This summer, WBGD landed in Dublin and went straight to the first tee at The European Club just south of Dublin, Ireland. From Dublin, head south, cruise by the legendary Jack Whites Inn (we’ll revisit Jack Whites later) and arrive at The European Club near the Irish Sea.
Pat Ruddy is a golf writer, a good amateur player and author turned golf course architect and golf course owner. Ruddy poured a lifetime of golf imagination into this golf course: the twelfth green is 127 yards long (yes, just the green), there are 20 holes and the view on the long par four #7… what a joy. On the seventh, left is bad, right is bad and it looks like there is nowhere to go from tee, but in fact, there is room up there – well done, Ruddy.
There are a lot of things to love about The European Club – here are five.
5. Proper Rugged Links
Ruddy’s use of the native foliage and topography is brilliant. With all the dunes and craters, a walk on a links course is sometimes compared to a walk on the moon – fair for The European Club. Some of the deep rough is brutal, there are thorns, bushes and waste-high fescue – lost balls are standard. The rough can be intimidating – the view from the seventh tee seems unfair – just hit it straight. Ruddy also makes proper use of the coast – The European Club offers views of the Irish Sea from almost all 20 holes (yes, 20 holes).
4. Links Golf Is Not Supposed to be Easy, this Golf Course is Difficult
A day in the rain and wind on a difficult links golf course can change a person. Golf courses that were once thought to be difficult become reasonable. The best players in the world have been Ruddy’s gem and the course record remains a 67 by Tiger Woods. The wind typically comes in from the west and if the hole plays into the teeth – forget about birdie and be happy with a bogey. There are plenty of deep bunkers, blind shots and par three holes that require precision. Ruddy butters you like toast on the first hole, but challenges loom. The second hole, a par three requires a quality tee shot – short is no good, #3 is a par five into the wind and the par four #4 looks difficult from the tee, a common theme throughout. The sixth, a par three has a lot of rugged foliage, which can challenge the eye and mind. Ruddy’s final kind gesture is on #18 – there is water in front of the green, but a stroke of class is the ball retriever for shagging water balls.
3. This is a Different Golf Course
There are 20 holes at The European Club. Ruddy says it’s a protest against his childhood to the days he couldn’t play as much as he wanted – more golf is good. The horseshoe green on #13, the 130-yard twelfth green and the mountain behind 12a – incredible.
2. The European Club has a Story
Ruddy’s story adds to the experience — it gives the course an added dimension. Ruddy flew a helicopter over Ireland looking for interesting land, he found it in County Wicklow on Brittas Bay. The European Club isn’t just another Fazio or Nicklaus track – it’s the lifelong dream of a man that loves the game.
1. Legend Approved
Ruddy did the unthinkable here – this is a new links golf course (founded in 1987) and it’s been blessed by the best. Rory McIlroy won the Irish Amateur Championship at The European Club in 2006 and said this, “This is probably the best links course I have ever played and I include Royal St. George’s, Royal Portush and Royal County Down in that. It’s just the definition to it with the sleepers in the bunkers. It is totally unbelievable. I love courses where you really have to think your way around. It gets me focused much more.”
The weather could be perfect — could be tough, that’s Ireland golf (temperatures hover around 50F/10C in November, not bad). Pray for cold rain for a proper Irish links experience, which will make the bacon and cabbage and pints at Jack Whites Inn more enjoyable (and earned).