(This is the sixth in a series of columns from Rick Cleveland’s bucket-list golf tour of Ireland.)
WICKLOW, Ireland — The name of this relatively new masterpiece of a golf course is The European Club, which sounds pretentious, and – there’s no getting around this – it is.
But it is of no pretense to say that the European Club is home to the longest green in golf, and that is where this story will begin.
The 12th hole is a par 4 that, from the membership tees, is listed at 436 yards. In truth, it can play a distance of nearly 500 yards or a mere 375, depending on where the pin is placed. The green, you see, is 127 yards in length. Take a football field, add the end zones, and then add seven more yards. That’s the length of this green. Think about it.
On this sunny, wind-swept day the pin is toward the front of the green. Pat, my friend since college, hit a solid drive and then an all-too-solid 4-iron that took one huge hop onto the green and then rolled and rolled and rolled some more.
It left him with a putt of at least 60 yards – 180 feet – back down to the hole. He four-putted, leaving the first putt a good 15 yards short.
“I thought I hit it as hard as I could,” Pat said.
His second putt was 10 feet short, and his third went three feet past. He holed the fourth. Pat had the perfect answer to how one manages to four-putt a green.
“Hell, I drained a three-footer,” he said.
About that time a course ranger drove up and, as we were wondering what we had done wrong, the ranger told Pat: “Get in here, lad, I’ll show you where a real man putts from.”
And then the two of them drove all the way to the back of the green where the ranger tossed a golf ball onto the green and said, “Now then, have some fun, lad.”
Pat did. He four-putted again.
The European Club, opened on Christmas Day in 1992, was the idea of Irish golf writer and architect Pat Ruddy, who bought the linksland and then designed the course himself. We’ll let Ruddy, himself, explain his realized dream.
“The links of The European Club has been designed to perpetuate and modernise the traditional values of links golf. The combination of rugged dunes, deep bunkers, sea breezes and large, undulating greens calls on the golfer to display strength of character, an ability to think and shot-making skills. Fast-running fairways and greens that invite the pitch-and-run approach and acres of tall, waving marram grass and golden-flowered gorse are the very essence of golf as it was at the beginning and was always meant to be.”
I guess. That being the case, we eight Mississippi golfers all lacked strength of character, the ability to think and surely lacked shot-making skills. I did break 90. Seven others did not. Steve’s back nine included seven double bogeys, a bogey and a birdie. You don’t see that just every day.
The monster brought us to our knees. My friends Pat, John, Donnie, Charlie, Steve, Bob and Bubba – could there be a Mississippi eight-some without a Bubba? – will all attest.
But we did have some fun, lots of it. Bob and I matched against four-putt Pat and Steve in our four-ball match. We took a three-up lead early but by the 18th the match was all square. The 18th is a ridiculously hard par-4 that requires a longish second shot into a green that is protected by narrow passage. To make a long story short, after several mis-hit, mis-judged shots, and with me out of the hole, Bob faced a seven-foot, downhill bogey putt to win the match.
He drained it. We won the match with a bogey. But the real winner this day was The European Club.
Next: Royal County Down