When you've got three holes to play and you're trying to win the Open Championship the last thing you want to see is a hole called 'Calamity Corner'
Everyone these days, it seems, likes nothing more than a short par 3. We’re all bored, we’re told, by how technology has turned courses into monsters and made old classics obsolete and, with that, the short holes were anything but.
The Postage Stamp at Troon, at 112 yards, and the 137-yard 17th at Sawgrass are quickly highlighted and every April we’re reminded of how length doesn’t equal difficulty as hero after hero comes unstuck at Augusta’s 12th. That measures a measly 155 yards.
But then we come to Royal Portrush’s Calamity Corner at the far end of the course, overlooking the Valley Course, and we’ve got 236 yards of brute force and, most likely later in the week, blind terror. Until a few years ago it of course played as the 14th, now it is the 16th and therefore even closer to the business end of things.
An extract from Bernard Darwin in The Times after the first day’s play in 1951 read: “I must to my shame confess that I have never before seen this grand course. Let me at once pay my respectful compliments. It is truly magnificent and Mr HS Colt, who designed it in its present form, has thereby built himself a monument more enduring than brass.
“The course does not disdain the spectacular, such as the one-shot hole called Calamity Corner, with its terrifying sandy cliffs and its gadarene descent into unknown depths to the right of the green; for the most part the course does not depend on any such dramatic quality but rather on the combined soundness and subtlety of the architecture.”
There are no bunkers, there are no need for them. Miss the green short or right and you may well end up 50 feet below ground in a collection of chasms that don’t leave you much hope of an up let alone an up and down.
When the Irish Open was held here in 2012 it played as the 7th, 3rd, 3rd and 8th hardest holes on each day, now we have seen it lengthened by 26 yards.
Martin Ebert oversaw the installation of the two new holes and recent changes which included making Calamity Corner that bit tougher.
“With the tee location we looked at how long we could make the hole within the constraints of the previous green location, the need to get a dune (which was created) to split up the green from the tee and the need to get a pathway between the new dune and the tee. That allowed us to extend the hole to 236 yards which seemed to give the R&A the full range to play the hole as long as they would want. If it plays into the wind, I am sure the tee will be moved well up.”
This week we will see the rare sighting of a long iron being pulled from the bag, even for the big boys. US Open champion Gary Woodland said he hit 5-iron on Tuesday, “and it wasn’t enough”.
He added: “The last two days I’ve hit 4-iron. You do have a bail-out area left where you can get it up and down to pretty much every pin, I think you’ll see a lot of balls going left. Right is no fun.
“And that’s obviously weather dictating. A 5-iron is not the end of the world, it’s a pretty big green. But if the wind is blowing and it’s coming into you and it’s raining it’s going to be a brutal hole.”
The bail-out area includes ‘Bobby Locke’s Hollow’, a swale that protects the left side of the green, where the South African made par from three out of four times.
Darren Clarke and Padraig Harrington can both remember hitting driver there, Adam Scott has played it once into the traditional wind and the one that we should see the rest of this week and hit 3-wood.
Tom Kite has played one or two good holes and he played here in the 2004 Seniors.
“Isn’t it beautiful? That is a great par 3. That is one of the most magnificent par 3s I have ever played in my life. When I first saw it on Monday I came out Tuesday and I said, I’ve got to bring my camera, and we took some wonderful photos of this entire course in a number of places.
“But Calamity Corner is just spectacular. It ranks up there with 16 at Cypress Point, or 10 at Winged Foot, or 12 at Augusta. I think it is in that league terms of quality when you start talking about par 3 holes.”
Calamity Corner: The details
Length: 236 yards
Designer: Harry Colt
Calamity Corner: How did we get on?
NCG’s Mark Townsend and Dan Murphy went to Royal Portrush to take on the legendary shots the pros will tackle this week. See how we got on here…