By Ray Keane
Millicent Golf Club has – in its short history – attracted numerous admirers. Most who have been fortunate to play here will tell you about the long par fives or the tricky par threes or the par fours that play a different way every day. For me, the beauty of the course is that there are actually 36 holes here.
There are the eighteen that we have all played and enjoyed and there are the same eighteen when the wind blows. Some of Ireland’s more famous golf courses can be shown up when they don’t have the protection of the fierce winds we are accustomed to. Millicent doesn’t need any wind but when it does blow you will need to use every club in your bag.
The round begins with a daunting hole. The first is a long par 5 – 604 yards, with an uphill drive. There are fairway bunkers to gather wayward drives left and right and there are two areas of young plantation on the left and right. The right side of the first is out of bounds. The approach to the first green is uphill and the green slopes back to front with an inviting bunker on the front left. There is a generous green but anything too far back will leave almost impossible putts if the pin is placed on the front.
The second is another par five that is a must-birdie for anyone who has serious aspirations of winning competitions. It is a dogleg right with out of bounds again on the right. The green can be tricky enough as it is about five or six yards at the front mushrooming out to about fifteen yards at the back. A good hole for those fortunate enough to slice their balls off the tee, so long as you are long enough to cross the white stakes on the right.
The third is the first of the par fours measuring 406 yards from the back pegs. There is out of bounds on the right with the boundary fence closely guarded by tall trees that will provide some with lucky escapes and Ryder Cup bounces back onto the fairway! The green again slopes from back to front offering up some tricky pin positions.
Stunning is the first word that came to mind when I first played the fourth. It is a short par three with the River Liffey as a beautiful backdrop. Measuring only 159 yards from the back tees it is still a formidable challenge although indexed as the easiest hole. Club selection can vary by as much as three or four clubs, depending on the wind and even then when you think you have it right you have to take into account the difference in elevation from tee to green. There is space over the back but if the nasty green keeper has cut the grass that day you will be in the water. And, there is some lovely bunkering at the front as well.
The fifth is the first of four holes along the Liffey. The more courses I play, the more cautious I get when I see short par fours on the card before I tee off. The fifth is one such hole. It is a hole you will have to play from each tee to see exactly how difficult it is. The members tee at least offers you some hope of not slicing into the lake placed in the fairway, but still leaves a tough second shot. Over 250 yards I had gone but left myself an impossible second with a huge bunker left of the green and a green sloping devilishly towards the Liffey. A definite heartbreaker!
The sixth is again along the Liffey with a plantation area on the left of the fairway. The fairway here is quire narrow with minimal bunkering to ease your worries. It is a hole that should not present too many difficulties as it only measures 432 yards from the back tees but slicers beware! The green is not exactly huge but quite easy to read ( I chipped in from 85 yards)!
Hole seven is the last hole along the Liffey with a straight fairway, plantation to the left and Liffey to the right. Everything appears straightforward until you see the green. The Liffey cuts into the front right encouraging those less than brave to push their approach shots left where there is a substantial bunker waiting. If you have chickened out and gone left and the pin is on the right of the green, you will need to say your prayers or hope there is enough dirt on your ball to stop when you play onto the green as everything slopes off towards the Liffey. Par here will always be a welcome score.
The eighth hole is an uphill, dogleg left, par four. It measures 356 yards from the back tees and has out of bounds around the shoulder of the dogleg on the right. It is actually quite a tricky hole as the plantation which lies between you and the green coupled with the lake from the tenth hole on the left will encourage you to push your drive right. When the wind blows it is quite easy to let your tee shout drift into the OB. The approach is far from easy with a raised green protected by a huge bunker to the front left. The green is saucer like and three putts will be a regular occurrence here.
The front nine finishes with a hole that will confuse and bemuse you every time you play it. The card says it is 189 from the back tees, but it will play anything like 140 to 220 depending on the direction of the wind and whether there is any wind at all. And then the fact that you are playing from a raised tee to a green that slopes from front to back and right to left with some cruel ridges with some nasty bunkers protecting the front.
The back nine begins with and intimidating dogleg par four. There is a lake to the right encouraging you to go left, but this will make your second shot longer and tougher. The carry over water is not as long as it looks and the fairway kicks right making your ball travel that bit further. The approach to the green is narrow with only one bunker protecting the green, which slopes back to front.
11th & 12th
The eleventh and twelfth seem to be similar holes according to the card as they are side by side and measure roughly similar in yardage. But when the wind blows, two good strikes are required to hit the eleventh green while a good drive on the twelfth will leave a short approach into the green. Hole eleven is indexed as one of the toughest and you will see why. Hole twelve, while being straightforward, has some nasty bunkers left and right of the fairway waiting to gather up any loose tee shots.
Thirteen is the first pas five of the back nine and is regarded as the easiest par five. It still requires a few long shots to reach and a large green will certainly not yield too many birdies, never mind eagles.
The fourteenth is a dogleg par four down the hill. You can be forgiven for thinking you are at the beach when you look down the fairway here as there are bunkers everywhere. It measures 382 from the back tees and a good tee shot is needed as pin placements can be difficult with bunkers surrounding the green.
And so begins what I would consider to be one of the most difficult finishing four holes in the country. I don’t think you will disagree. Fifteen is a 187 yard par three played into a narrow, long green well protected by bunkers. Getting on the green will be an achievement in itself – staying on it and two putting another. A tough, strong hole made all the more difficult by a prevailing right to left wind.
Sixteen would be more at home in Stackstown than Kildare! It is a monster of a par five with a fairway sloping left to right. Bunkers on the right and plantation on the left encouraging you yet again to play right. This hole will break your heart unless you hit the right shot every time. The tee shot is tough, the second shot is tough and the approach (presuming you aren’t there in two) is just as tough with two awesome bunkers waiting to grab your ball. It is a cliché but par here any day is a good score.
Then you walk across to the frightening, challenging, mesmerising seventeenth. A par three played over the lake with carry all the way unless you want to be remembered as the coward who played down the right. I played a seven iron the first time I played here and a three wood the last time. The wind will scare the pants off you if it is blowing.
And finally, the eighteenth hole. From the back tees it measures 590 yards. There is water for about 400 yards on the left that should not cause too much concern if you can drive it straight. There is a large fairway that should set you up for an uphill second or third, depending on which tees you are playing from. The green is absolutely huge measuring about forty yards from front to back, split into three levels. A difficult finishing hole to a tough finishing stretch.