Irish Open: Klondyke and Dell prove a blinding success

Irish Open: Klondyke and Dell prove a blinding success
Martin Kaymer putts on the iconic par-three 154-yard Dell. Picture: Sportsfile

Maybe it was the bright sunshine at Lahinch yesterday morning that brought on the folly but at one point of the afternoon we began tallying the different adjectives used to describe this course’s most famous holes.

It has not taken long for the fourth, Klondyke, and fifth, Dell, to capture the imagination of newcomers to this course, both playing and spectating. 

The 475-yard par-four Klondyke, normally a par five for lesser mortals, and the par-three 154-yard Dell, may be polar opposites in terms of length but they have a unifying bond in featuring blind tee shots, not uncommon on links courses but rare enough in a European Tour event.

For this reason, we have this week been given descriptions of the holes ranging from “freaky” and “funky” through “quirky” to “cool”, although it is still unclear as to whether the person who suggested “quixotic” was referring to Klondyke or himself.

Both Klondyke and Dell have giant dunes protecting their greens, the one on the par three hiding the most slender of putting surfaces directly behind it and almost entirely enveloped by dunes atop which large galleries watched the golfers putt below. 

The Klondyke hill that precedes it is two-thirds of the way down the fourth fairway leaving 100 yards to the hole from its back side. Yesterday it proved the second toughest hole on the course after the par-four second, another usually played as a par five.

Graeme McDowell, a South of Ireland champion here in 2000, yesterday described Lahinch as a “tricky little puzzle” and his experience on Klondyke neatly encapsulated his opinion as his tee shot rolled right up to the foot of the hill, forcing a lofted chip over the dune on the way to very good par in a two-over round of 72.

“When we were playing the first we looked back to the hole and saw guys rolling it up to the base of the Klondyke and when I got to the tee, I’m like ‘3-wood seems a bit negative off this tee’. I’ve tried to hit driver hard down the right (bypassing the hill to give a clear view of the green with the second shot) and it catches a downslope and rolls right up to under the dune. I ended up making a decent four, had a decent lie but it was weird, like ‘what’s going on here?’”

Seamus Power was less fortunate on Klondyke, taking bogey at the fourth after his ball took a flyer off the fairway to the base of the hill.

“I don’t know what my ball landed on,” he said. “I hit 3-wood to try and hit it straight up the middle today and it went all the way into the bank.

“I played with Joost (Luiten) and our 3-woods were similar all day. But I hit that one 30 yards past him. It is tough. Some guys are hitting driver right towards those bunkers so it is hard to know what to do. It is not an easy hole. I might go down one club tomorrow.”

Whatever the play, Power insisted he was a fan of Klondyke.

“I’ve always enjoyed that hole, four and five, but knowing professional golfers, no-one really is a big fan of blind shots. There’s always going to be some guys who think they’ve hit good shots and they’re going to be long and they’ll blame it because it was blind, even though there’s no effect on distance.

“So it’s one of those. Guys who play it well will think it’s cool and guys that leave it up on the banks or funny stuff like that will think it’s the stupidest hole ever. But it is what it is and they’re not going to disappear overnight so you get your number, you find the line and you hit a good shot.

“That’s links golf, you always have a couple of blind shots, it’s not going to bother most guys but it will bother a few.”

As for Dell, tournament director Miguel Viador cut the field some slack for yesterday’s opening round, his pin placement at the par-three fifth offering a sight of the hole from the tee box, sitting 154 yards away.

With the white flag in full view tucked back and right of the slender green, there was no need to take advantage of the big screen adjacent to the tee box that was feeding a view of the otherwise obscured putting surface.

Dubai Duty Free Irish Open host Paul McGinley, a Ryder Cup-winning captain with a meticulous eye for detail in setting this tournament up to be a delight for golfers and spectators alike, had the screen installed to allow competitors the chance to see where their tee shots landed. 

As the week progresses and the hole likely to be moved further out of view, that screen may come in handy.

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