It has been a long day. Not that I’m complaining. After all, my last overseas trip started with a cop threatening to knock out my teeth. So after an overnight flight, and a two-hour drive, I was surely worn out, but actually looking forward to setting my feet on some firm turf and playing some golf. Stunning how you can go beyond the point of being tired and somehow recover enough to walk 5 miles while chasing a little white ball.
Dooks Golf Club has the best logo I’ve seen in a while. I thought it was just a toad, but it turns out to be a “natterjack,” a local toad variety that is rare to this part of Ireland.
“I live nearby,” said the girl in the pro shop. “And last night you could hear hundreds of them.”
Turns out they are noisy little buggers. Odd that we didn’t see any of them during our round. The native species in fact seems to be rabbits – tons of them — sometimes as many as a dozen frolicking on the fairways.
Dooks used to be short and quirky. Then Martin Hawtree came to town, changed the greens and added about 500 yards of distance to the club, bringing it up to a respectable 6,500 yards. Of course that brought about some concessions to the design – namely in a lot of lengthy walks from green to tee – but also created some wonderful golf holes.
The course starts and ends playing alongside a dune that runs parallel to the opening and closing holes. The opener, a long par-4 to a green located near the property boundary, is interesting. But it is after the walk to the second – where you emerge up a slight hill to expanse of linksland exposed to the sea. It is a jaw-dropping sight, and the hole, a short par-4 up a hill punctuated by a center-line hazard, is fun and full of options.
The rest of the front nine is very solid – with a couple of very interesting holes, notably the par-5 sixth, a short three-shot hole with an interesting green site, and the 10th, a par-5 that runs hard along the ocean and rises to the green.
Interestingly, Hawtree seems to have raised many of the greens when rebuilding them, making some decidedly un-links like. I’m used to links greens being on-grade, but many of these were raised like North American parkland courses. That changed part way through the front nine, but did occur with some regularity.
The back nine probably wasn’t quite as strong as the front, with the par-4 15th being a real dud, but the course ends solidly with a series of long(ish) fours, including the fine 18th, with its green protected by a large dune on the left.
No one would mistake Dooks for a tier one course; this isn’t in the league of the great links. But, especially on the front nine, and for parts of the back, it is great fun and with some rumpled fun that is far tougher than it may initially appear.