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  • Neil White

Ballyliffin (Glashedy)

The ball sailed through the air majestically, dropped just in front of its target and rolled towards the cup. Surely not… could it be a hole on one on the Glashedy’s fabled 7th?

Sadly, not but my playing partner was so convinced of glory I thought he might do himself a mischief.

The 7th is one of the great par-threes. Downhill, with a menacing pond front right, bunkers central, a dune to the left and a grassy mound to its rear.

We had been warned to club up and my five-iron tee shot skipped through the green by a couple of feet before I witnessed my pal’s assault on glory.

The Glashedy is the perfect environment for golfing heroism.

Even as early in the season as the last week in March, it was in magnificent condition with wonderfully maintained, tight fairways and greens which were truer than I have witnessed so far this year.

But, boy, was it cold with the wind blowing off the Atlantic and temperature so low that we were told that the staff were expecting to close the following day because of frost.

That was my excuse for a very slow start.

The opening par-four is pretty straightforward, requiring a central drive to avoid bunkers and an approach feeding in from the right. I found the bunker on the left and failed to extricate myself.

The second was even worse as I ploughed my tee shot over the fence, out of bounds down the right. Fortunately, step ladders allowed me to retrieve the ball which I had played all week on our tour of Northern Ireland and Donegal.

Rewards come from very careful course management and that the wind can be a negative if it's behind as well as into the face.

I found the latter out with the par-three fifth. The greens staff watched on as we dithered over club selection for this downhill beauty with the sea at its back.

I went too long with mine but, thankfully, the ball stayed up, while my compadre took a similar option and found one of the three bunkers on the right of the green. His follow-up arrived in the sand trap on the opposite side.

The sixth was one of my favourites and when the tide began to turn.

This is a curving par-four with grassy hills on either side and an unexpected crater on the right. The obvious route into the green swings in from the left where a bunker awaits.

A feature of the Glashedy is that fairway and greenside undulations feed into the sand. My bunker play improved as the day went on because it damned well had to.

Glashedy has a few brutal holes and the one which caused us most pain was the 575-yard 13th - against the wind and uphill.

With a small landing strip from the tee and mounds on either side of the fairway, sand

aplenty and a perched green, it is almost impossible to avoid trouble. I played only one poor shot and recorded a seven.

It is followed by a downhill, downwind par-three where correct club selection was imperative. In this case, two fewer than would have been the norm found us both on the dance floor.

The run-in on the Glashedy is exhilarating and tough.

The 16th is a long bending par-four going out towards the Atlantic, the 17th is a wonderful par five alongside the sea into a green which has the backdrop of white houses dotted across imposing hills.

The finale is where my compadre became Jordan Spieth for a moment. As his approach to the dogleg par-four was pulled into the greenkeeper’s complex.

The ball was resting on grass and, consequently, in play, but against some agricultural implements. He clambered over a dune, took relief and blazed the ball back over the hill to a spot just off the green.

It was a lesson not to go offline on the Glashedy and that is not always easy when the wind blows.

Nevertheless, the overriding thoughts were of the staggering beauty of the course and its fabulous condition for the end of March.

No wonder it is one of Nick Faldo’s favourite links.

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