 2 put for a par.
Hole 13 – 422 yards par 4
A very tough hole with high dunes on both sides of the fairway banked in heather. Deep bunkers well placed along the entire right hand side. The green is difficult and apparently are there more three putts witnessed here than on any other green. Good drive about 260 yards on the left hand side of fairway. A 6 iron to about 10 meters short of pin. 2 putt for par.
Playing partners of the day was John Geddes from New York and Larry Murchan that I played with at Royal Portrush the day before. Great guys and I really enjoyed playing with them. Fourth member of the group was the caddie John, who did an excellent job in guiding us through the course and telling us all the little secrets on how to play it. Well done and much appreciated.
It’s always worth the money for a caddie the first time you play any links course and in particular a course like Royal Count Down with all the blind holes and other challenges.
We had perfect weather for 13 holes, sun and just enough wind to be enjoyable. The rain and stronger wind came on hole 14 and changed everything. I
I‘m very happy with the way I played the course and how I was able to make some very good recovery shots. On a course like this, you’ll always end up having a number of recovery shots. 38 shots on the front nine and 41 shots on the back nine for a total of 79 shots (gross).
I’m starting to like this course more and more, so maybe next time it’ll be an all “love” experience.
GREAT THINGS ABOUT GOLF
Playing a Seve-like recovery shot.
You might pull it off one in 10 times, but when you execute the high-tariff shot your playing partners will worship you.
Royal County Down Golf Club - Championship course