Many apologies this week: The editing staff at BPBM have been working furiously on side projects for other publications, which we realize is selling out on a grand scale—albeit not quite as grand a scale as Batushka B (the Batushka we don’t care for)—but it has been paying dividends (which is, after all, the entire point of selling out).
This week’s post will be a quick one, despite The Open being held at the epic and awesome Royal Portrush this weekend.
Portrush, like many classic links layouts, has a collection of names to go with its holes. We’ve chosen the five spookiest and aim to rank them based on scariness. The formula we’ll use is simple: 50% of the score comes from the epicness of the title, and 50% comes from the epicness of the hole. All subjective, of course. With that being said, here are the most metal holes at Portrush, based strictly on name. And also strictly on strength of hole. And not strictly on the definition of “strictly.”
V. No. 15… “Skerries”
If we heard an Irishman talking about “The Skerries,” we would immediately assume he was discussing the more traditional, horrible understanding of Leprechauns, or some other olde horror lurking in the dunes at night. If we heard an Englishman discussing “The Skerries,” we would assume it was the newest animated film in the Tim Burton oeuvre.
We would be hugely disappointed to learn that “skerries” is simply a Gaelic term for “islands,” and the hole’s title refers to such skerries visible out at sea as you travel down the fifteenth fairway.
The hole itself doesn’t add much bite to the equation, featuring one of the widest fairways on the course and measuring in at a mere 426 yards. You can expect most of the pros to be taking a wedge in, presumably not distracted by the gorgeous views because they’re totally jaded to to the sorts of things that get us poor tourist types in a tizzy. NAME: 5 POINTS, PLAY: 5 POINTS, TOTAL: 10 / 100 POINTS. NOTHING SCARY ABOUT SKERRIES.
IV. No. 17… “Purgatory”
First, let’s get the facts (read: “philosophical considerations”) straight: “Purgatory” is not the halfway point to hell. In fact, if you read Catholicism correctly, the people in Purgatory are happy to be there. If you’ve made it to Purgatory, you’re guaranteed to make to heaven after a period of spiritual cleaning. It’s like a big quarantine tank before entering the beautiful reef tank. This kinda contradicts the overused Western meaning, where we throw it around to suggest a “calm before the storm.”
“Calm before the storm” is definitely what Purgatory represents as the penultimate hole at Portrush, as No. 18 “Babington’s” will play a stiff 474 yards for whomever is looking to take home the Claret. Purgatory will play a mere 408, which is probably just out reach for those looking to land home in one (but that would be a Mr.-Mothereffing-Ireland moment for Rory, just saying). Look for most golfers to lay up with plenty of room to find an ideal line to a flag that will be hidden from the tee. NAME: 25 POINTS, PLAY: 25 POINTS, TOTAL: 50 / 100 POINTS. “PURGATORY” MIGHT NOT BE A SCARY NAME, BUT AT LEAST IT’S A SCARIER NAME THAN “BABINGTON’S.” SOUNDS LIKE AN INSPIRATIONAL STUFFED ANIMAL.
III. No. 16… “Calamity Corner”
Calamity Corner is going to play as stiff as its name suggests that it should. First, there’s the sheer scale of the thing: 236 yards, playing uphill. Albeit not directly on the shore, the winds off the sea will have some say. And for what the hole lacks in views as a result of being inland, the landscape to the right is potentially even more spectacular, a crater-like pit collapsed down into the dunes. It’s a landform that would make more sense attached to another hole in this list (more on that later).
Avoiding bogey is about more than avoiding the pit, however. The green at Calamity is huge. The GIR stat should be through the roof, but we’re expecting the three-putt stat to bring competitors back to Earth.
Unfortunately, we’re going to take a hard line on the title here as well. “Calamity Corner” doesn’t sound like apocalyptic happenings. It sounds like a Western song-and-dance revue in Branson. NAME: 10 POINTS, PLAY: 50 POINTS, TOTAL: 60 / 100 POINTS. INSTANT WINNER WITH A DIFFERENT NAME IN FACT THE PERFECT NAME WOULD BE…
II. No. 2… “Giant’s Grave”
The aforementioned “hole-to-be-named-later” is the second at Portrush, the inimitably-titled “Giant’s Grave.” There is an inherent flaw in allotting half of the points in contention to a title, and that flaw comes to light at “Giant’s Grave.” If Portrush had named its snack bar “Giant’s Grave,” we would have immediately dubbed it a more frightening hole than “Skerries” and “Purgatory.”
The good news, of course, is that Grave doesn’t need to rely on its name. At 578 yards, it’s the second-longest long at Portrush, and its layout makes getting home in two an unlikely event for even the bruisers. Getting around the corner of the dogleg is a must, and rolling into the first trio of bunkers probably means worse than missing out on a birdie. At the same time, you’ll want to hang near those bunkers for the best line into the green; the second trio are maybe 30 yards out on the left…potential disaster for those looking to ground-game on in (which is how links golf tends to work).
The only bad news regarding “Giant’s Grave” is that none of its bunkering or dunes really evoke the image of a “giant’s grave.” Now if they could somehow get Calamity’s main hazard over here…NAME: 50 POINTS, PLAY: 30 POINTS, TOTAL: 80 / 100 POINTS. GIANT’S GRAVE WILL GIVETH AND TAKETH AWAY DURING THE OPEN. WE’RE HOPING FOR MORE TAKETH AWAY BUT WE’LL SEE.
I. No. 10… “Himalayas”
There’s an interesting fascination with foreign mountain ranges across the classic links courses. After all, the famous “Alps” template at Prestwick was only named as such because the term “Himalayas” had already been used to describe a massive dune earlier in the round. Fortunately for No. 10 at Portrush, it opted for the Himalayan moniker because, despite Disneyland’s claims, the Yeti is a strictly-Himalayan concept. That mythical beast at least adds an air of mystery and intrigue to the hole while Nessie remains at The Open’s traditionally Scottish locales.
The comparison to the Asian range begins in the fairway. At 447 yards, it’s far from the longest on the Dunluce course, but it’s also far from as short as Purgatory. Distance is hardly the key ingredient here, as the constant roll of the dunes makes an even lie less than guaranteed. It’s the kind of good—or hopefully bad—luck that makes links golf the most interesting on Earth.
Massive greens, and finding the right place upon them, is the second factor that keeps the links engaging. Himalayas comes through on this front as well: The long green features plenty of undulation—ramped up for The Open—as with many of the Portrush landing pads. More distinct here is the grassy mound that sets at the back right; players landing to the right could potentially putt from off the long green to score, but the mound will make for a tough pitch to the back half of the green. It may be the player’s second blind shot of the hole; if they can’t reach the dogleg off the tee, their approach shot will be blind as well, probably leading to a surfeit of blind thirds. It’s a bit of an exaggeration to compare the mound’s role with Streamsong Red’s No. 7 green, but those who have played Coore & Crenshaw’s Florida classic will get what we’re saying.