When an expert speaks, people listen… even closer when two talk. After designing Lahinch, the era's master Architect, Old Tom Morris, boldly declared, "I consider the links as fine a natural course as it's ever been my good fortune to play over." This adoration – which introduced Lahinch, gave it worldwide recognition, and has defined it since – wasn't alone. After renovations in 1927 another architectural expert, Dr. Alistair MacKenzie, lauded it: "Lahinch will make the finest, most popular course that I or anyone ever constructed," echoing his predecessor. In 1892 Limerick's Black Watch Regiment discovered enormous sand hills, massive dunes, envious topsy-turvy, Atlantic Oceanside linksland along Ireland's West coast that became Lahinch Golf Club.
Quintessentially, epitomizing links golf, this setting – breathtaking and so enchanting it seems fairytale-like – is however, double-edged: Helplessly exposed, it's defenceless against the often typical brutal conditions. Lahinch is a shot-maker's haven: Creativity and innovation offset awkward stances/side-hill lies; Discipline, patience, and perseverance combat heather, gorse, relentless wind, and inevitable bad bounces/breaks. With intimidating, "hold-your-breath" tee shots (3, 7), ingenious bunker placement (labelled MacKenzie's best), and several blind shots (some world-renowned), Lahinch's options force golfer to think/strategize. Futile and often disastrous, the "Grip it and rip it" philosophy isn't recommended.
Blessed with natural, distinct, and tremendously varying green sites: steep fall-offs (1), along ridges (9), against stone-wall boundaries (18), atop chasms (3) and plateaus (10, 15), maddeningly three-tiered (13), and impossibly nestled between two giant protruding dunes (14), Ireland's annual South Amateur site presents a challenging environment.
Nevertheless, it was modernized/toughened in 2001 by Martin Hawtree, resulting in a "restored MacKenzie course." Lahinch's driveable par 4 (13), reachable par 5's (2,4, 12), and shoreline-hugging, seaside holes (2, 3, 6, 8) make for "fun, exciting" Golf. Dog-legging left and right, holes climb uphill and tumble downhill, over ravines and hillocks, through valleys and hollows, around knolls and hummocks-enhancing this fun and creating a magical Golf excursion. With shots somewhat extinct nowadays... i.e. over Klondyke (4th) – the huge dune interrupting approach shots. The Dell (5th) – a baffling, one-of-a-kind, retro, blind par 3, the 7th drive (over previous green), and the aforementioned 14, Lahinch is a trip back in time, a link to the past, a glimpse of bygone days. Is there a bell golfers ring? No, better – a human, greeting and ensuring golfer's safety while directing "traffic" at the criss-crossing intersection on 5 and 18! (Pinching oneself remedies the "Wake me I must be dreaming" prevalent feeling).
The minimal proximity between clubhouse and first tee means a "most scrutinized swing" and "opening tee shot." Further, engaging quirks include a shared fairway (14 and 15), visible castle-ruins, a hole using two separate greens (11), and goats (Club's logo) acting as barometers (roaming course in good weather, seeking shelter when bad is coming. It’s this oddity that fascinates, educationally mesmerizes us, and puts Lahinch in its own class.
So much more than just a game – here Golf is a way of life! (Sundays the course doubles as a dog park for locals). Eye opening, this interconnectedness is irresistibly enamouring. For students of the game the experience is peerless. Like visiting an old well-kept museum/shrine it thrills while seducing, and tingles the spine while changing the golfer's life. There's only one Lahinch and this timeless design oozing character, while simultaneously disparaging today’s length factor, continues to captivate golfer after golfer. The experts were right. Beau Kazzi
Date: July 17, 2010