When people think of links golf in Ireland, they often look towards the west coast of the country with the likes of Tralee, Ballybunion, Lahinch, Doonbeg, Carne, Enniscrone and Rosses Point etc.
All fantastic courses and no doubt some gems have been omitted from that list. If those were all the links golf courses in the country, Ireland would still stand tall against the links Scotland has to offer.
The east coast, particularly the North Dublin to Portrush stretch of links is massively overlooked. We have Royal Dublin, the Island, Corballis, Seapoint, Co. Louth GC (Baltray), Portrush, Portmarnock Links and Portmarnock Golf Club. Portmarnock Golf Club is a bucket list course for so many. The famous first hole running along the estuary while the finishing stretch loops back around the coast taking in Ireland’s eye.
18 holes of golfing bliss. However, Portmarnock boasts 27 holes thanks to a ‘Yellow Nine’ that can stand up proud against any golf course in the country. Is it possible to have a hidden gem among 18 holes of golf that are known worldwide?
If the Yellow Nine was perched in south Dublin it would be one of the most coveted nine-hole courses in Ireland, if not the world. To portray it as the lesser nine would be disrespectful to this sensational piece of golfing architecture.
Ireland is spoiled with some tremendous golf courses and the members of Portmarnock are very lucky to have a third nine of the quality of the Yellow Nine.
Several golf courses can be guilty of having 27 holes but three mediocre nines. At Portmarnock the Yellow Nine is certainly not the unwanted middle child and is a true test of golf.
The Yellow Nine balances strategy with freedom perfectly. There is great variety in the par-3s that can range from a wedge to a five-iron depending on the tee box and wind direction. The par fours are challenging but that doesn’t mean they are long – the shortest par fours often prove the most demanding.
The short par-4 fourth is reachable off the tee but in attempting to do so, you flirt with danger. A birdie and an eight are possible. Miss right at your peril but bailing out left can also lead to trouble in the sandy dunes.
Playing at just 300 yards this is by no mean a drive it up close to the green and chip on. Depending on the pin position and the slopes on the greens, putting from 30 yards off the green might be the percentage play to avoid the ball running off into a swale.
Laying up is no picnic and can even accentuate the challenge ahead, leaving a difficult approach shot into a green protected by front bunkers and run off areas either side.
Any disasters would undoubtedly be softened by some panoramic views along the North Dublin coastline with the Portmarnock Hotel & Golf Links in sight from the tee box.
Strategy and patience is key around the Yellow Nine but it does afford the golfer the opportunity to open the shoulders and let rip on the three par fives which might recover your score after some tricky holes or see you build up your card after safely negotiating your way around.
Despite it being the third nine on the course, it plays host to regular club competitions during the year and is in equally as good condition as the regular 18.
The course staff should be immensely proud of the Yellow Nine which boast greens which are arguably the best in the country. It would be an insult to say that the course is in pristine condition for November. If it was a balmy mid-July afternoon, you would say the same thing.
The Yellow Nine at Portmarnock. A privilege.
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