Golf on the links …. i.e. the sandy deposits, blown up by the wind or dropped by receding tides, which link the beach to the inland soils …. is the original of the species and by far the most exciting form of the game.
There are just about 150 links in the world and the tiny island of Ireland has the best of them, with the most exciting dunes and exhilarating golf designs matured through the years.
It is here at the seaside that the primary elements of sea, sky and earth collide with mighty force and play turbulent and beautiful games and bind mankind in a magical spell. It is here that golf enjoys that extra dimension.
The European Club is located in tumbling dunes just south of Dublin and it features sweeping sea views from nineteen of the twenty holes. Yes, there are two extra par-3s here and they are in play most days affording the golfer a 20-hole round which includes five holes running very close to the sea. So close that it is common to find players searching for their golf balls on the beach.
This proximity to the beach is rare. It was Bernard Darwin who wrote of days spent listening to the rumble of the breakers outside the dunes at the old links he frequented. One knew that the sea was nearby but seldom got to see it. Darwin would have loved it here!
This links has taken advantage of seeing what went before in terms of the playing of the game and it is geared to meet the challenge of the modern player with modern equipment. It is one of the longest links at 7,377-yards from the tips. But, of course, the wise golfer will choose a set of tees which fits his game and can choose from 6,795-yards, 6,194-yards or 5,434-yards.
The bunkers with their walls lined with railway sleepers are quite remarkable and give a brilliantly stark definition to the links and give fair warning to the players regarding hazard locations. The sleeper has, of course, been a part of links design in Britain and Ireland ever since the days that the golfers went to the club by train and the railway companies donated their old sleepers to the golfers.
This is a links designed as an exhilarating test for the top players of today and tomorrow. A links for the future rather than one which will fade into irrelevance as the game continues to evolve.
So, it has attracted hundreds of title winners to have a go. Tiger Woods holds the links record at 67. Rory McIlroy won the Irish Amateur title here. Padraig Harrington has played here as boy and man and prepared for his British Open wins by playing in and winning the Irish PGA at The European Club in the week before both!
Of course, care has been taken to allow the normal mortal to enjoy the game. This is a complex but enjoyable examination for every golfer provided they use their brains. Those who learn how to flight the ball on a medium or low trajectory will enjoy the fast running fairways and the fact that provision has been made for the punched or running shot to fifteen of the greens.
The shorter but cerebral hitters can find a way to stay in the race against the big ball bruisers.
Everyone will enjoy the many unique designs and not least the longest green in the world at hole twelve. This measures 127-yards from front to back and restores the art of the great three-putt as opposed to the soul shattering short three-putt. Golf is, after all, a game and it is meant to be fun!