Inniscrone Golf Club
6th hole, 445 yards: A gentle uphill hole that leads to the authors’ favorite green complex on the course, with its left to right tilt and ample room on the left to bounce in the long approach. The other interesting feature is a tree branch that overhangs the right side of he fairway some 150 yards from the green. The player who is on the right side of the fairway may be bothered by the branch, but in reality very, very few long- or mid-iron approaches would be high enough quick enough to strike the branch.
9th hole, 435 yards: A hole that few architects would dare build, the 9th perhaps best summarizes the appeal of Inniscrone. The ridge of cross bunkers at the 290 yard mark affects few players from the tee, but it does force a decision should the player miss the fairway. The key with the tee shot is to favor the left side, near more bunkers and a drop-off on that side. Such a tee shot will leave the player a view of the green (which he does not have from the right side of the fairway) and a better approach into a green that pitches, rather abruptly in spots, from right to left.
12th hole, 470 yards: Perhaps the architect’s favorite hole he has designed, the 12th exemplifies ‘minimalist’ design and how a long two-shotter should be built. The tumbling fairway leads to the flattest green on the course protected by perhaps the deepest bunker on the course short and left. The green site is essentially a field, so there are no artificial mounds around the green; its surrounds are almost noticeably flat.
13th hole,400 yards: Gil Hanse professes his fondness for incorporating existing features into a hole, and the 13th at Inniscrone backs him up in spades. There is a sunken farm road cutting across the fairway diagonally from the left that forces the player either to lay back off the tee or to take on the bunkers on the right, which if he were in one he would have little chance of reaching the green. The multi-level green itself sits at an angle to the player in front of a white oak dating to 1643 (don’t ask how they determined the date!). The tree is as close to the green as agronomics would allow, and Hanse is to be commended for integrating the tree into the green site so well and for featuring both the road and the tree without making the hole looked forced.
14th hole,200 yards: A hole that aesthetically would fit in at Royal Melbourne with its sweeping bunkers on the left, the 14th actually involved more earth-movement than other holes. The pit to the right of the green was dug out, with the fill going to the green site. The large, rolling green is appropriate for a long-iron, and all the sand on the left has fooled more than one player into playing down the right, with worse results as he finds the rough hollow.
15th hole, 538 yards: While the authors wonder how necessary the Principal’s Nose bunker that bisects the drive zone is (i.e., there does not seem to be a great advantage gained by going to one side or the other), the last 50 yards of this hole is just terrific stuff. Starting with the diagonal cross bunkers some 75 yards out, the fairway runs down to the green, which itself is just an extension of the fairway running away from the player. The fairway will help the properly played shot find the green, but how precisely played that shot must be! Even for those laying up, this bunker line demands their full attention for the second shot – to play short or to the right. The challenge before the player is how to play boldly over the cross bunkers (whether with a second or third shot) to the narrow approach short of the green but with enough softness to keep the ball on the green.
16th hole, 385 yards: The 16th is the most dramatic hole at Inniscrone, and perhaps the one that required the most confidence and nerve to build. After a drive to a moderately narrow fairway, the player has a mid- to short-iron to a narrow, angled green cut into a right-to-left slope with a great drop-off left and a rough and bunker strewn chasm in front. There is another fairway to the right, on top of the hill, but it cannot be reached from the tee and offers little help for a safe second as the player would then be coming into the green from an undesirable angle, still needing to carry his third to the putting surface.
No description of Inniscrone can be complete without making reference to the controversial 5th, a 105-yard drop-shot hole to a wide but quite shallow green that runs away in spots and leads to a ten-foot drop behind the green. Its detractors point to the fact that it is all too possible for a crisply-struck pitch to land on the downslope on the front center part of the green and finish in the deep bunker beyond the green, leading to a score of 5 in many cases. However, it is interesting to hear a table full of golfers describe their strategies for the hole – some will deliberately play toward the front bunker and take their chances getting up and down, many will just play to the deeper and flatter right third of the green, while others have enough confidence in their accuracy and distance-control that they will go after the hole no matter where it is. To the authors, any hole that can generate such debate as to the best way to play it can’t be but so bad. Toss in the fact that the shot is only with a lob wedge or a small sand iron, and there just isn’t cause for calls of unfairness.
Inhis January 2000 FeatureInterview on this site, Hanse commented that someone whom he respects had told him that there are many features at Inniscrone he likes quite a bit but that in places it seemed Hanse had overdone things, trying to inject too many particular features into the course. In general, the authors believe the only part of the course that was perhaps ‘too much’ is the combination of the 16th and 17th holes, an intimidating 385 yarder with its approach across a valley to a narrow green and a 472 yarder around and across wetlands to a semi-punchbowl green that is damned hard to find with a long-iron, respectively. Each hole stands fine on its own, but, thrown together and located at that stage in the round, the golfer might feel a bit overwhelmed. Also, largely due to the severe site and environmental restrictions, the course does not consistently provide an out or alternate route for the high-handicapper. There are several holes (8,10,16-18) where the high-handicapper has to work hard (and play well) to score a bogey; these holes can leave such players with the impression that Inniscrone is a multi-ball course. On a smaller scale, the authors think there are just a few too many bunkers with grass islands. A handful of such bunkers on a course is distinctive, but more than that and they begin to look like a cry for attention.
Overall, then, where does Inniscrone fit in the world of golf? As a refreshing and encouraging design that has an edge to it, thanks to some bold features from which many other architects would have shied away. However, its greatest attribute is that it succeeds where a private club should succeed – as a course that would be fascinating to play day after day, week after week, and year after year. There are several holes, such as with the approach to the 17th, where the player requires many attempts before settling on the best tactic (which could then change significantly depending on the hole location). We can only hope the world will be treated to more courses like Inniscrone.