HOT SHOTS & HIDDEN BEAUTIES
Here’s a list of HOT SHOTS and HIDDEN BEAUTIES from the 32 counties. Not every county has a Hot Shot – not every county has more than one 18-hole golf course (Longford has one, Leitrim has none) – but there’s always a Hidden Beauty representing something thrilling and unexpected.
HOT SHOT : Old Head par-4 4th. Perhaps the 5th or 7th at Cork Golf Club sums up the overall charm of golf in the Rebel County, but Old Head’s 4th – Razor’s Edge – is iconic. The hole clings to the cliffs, from tee to green, flowing over lush fairway towards the famous lighthouse. The green lies just below and to the left, threatening to slip off the cliffs and into the sea hundreds of feet below.
HIDDEN BEAUTY: Mitchelstown par-4 4th.Probably the best hole you’ve never played… or heard of. A straight par-4 with lone pines framing the left fairway and the River Funshion gurgling deep below the green.
HOT SHOT : Ballybunion (Old) par-4 11th. Of all the counties, Kerry has the richest pickings: nominating just one hole seems very unkind to the glorious par-3s at Tralee or the magical closing stretch at Waterville. Ballybunion Old’s brilliant 11th, however, is too good to leave out. A par-4 stretched over ridged steps that drop down towards the green where the putting surface is guarded by sentry dunes. The beach awaits all along your right.
HIDDEN BEAUTY: Kenmare par-4 18th The original nine hole layout concludes with a drive over the estuary, (and 17th green) onto a tilted fairway that ensures a tricky approach shot. Towering trees chaperone you home.
HOT SHOT: Doonbeg, par-5 1st. This straight par-5’s reputation as the best opening hole in the Republic of Ireland is well deserved. Stand on the high tee and take in the distant green cocooned in tall dunes and the sounds of Doughmore Strand to your left. It’s a big first drive and then it is all about navigating the bunkers.
HIDDEN BEAUTY: Kilkee par-4 3rd. A lone hole, way up high on the clifftops, seas crashing far below. 292 metres of wild thrills and spills.
HOT SHOT: The Golf Course at Adare Manor par-5 18th. It won’t be long before Adare’s 18th becomes one of the most recognisable holes in world golf. The Ryder Cup will do that. The River Maigue divides the hole and threatens every shot. For those with power and bravery you can cross the river on your second. The rest of us wait for the third and hope to get close to the pin on a vast, slippery green.
HIDDEN BEAUTY: Ballyneety par-4 5th. A big hole that slips off a precipice. Lay up at the crest (200m) and leave a towering 200m approach to a well-defended green below, or drive over the crest and see how far down the hill you get (and what an awkward stance you’re left with).
HOT SHOT: Thurles par-3 11th This is a long, slightly downhill hole with a collection of ruins halfway along the fairway. Tall trees give the green a perfect amphitheatre.
HIDDEN BEAUTY: Clonmel, par-3 14th The wild mountainside cavorts up behind the 14th green creating a dramatic backdrop. The green nestles low in a dell promising a towering tee shot. If you listen you’ll hear a mountain stream winding its way through the trees. It’s picture perfect stuff.
HOT SHOT: Waterford Castle par-3 2nd. A sweet par-3 beside the River Suir. A small lake separates tee from green and wraps around the left side. A pretty stone bridge takes you across the lake which just enhances the attractiveness of a hole that sums up the charms of Waterford Castle.
HIDDEN BEAUTY: Dunmore East par-3 14th. You hit straight out to sea, a soaring tee shot that drops and drops to the green on the cliff’s edge far below. At 180 metres it’s no easy par.
HOT SHOT: The Island par-5 15th. The 15th offers everything that’s magnificent about links golf. The natural green site promises bump-and-run opportunities, with towering dunes rising up steeply on two sides, and you can employ different strategies to get there. The view from the high tee is inspiring before you drive down into a valley.
HIDDEN BEAUTY: Beech Park par-5 13th. This is the end of the club’s ‘Amen Corner’ and it’s a tough way to end as the hole drives out of dense trees and then curves right, around a pond that leads to the green.
HOT SHOT: Mount Juliet par-3 3rd. A par-3 of sublime beauty. So pretty, in fact, that you don’t notice how dangerous it is… not until you have to choose a club and things start to sink in. Your tee shot must fly the pond which fronts the green and the left side. There’s a lone bunker, back right, but that only leaves another terrifying shot as you play towards the water with the green sloping away from you… towards the water.
HIDDEN BEAUTY: Gowran Park par-4 4th Almost a double dogleg that requires length, accuracy and extreme caution. It’s 400 metres with trees everywhere and a winding ditch causing all sorts of problems on your approach.
HIDDEN BEAUTY: Co Longford par-4 6th Proving the potency of a tree positioned slap bang in the middle of the fairway, this par-4 has a slow, steady rise to the green. Trees in front of the tee – left and right – force a straight drive while that fairway tree always influences your thinking on the approach. If by some chance it doesn’t then the water nestled tightly to the green’s right hand side definitely will.
HOT SHOT: K Club (North) par-5 18th: After one of the greatest shots you’ll ever see, Rory McIlroy won the 2016 Dubai Duty Free Irish Open. From the tee, the beauty that lies ahead is not visible, not even the lake, but once you walk over the crest it all comes in to view. The fountain, the green nestled up to the water and the sea of bunkers around it form a dramatic and daunting sight.
HIDDEN BEAUTY: Athy par-5 18th. A high tee box leads you into a tilting dogleg with bunkers on the left and trees to the right. It begs for a big drive. The fairway then flattens and races towards the clubhouse. A strong birdie opportunity.
HOT SHOT: Carlow par-4 16th. One of Carlow’s toughest and best holes. It sums up this classic course, wrapped around a hill, showing off its strong heathland credentials. The par-4 16th tees off from high in the woods and races ever uphill. The fairway narrows into a valley, and the long uphill slope into the green means you have to be ambitious or your ball stalls where it lands.
HIDDEN BEAUTY: Bunclody par-4 15th. It’s hardly hidden, and its official address is Wexford, but Bunclody does not get the love it deserves. Play the straight 15th, with its lonely tree in the fairway, and you’ll see why it should.
HOT SHOT: Portarlington, par-4 14th. The par-4 14th is a sharp left to right dogleg, weaving through the woods and demanding a strong, confident drive. Things are compounded by an old tree standing defiantly and alone in the middle of the fairway, at the elbow. Stay left of it and you leave a long approach to a green pinched by bunkers; go right of it and you risk encountering the woods.
HIDDEN BEAUTY: Mountrath par-5 11th. A rollercoaster and the closest chance you have of surfing on a golf course… the fairway forms two large ‘waves’ with a green beyond.
HOT SHOT: Co Louth par 4 14th A mere 332 yards, but this bunkerless par-4 shows how brilliantly links terrain can be employed. A high tee shows off the entire hole but from the fairway the green is protected by what feels like a magic carpet of dunes floating just above you. A missed approach means your ball is swept away leaving a tricky recovery shot and a green that’s tough to read.
HIDDEN BEAUTY: Greenore par-3 6th The club uses an old railway line to host several tees. It sits high on an embankment, flanking Carlingford Lough, and showing off the views. The 6th tee is the first of these and you hit down to a green with water front and left.
HOT SHOT: Headfort (New) par-4 10th. After being challenged constantly with water features on the front nine, the 10th offers no respite. A wide lake demands a big carry to reach the fairway which quickly curves to the right through the woods. The green lies nestled in more trees and you have ample time to think about your next shot as you walk over a long bridge to reach the other side.
HIDDEN BEAUTY: Rathcore par-3 11th. You stand on a gorse-drenched hillock hitting down to a green that protrudes into the water. No margin for error.
HOT SHOT: Esker Hills par-4 14th. Eskers promise remarkable shapes and those at the aptly named Esker Hills are as shapely as they come. This rollercoaster adventure can be summed up in one hole: the 339 yard 14th. The hole moves left through a deep valley, which squeezes so tightly you feel you should breathe in. The green is perched atop a long upward slope and comes with a sneaky steep tier across the middle.
HIDDEN BEAUTY: Birr par-4 11th. A beautiful tee shot across a double dipping fairway which then swings left and down into a hollow. The setting in woodland and the isolation are enchanting.
HOT SHOT: Mullingar par-3 2nd Whenever Mullingar gets discussed, the famous 197-yard 2nd is inevitably part of the conversation. Confidence is an essential ingredient as you tackle a green that sits up on a ridge, surrounded by trees on three sides. If you don’t find the green who knows what score will go down on your card.
HIDDEN BEAUTY: Moate par-4 7th. A natural, rippling fairway that slips down into some hollows leads you towards the green. It’s two sweet shots to reach it.
HOT SHOT: Rosslare par-4 6th. You’re in the heart of Rosslare’s most thrilling run of holes (4-7) and this short par-4 has a tee placed tight into the dunes, next to the sea. It’s a blind shot as you play around the edge of the dune and down to a hidden fairway. The steep, swaying green has two bunkers pinching the front, making for a tricky approach.
HIDDEN BEAUTY: Enniscorthy par-4 8th. It’s a calm tee shot on this quiet country parkland but keep to the right if you want a realistic chance of finding the well protected green benched into the hill. A smart draw required.
HOT SHOT: Druids Glen par-3 8th. In a county known as the ‘Garden of Ireland’, what better hole than the par-3 8th to reflect those qualities. The green waits beyond enchanting pools, a weir and weeping willow, while colourful flowers and shrubs rise up through the trees which embrace the green-site so attractively. You might even have swans and kingfishers in attendance. (The course is currently closed).
HIDDEN BEAUTY: Greystones par-4 6th. Trickling down the sides of Jones’s Hill, this is a tricky customer. There’s so much gorse around you and the fairway bunker is not for show. You could leave your driver in the bag. The approach shot is glorious, into a sloping, cleverly protected green below.
HOT SHOT: Connemara par-3 13th. Bare rock protrudes from the earth like random explosions and the wild beauty that runs through Connemara is visible everywhere. The small, steep green is smartly banked into the slope 200 yards away, rising up from an untamed hollow. Miss the green and you’ll struggle to save par.
HIDDEN BEAUTY: Bearna par-4 16th. A glorious and wild ‘peatland’ hole at the high point of the course. From up here you can look across at the high green and admire a dogleg embracing water, gorse and wild rough.
HIDDEN BEAUTY: Carrick-on-Shannon par-3 13th. The golf club is actually in Roscommon, meaning Leitrim has not one 18-hole course. The 13th is Index 4 and comes at the end of the holes added in 2003, bordered by Drumharlow Lake and the Boyle River. It’s a long, narrow green, wedged into a steep bank that falls sharply to the right. Three bunkers wait below.
TOP SHOT: Carne (Wild Atlantic Dunes) par-4 2nd. This short par-4 is Carne’s original 11th and can be played conservatively, strategically or with a lash. It’s a dogleg cutting hard right around an enormous dune which hides the green. The high tee box is on the same level as the green, but you have to explore the valley below before the green comes into sight, up on a double tier.
HIDDEN BEAUTY: Claremorris par-4 1st. A short but cavorting opening hole. A severe bank tilts down from the right, almost hiding the pin and giving you no clue what awaits on your second.
TOP SHOT: Athlone par-4 13th. This exceptional dogleg measures 396 metres over a rollercoaster of eskers. When you walk over them it feels like an angry sea. You are faced with a blind drive over a crest and, potentially a blind approach depending on where your ball finishes. The fairway bends sharply left and downhill towards the distant green.
HIDDEN BEAUTY: Roscommon par-3 12th. You play over a large, pretty pond that fronts the green, sheltered by mature trees.
TOP SHOT: Enniscrone par-5 16th. The most photographed hole in this part of the world. Stand high on the 17th tee and look back down the 16th, with the green below you and the fairway rumbling into the distance. The sea ripples to your right and tall dunes tower to the left. At sunset it’s epic.
HIDDEN BEAUTY: Strandhill par-4 13th. Quirky but totally brilliant this hole descends from way up high into a nest of dunes below as you try to figure out where fairway leads and how you are going to find the smallest green in Ireland.
HOT SHOT: Royal Portrush par-4 5th. Your first encounter with Portrush’s sea views and it’s a short dramatic par-4 that doglegs hard right with the entire hole on show. There are slopes and bumps and twists and turns like you wouldn’t believe and the beach lies right behind the green. You can give the driver a lash but only if you’re prepared to live with the consequences.
HIDDEN BEAUTY: Gracehill par-4 18th A dogleg that drives out of towering beech trees, over a pretty pond and onto a rising fairway. The green is above you, flanked by more mature trees. It is the only big dogleg here but it sums up the course so well.
HIDDEN BEAUTY: Cloverhill par-4 10th. A wild, unpredictable beauty that leads you from a towering high tee down passed rocky outcrops and dense ferns to a weaving, flat fairway. The mountain looms large on your right. It’s short (300 yards) but a stream in front of the green might temper your ambition.
HOT SHOT: Slieve Russell, par-5 13th. A beauty wrapped around Lough Rud. From tee to green water is ever-present on your left and for your tee shot you get to choose how much of that water you take on. The hole then continues to curve around the lake with the green well protected on the water’s edge.
HIDDEN BEAUTY: Co. Cavan par-4 1st. A great opener which cavorts over a fairway that buckles beautifully in the middle. Down up, down up, with the green visible on the distant rise.
HOT SHOT: Portstewart par-5 4th. It may not be an obvious pick on this stellar front nine but the fairway on this par-5 curves so lazily through the dunes that its elegance is astounding. It then buckles on the approach, tossing the green up onto a ledge that can slap your ball back 30 yards.
HIDDEN BEAUTY: Roe Park par-4 15th. Another cracking short par-4 (266 yards) that presents the opportunity to drive over a deep hollow – replete with pond – to a green perched high on the hillside opposite. The fairway is well to the left. Go for broke… or bag the sensible par?
HOT SHOT: Portsalon par-4 2nd. One of Ireland’s most incredible holes. It’s a brute, too, but it is so exhilarating to play as you have to cross a river twice, skirt the beach, and not be distracted by the Lough Swilly and Knockalla Mountain views. From the high tee box you see everything that’s required of you.
HIDDEN BEAUTY: Greencastle par-4 12th. Named ‘Lighthouse’, this unique par-4 drives over a beach onto a fairway that buckles sharply up on to a rise and then drops even more suddenly to the green. It’s utter madness but pure brilliance, and the lighthouse watches over it all.
HOT SHOT: Royal County Down par-3 4th. An iconic and long par-3. The farther back you go, the higher the tee boxes climb and the more spectacular the hole and the views become. The green is perfectly set amidst the gorse as your gaze inevitably drifts upwards towards the Mourne Mountains.
HIDDEN BEAUTY: Scrabo par-4 1st Beauty and the beast. An uphill Index 1 through tight flanks of gorse to a slim green at the top, next to Scrabo Tower. And it’s only the 1st hole.
HOT SHOT: Lough Erne par-4 7th. A par-4 that Rory drove almost as soon as the course opened. From a high tee, this dramatic dogleg boasts a stunning setting on the water. It drops down to the fairway and then races away towards the lough. Big swing required.
HIDDEN BEAUTY: Enniskillen par-4 12th. A lovely hole that introduces grand old trees along the right, a stream, and a green poised elegantly at the end, shrouded by more trees. Template parkland stuff.
HOT SHOT: Concra Wood, par-4 10th. The hole starts flat and high above the lake and then drops like a stone to a green far below with views spilling over Lake Muckno and the Monaghan landscape. Play safe and leave a soaring approach or go full Bryson and see how far down the hill you get.
HIDDEN BEAUTY: Rossmore par-5 1st. More ups and downs than a basketball match as you rumble over a fairway that never stops moving. Trees flank you all the way.
HIDDEN BEAUTY: Killymoon par-3 7th or 8th Back-to-back par-3s, the first hitting long and down into a dell, the shorter 8th coming back up out of it.