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16th March: St. Anne's Golf Links - Pure Enjoyment

We had the opportunity today to see for ourselves the results of St. Anne's recent €4m investment in course and clubhouse redevlopment. In the company of club president Gerry Sheeran, a fine golfer currently playing off 5, and John Dillon who is chairman of St. Anne's marketing committee we embarked on one very enjoyable round of golf.

Although a pleasant Spring day the wind was near gale force. However the day began with the pure links joy of 3 well struck drives bounding on and on down the remarkably dry, remarkably fast and remarkably good fairway. My 6-iron approach from exactly 200-yards found a bunker to the right and gives an indication of the strength of the wind. As we turned back towards the clubhouse at the par-3 third, just 177-yards all our well struck 3-woods came up short.

St. Anne's is as traditional a links as you could wish to find. The wind can blow from any direction and therefore can play as one of four very different courses. There are several tight fairways and Out of Bounds features on most holes, with cleverly placed bunkers waiting over cautious tee-shots played away from trouble. Gorse thickets, streams and one large water hazard also await in various places.

The course flows from one good links hole to another. Each hole requires thought - position for the next shot is always important. Several of the shorter par-4's give an opportunity to really have a go when downwind, but can also lead to very delicate approaches if anyway off line.

The new holes (9-12) have been constructed on land reclaimed from the western channel. Nature has partly helped here as the silt deposits from the sea are actually expanding Bull Island on this side. Designed by Eddie Connaughton, the new holes are thoroughly in keeping with the natural links feels of the entire course at the designers express insistence that the course is a "Links, Links, Links!".

The links feels is especially prominent on the excellent greens, where the natural grass has been allowed to evolve. In fact, the new 15th green was simply cut from the existing fairway.

Where many links courses can leave a golfer wishing for the comfort of the clubhouse by the 16th tee, St. Anne's just continues to encourage. The drive at 16 is superb, from across the entrance road the fairway runs parallel to the road on the other side. Links rough and low dunes on the right must be carried on the correct line with further trouble and bunkers awaiting on the left. A good drive will leave a short wedge to a green that has a hogs back through the middle which can leave some interesting putting still to be done.

Both the 17th and 18th are fine holes, the 17th an excellent par-3 and the 18th a par-4 that has a line of hummocks dividing the fairway with the right hand side being both the more difficult to find but also providing the more straightforward approach.

The new clubhouse is one of the finest in Ireland. Circular in design the structure itself has been surrounded by dune banks that help blend the building with its otherwise untouched landscape. The interior offers superb views across the island to the Irish Sea and the entrance to Dublin Port.

St. Anne's is a completely natural links and the challenge presented requires links skills in their purest form. Guinness once used the slogan "Pure Enjoyment" in a marketing campaign and if it is not copyrighted St. Anne's could equally use the same slogan.

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