The description of the 9 holes is by famed golf author and “Golf Nut” Ivan Morris
The 488-metres, par-5, 1st may be as flat a golf hole as you’ll ever see but benign and featureless it is not. The prevailing wind blows straight up the fairway, but a cautious approach is most likely to succeed. Standing on that 1st tee without a proper warm up is foolish. One must be straight into one’s A-game. Tall reeds standing along the edge of Lough Gill guard the entire length of the right-hand side. An open ditch and a series of bunkers lurk in wait for hooked shots down the left, which makes for a most intimidating shot but that is only the beginning. The layup area is squeezed tighter and tighter the further up the fairway you go. The coup de grace is that the green complex is abutted on three sides by water.
The par-3, 2nd (182-metres) is, perhaps, the most difficult shot on the golf course. A slanting, plateau green sits well above the level of the tee and nearly always requires a fairway metal or rescue club to make the trip over a large expanse of vicious rough.
From the third tee home, Castlegregory is a relatively short track that rewards accuracy. The 3rd (242-metres) is drivable on a calm day or with a little wind assistance but it’s not worth the risk. There’s ‘big trouble’ on both right and left of the green and fairway.
The 4th (368-metres) can play deceptively long when the prevailing wind is into your face. The drive must carry over a bothersome stream before a long raking second shot can be attempted to a partially blind target. Again, it is critical to be on the short grass – endeavouring to play a long shot from the spiky rough is nigh impossible.
The 5th (182-metres) is a tough, uphill par-3 with an out of bounds boundary along the left-hand side. Nor is there any respite when your ball ‘parks’ on this severely sloping green. Even the shortest of putts must be approached with extra attention and care.
Glorious Mount Brandon looms in the background onthe 6th tee. There’s also a fabulous sea view with not a hint of the fairway in sight. Former club captain Sean O’Connor claims that he can sometimes see America on a clear day from here. It’s only a small exaggeration if you use your imagination. At 260-metres, usually downwind, and thanks to being given a ‘good’ line, I managed to drive within a couple of yards of the green but immediately questioned the wisdom of having done it when I stood on the putting surface and looked backwards.
The 7th-393-metres, par 4 is the Index-1 hole. It’s easily the toughest driving hole on the golf course with what may also be the most difficult approach shot (even with a short iron). The green resembles a pimple on top of a high plateau.
You could transfer Castlegregory’s wonderful 8th hole (365-metres), which is played back into the prevailing South westerly to any course on The Open rota and nobody would complain (or notice.) From a high tee, you play down onto a rumpled fairway flanked by high dunes and a water hazard snaking along the LHS before diagonally crossing the fairway. The second shot must be bold and accurate to find the plateau green successfully.
With my own ears, I have heard the (CNSO) CastlegregoryNatterjack Symphony Orchestra performing an unnerving, late evening, throaty “Ribbit, ribbit, ribbit!” concert at the 9th (149-meters) – a medium length, par-3 over a small pond, to an elusive target set at an angle in an amphitheatre of dunes.