County Sligo Rosses Point
Why is Rosses Point a favorite course of so many people? It has clear weaknesses. The starting two holes and the finishing hole are mundane. Its three par fives in average weather conditions are easy birdie holes for the accomplished player. That’s a third of the course that doesn’t sound very inspiring.
More so than any course with which the authors are familiar, Sligo’s most vulnerable holes afford the golfer the most gorgeous views. From high atop the 2nd green, the 3rd tee, the 5th tee, the 10th tee, the entire 12th hole, and the 18th fairway, the views are simply stunning. Three hundred and sixty degree panoramic views take in Ben Bulben Mountain, the harbor that feeds out into the sea and the white sails of the boats.
The five holes listed above are indifferent golf holes. Nonetheless, they remain pleasing to the golfer. Thus when combining holes of strong visual appeal with holes of outstanding quality, the golfer is left with the distinct impression that he has played a magnificent course. Such is the case at Rosses Point.
The par threes and fours make the course. The three pars are of note in that, unusual for a links course, there isn’t a weak one among them. Even though three of the four are between 150 and 165 yards, rare is the day when three distinctly different clubs and shots are not required. The 4th hole has no bunkers; the 9th is heavily bunkered; the 13th crosses a sandy inlet and relies on the stream behind the green to worry the golfer; and the 16th is a long hole that parallels the dune line. Only the 9th and the 13th holes play in the same general direction.
Half the holes are in a bowl. Consequently, golfer is rewarded with more level stances than links courses typically afford. However, in lieu of a variety of stances over these holes, a stream winds around and through half of them, including the 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, 13th, and 14th. The golfer encounters the stream every which way: off the tee on the right (6th hole), off the tee on the left (on the 14th hole), short and right of the green (on the 7th hole), and back right (on the 13th hole). The additional challenge of these streams is refreshing and compensates for the flatter terrain.
The two nines are unequal in terms of appeal and difficulty. As usual, the better nine is the one located closer to the sea, which in this case is the back nine. The stretch run home from eleven in is truly outstanding, and features a superb set of par fours as we see below:
Holes to Note:
Forth hole, 165 yards; A neat bunkerless three par. The green is perched on a ledge. The shaved bank front and left of the green shrugs balls off and makes the recover a ticklish one if the golfer misses the flag on the short side. Because the turf is kept firm and tight, the resulting chip shot is ticklish as it must be nipped just right. If the ground around the green were maintained as rough, the hole would be easier, as the player could slip a sand wedge under the ball for a routine flop shot.
Seventh hole, 430 yards; The stream threatens the approach shot for the first time in the round. It cuts across the fairway and then tracks beside the immediate right hand side of the green. The bank is mown close and approach shots that are leaking right have the worrisome tendency to keep running until they disappear down into the stream. Such diagonal hazards are the most challenging as the player is tested in both distance and direction. Only the well struck shot will do.
Eighth hole, 410 yards; A four par that gradually sweeps to the right. The golfer is tempted to take on the depression all along the right side of the fairway to gain an advantage but the stream twenty yards short of the green gobbles up many balls from golfers who were attempting to approach the green from the rough. The hole would be far more boring if the stream were flush against the green as so many more golfers would just automatically lay up after a less than perfect drive. The location of the stream 20-25 yards short of the green tempts many golfers to have a go from less than ideal circumstances.
Eleventh hole, 405 yards; The green complex is very appealing and makes the hole. The tee shot is awkward to a strongly sloping left to right fairway. From there, the green angles away from the golfer and falls off sharply in front. However, the same left to right slope in the fairway is up by the green giving the golfer the ability to play the approach shot out wide left and let the slope propel the ball toward the hole.
Thirteenth hole, 175 yards; The tee shot is across a sandy inlet but the real trouble is the stream behind the large green. In general, the psychological effect of placing the trouble behind the green is interesting. The less sure golfer tends to look up early and consequently thins the ball over the green into the very trouble he was hoping to avoid. Given the 13th hole at Sligo typically plays downwind, the surer golfer is challenged to flight the ball properly so that it doesn’t release too far.
Fourteenth hole, 435 yards; One of the great long four pars in Irish golf that makes excellent use of all the features at the architects disposal: the stream, the heather, the tall sea grass, and the dunes which encroach from the right.
Seventeenth hole, 455 yards; A highly regarded hole that would never be built today. The green sits up high in a saddle. The approach shot is virtually always blind regardless of where the drive is placed. The green is fiendishly pitched back down the valley and will expose any frayed putting nerves at this stage in the match.
At Sligo, the weak holes don’t appear so weak and the strong holes are just that. The golfer thus has a chance to play near his handicap in an enchanting environment. No wonder so many golfers rate Sligo as a personal favorite.