If nothing else, this week’s visit to Lahinch will leave European Tour golfers with the feeling they have played some very different holes in Klondyke and Dell.
Quirky and funky have been a couple of the descriptions of the back-to-back blind tee shots facing this week’s Dubai Duty Free Irish Open field at the iconic links’s fourth and fifth holes. Normally a par-five, Klondyke, with its huge dune standing between fairway and green, will this week play to a par of four before the par-three Dell hole presents a similarly difficult challenge.
Lahinch veteran Shane Lowry has heard the first impressions of fellow professionals and found himself agreeing with their assessment. “They think they’re funky, like, and obviously being from Ireland, you know Lahinch and the Dell and the fourth hole, and they are funky,” Lowry said.
“I imagine a variation of a golf course they’ve never seen before and next thing you’re standing looking at a hill, there’s a flyover somewhere, you have to hit it or this is a bit funky hole. And I’m sure they get used to it. Hopefully it looks good on TV.”
Last year’s champion at Ballyliffin, Scotland’s Russell Knox, declared himself a fan of the blind holes and yesterday 2017 Irish Open winner at Portstewart, Spain’s Jon Rahm gave praise for the Lahinch links he encountered for the first time on Tuesday. He said:
“Old Tom Morris designed this golf course and very few changes since then, and some of the best designers in golf have worked on this course and not changed it. It’s definitely something special.”
Of Dell, Rahm added: “First time I’ve played a blind par three, unique. Usually you’re looking forward to par threes and this case you can’t see where it is, and it’s such a narrow target from coming from the narrowest fairway I’ve ever seen in my life which is four with a blind tee shot and another blind tee shot on six and blind tee shot on seven.
“It’s a lot of shots in a row that’s going to be more a mental test than anything else.”
Like Lowry, Rahm, who also finished tied for fourth behind Knox at Ballyliffin, believes the blind holes add to the excitement this week.
“It’s different. I like it. When you have designers like Alister MacKenzie who came here in the 1900s and did not change anything, there’s a reason why. It’s good golf. It’s fun. And again, that’s why I’m excited. It’s not what I grew up playing in Spain. It’s not what I’m playing in the US. It can only happen here, so that’s what I’m excited about.”