NCGA Golf

Fall 2018

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The aptly named "Calamity," a 213- yard par 3, requires total precision to carry the ball over an enormous ravine. Mis-hit this one and you could be taking your next swing from at least 50 feet below the hole. This is where balls go to die, or at least be sentenced to a dungeon of deep grass, gorse and rocks. On the left, steep dunes catch shots that drift anywhere near them. Take your par and run. And you can take it to the bank that the Open at Portrush will be a runaway hit, especially if one of the Irish boys like Rory McIlroy, who shot a course-record 61 there as a teenager, has anything to say about it. Beneath the spectacular gaze of the Mountains of Mourne there lies the most beautiful golf course these eyes have ever seen. Royal County Down was originally laid out in 1889 by Old Tom Morris. It is one of the most challenging tests of golf, with great swaths of heather and gorse lining the fairways that tumble beneath vast sand hills, and severe bunkers defending small subtly contoured greens. Royal County Down requires accurate driving. More than most courses, there's nothing but trouble if you stray from the fairway. Some may claim that there are too many blind shots—five from the tees and others where the green is all or partially con- cealed—but somehow they are so in keep- ing with the nature of the course that they cannot with any justice be condemned. It is not hyperbole when I say Royal County Down is on a scale with Pebble Beach Golf Links and Cypress Point for natural beauty. It is framed by the Mourne Mountains to the south, an alluring mountain range that forms a backdrop to the course and boasts 28 peaks, sweeping down to the Irish Sea to the east and producing a visual effect gen- erally unseen at any golf course. The scene CHRIS HILL In 2019, the Open returns to Northern Ireland at Royal Portrush for the first time in 68 years.

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