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Monday, November 12, 2012

Delightful Tralee By The Sea

The second hole at Tralee. Photo courtesy of the club.
The biggest problem you'll face when playing Tralee is keeping your mind on the game. The Arnold Palmer design in Barrow, County Kerry, Ireland, not only has a succession of excellent holes, but every one of them has a full view of the Atlantic and many have fascinating stories and features to go along with the views. Like the 12th century Norman tower behind the third green and the sandstone boulder between the fourth and fifth fairways allegedly hurled there by Cuchullain, one of the great heroes of Irish mythology, from the top of the Sliabh Mish, the mountain that can be seen to the south. Plus the smugglers' harbor behind the seventh tee box, the shoreline behind the sixteenth green where a ship from the Spanish Armada ran aground in 1588, and the beach along the second hole where scenes for the 1970 epic movie Ryan’s Daughter was filmed.

But pay attention! You're there for golf, right? You won't be disappointed. Tralee presents a fabulous links golf experience. As the club slogan goes, it was created by God and designed by Arnold Palmer. The front nine is fun, the back nine simply spectacular, with a parade of dramatic holes that equal the best you'll find anywhere in the world. In a country noted for great golf, Tralee should be at the top of your must-play list.

The first hole sets the tone as you drive your ball directly toward the ocean. By the time you reach the green 404 yards away, you've seen the water on three sides (although not in play) and tested the stiff Atlantic breezes, the quirky rolling fairways, and navigated around the stone wall that guards the green approach on the left. The course routing continues in that vein. A round at Tralee calls for strength, length, accuracy and touch, not to mention a bit of luck and a sense of humor capable of taking the funny bounces of links golf in stride.

The 12th hole at Tralee. Photo courtesy of the club.
A bit of tactical play comes in handy, too. At the surgical 399-yard eighth hole, for example, most players should leave the driver in the bag and lay up to the mound on the right side of the excruciatingly narrow fairway that drops off the cliffs on the left side. The eleventh hole, a 595-yard uphill par five, is simply brutal, while the twelfth, a 461-yard par four, can only be described as punishing, with a semi-blind drive followed by a a long second shot that must carry a deep gully on the left of the green to give you a chance at par.

The par threes on the back side are particularly exciting. The thirteenth is only 159 yards, but it's all carry to a shallow green and generally plays with a left to right wind that makes club selection and aim a test of nerves. The sixteenth, known as "Shipwreck," plays toward the ocean in a setting as dramatic as you'll find on the Monterey Peninsula. The tee shot must carry 185 yards over a yawning canyon in the dunes and the pin can be as deep as 216 yards onto the two-tiered green.

The finishing hole at Tralee, a 486-yard par five, gives you an excellent chance to close out your round with a birdie, which is always a nice touch. You'll need to be accurate, though, especially off the tee, since there are thirteen bunkers waiting to add a stroke or two.

Tralee plays par 72 at 6,991 yards from the championship tees. It's a good idea to consider playing the forward tees, though, since the golf is just as good and the views are still excellent.

Among many other books, Dave Donelson is the author of Weird Golf: 18 tales of fantastic, horrific, scientifically impossible, and morally reprehensible golf

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