Enjoy Athlone's course gallery with a hole by hole account of what you'll face as you negotiate your way around this fair but challenging 18 hole gem skirting the shores of Lough Ree in the hearth of Ireland.
Blue Markers 6168m (6745yds) Par 71
White Markers 6011m (6574yds) Par 72
Fairway markers – Blue 200m, White 150m, Red 100m to centre of green
Description is from the White markers.
Par 4, Blue 345m, White 337m, Index 10
A terrific and tough opening hole. The elevated tee gives a commanding view of the fairway some 30ft below, intimidating to some, inviting to others. A slight dog-leg right to left, the ideal drive would be to hit the angle of the dog-leg leaving about 150m to the pin. Stray from the generous fairway and you will probably have to negotiate the mature trees that line either side. The green is at the same elevation as the tee so one or two clubs extra is required for the approach, land short and you will find your ball rolling back down the hill to meet you.
Par 3, Blue 140m, White 140m, Index 18
All duck or no dinner with this little tester. Go left from the tee and you will face blind lob shot to the green 20ft above, possibly hampered by tree trunks or overhanging branches. On the right hand side, two sand-bunkers, a cart path and out of bounds await depending on how wayward you are. Smart play is not to chase the pin and aim for the centre of the green, make par and run to the next tee.
Par 4, Blue 389m, White 377m, Index 2
A strong par 4 that turns from left to right. The drive needs to be guided between trees on the left hand side and a large much frequented sand bunker on the right. If you are lucky enough to find the main landing area you are looking at about 160m to the flag. The fairway dips 140m out to rise again just before a two tiered green. Land short or right of the green and your ball will invariably kick away from the target, but those favouring the left hand side could well get a members bounce to feed the ball onto the putting surface.
Par 4, Blue 415m, White 399m, Index 4
Another stiff par 4 that faces due north. As straight as a die, the target can be seen enticingly some 400m in the distance form the elevated tee. Bigger hitters need to avoid the water hazard in clear view on the right hand side. A wood or long iron is usually needed to get to the green for the second. Accuracy required, a bunker guards the front right and the green is slightly elevated so anything short, long or left get carried away from the pin.
Par 5, Blue 532m, White 520m, Index 8
A brute of a par 5 and the first of Athlone’s three hole Amen Corner. A three shotter where each shot gets progressively more testing. The only real trouble from the tee is to avoid being blocked out by the small evergreen copse at 200m from the tee. The second shot is all about positioning for the third, bunkers lie in wait, left and right with 150m to go, trees can hamper wider shots. A water-hazard runs from the front right of the green all the way around that will play on the mind of even the most seasoned golfer. Front to middle of the green is the sensible play.
Par 3, Blue 151m, White 141m, Index 12
Not for the faint hearted, this par 3 has shades of the 17th at Sawgrass about it. All carry over water into the prevailing wind for those who take the direct route to the flag. Anything short or right is in the hazard while those bailing out left face getting caught by the bunker. Getting up and down for anything long is far from easy. Choosing the right club and committing to it is the key par here, trying to manufacture a safe, half shot up the left will wreck your head and your card.
Par 5, Blue 429m, White 421m, Index 14
A left to right par 5 and the exit of Amen Corner with trouble every step of the way. Off the tee, out of bounds is ever-present by the lake all the way up the right hand side while a sand bunker is a danger for those playing safe to the left. For the second, a line of trees needs to be negotiated along the left hand side and a large deep sand bunker some 10m in front of the green swallows many a ball. Should you find the green in regulation, a two tier sloping green can see a birdie opportunity end in bogey.
Par 4, Blue 394m, White 384m, Index 6
A cracking par 4 that runs straight and gently down hill. It can play drive, short iron with a stiff wind off the north or be unreachable in two if blowing in the opposite direction. Most shots are lost greenside. Sand bunkers guard the approach from left and right. The green slopes from right to left and a straight putt is nigh impossible unless you are directly below the hole left of the flag.
Par 4, Blue 470m, Par 5 from White 470m, Index 16
The 9th hole has once again returned to its previous life as a par 5 (white markers) and wonderful golf hole to finish the front nine. From the elevated tee the left hand side of the fairway is favoured to avoid being blocked by a sprawling ash tree some 140m from the green on the right hand side. A good drive will leave you with 200m the hill to the green which is just out of view. Sand guards the green left and right but the real challenge is to be able to read putts on a green with supple borrows and breaks that seem to defy the laws of gravity.
Par 3, Blue 176m, White 176m, Index 13
A long iron or small wood is usually required of negotiate the 176m that plays longer than it looks. If you do not hit the target in one, and up and down is a tough challenge with sand bunkers and roll offs both left and right. Golden evergreens to the left of the green are a ball magnet and seldom come into play without doing damage to a card. Members will tell you par is a good result and bogey no embarrassment.
Par4, Blue 390m, White 365m, Index 7
A hole to crank the heartbeat up a few notches as trouble abounds from tee to green. One of the tightest driving holes on the course, out of bounds all along the right hand side, on the left a valley that will leave you a blind second from a side hill lie. For some, a hole where it is best to leave the driver in the bag and opt to surrender length for accuracy with a three wood. A water-hazard sticks its tongue out at the front right of the green and wraps itself all the way around the back. Anything veering right or long of the green is almost certain to make a splash.
Par5, Blue 476m, White 454m, Index 9
The final par 5 of the round that brings you back up under the shadow of the clubhouse. Out of reach in two, the drive and second shots are pretty uncomplicated as long as you avoid the out of bounds on the right off the tee. The approach shot requires a little more fineness as the green is quite narrow as you play up and into it. Miss left and you have an impossible chip from a downhill lie to a green that runs away from you, a miss to the right leave a reasonable chance of salvaging par. The green is notorious, three putts from three feet is not uncommon. Leave the ball below the hole if at all possible.
Par4, Blue 396m, White 396m, Index 3
Love it or loathe it, the 13th is part of the fabric and folklore of Athlone Golf Club. You are faced with the most daunting tee shots you are likely to face on any course. Forest to your left, the infamous scrub covered hill middle left that rolls down to ‘the saddle’ 140m directly in front of the tee. The line you choose depends on the state of your card, experience, naivety, wind, confidence, bravado, and canniness. If undecided, try hitting one right of the brow of the hill and pray. Should you reach the valley beyond the hill, a mid iron blind approach beckons over a gentler hill and down to the green.
Par4, Blue 313m, White 313m, Index 15
A classic old school golf hole that illustrates that you do not need 440m to make an interesting and challenging par 4. At driving distance the hole breaks sharp left to an elevated green, just make sure you don’t go left of centre and risk being blocked out by the large ash that sits on the corner of the dogleg. From there a short iron will see most golfers home to a green that is protected by three deep sand bunkers on the left and one to the right for good measure. A sleeping beauty.
Par4, Blue 421m, White 407m, Index 1
From the same stable as the 14th, a short par 4 were brain rather than brawn will produce the best results. A rescue club from the tee is a real option and should leave 140m to the target. Three large trees guard the left hand side approach and one to the right. It is seldom enough you will find the gap between these sentries so flying over them is the more popular option while a few will hit a canny chaser along the ground. Two bunkers will swallow pulled approaches and two putts is no guarantee on the split level sloping green.
Par4, Blue 421m, White 407m, Index 1
Across the road to one of the best par 4s you are like to play anywhere. A long par 4 into that gently curves from right to left with the shores of Lough Ree. The drive is all important on this hole. The fairway falls to the lake on the left, too far left and you are likely to kick left into trees, too far right more trees or worse, out of bounds on the road. If you get the drive away, its decision time, lay up or go for it. Trees line the fairway all along the left and a copse of tall mature trees 60m short of the green can limit approach options. Enjoy the views of the lake from the green. This is index 1 for no idle reason, take 5 and move on.
Par3, Blue 139m, White 107m, Index 17
Underestimate this 107m par 3 at your peril. A short iron for most, hitting the dance floor is the only option. As the green is elevated, shots just missing the target are likely to find one of the three greenside bunkers or get kicked of the slope into trouble under trees or up against the boundary fence. Some putts can be a little short of evil given the speed and break generated by a green that slopes from back to front and right to left.
Par4, Blue 361m, White 361m, Index 5
A fitting closing hole for this fine golf course. One of the tightest driving holes with little room for error from the elevated tee to the tree lined fairway. From the landing area the fairway rises 30 feet over the remaining 150m to narrow fronted green protected by bunkers left and right. An extra club or two is required to get the ball all the way home up the hill. Overlooked by the clubhouse, the elevated green with its many undulations, it is a stage where the unexpected is bound to happen and no card is safe until the final putt hits the bottom of the cup.