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Comment: Beauty of Ballyliffin hides beast that can devour even the best at the Irish Open

By Adam McKendry

There's a serene isolation about Ballyliffin. To the north west you're faced with the great Atlantic stretching out before you, with Glashedy Island jutting out in the distance.

To the south east are rugged hills that stand proud like silent guardians, preventing the modern world from stretching its influence to this one green paradise on Donegal's northernmost point.

Once you make the turn around the hills and see the golf course stretch out ahead of you, you've crossed into new territory.

This week, it's new territory even for the golf club itself. Sure, it's hosted events before, but never of this magnitude or importance. For the Irish Open to grace its hallowed links is a step into the unknown.

But it's proving that no matter how far, no matter how isolated, there's an undeniable draw to links this beautiful.

It has called Jon Rahm back to these shores to defend his title from last year, and it has drawn plaudits from everyone you talk to. Ask anyone in the field this week and they'll be sure to mention the scenery as well as the course.

Once you step on that first tee, however, you can forget about all the superlatives about the scenery - suddenly that fairway becomes the first battle of a brutal war.

It's not an imposing tee shot, but even the mere sight of the wind sock just to the right of the first green billowing in the wind - which is guaranteed to be blowing in several different directions during the round - can give you pause.

Miss the fairway, you're playing for bogey already.

In many ways, perhaps when Pat Ruddy designed the course - how much designing he had to do is questionable given how natural the links look to the terrain - he had the scenery in mind.

The perfect distraction to your round. Captivate the golfer with views they can't help but fall in love with, then hammer them into the ground on a course that offers no mercy to a player off their game.

Indeed, the panorama at the top of the seventh tee is something of a cruel gesture to the golfer - a brief reminder of where they are before they descend into the depths of the beast once again.

That seventh, a simply breathtaking downhill par three, is the hole you'll remember most, no matter how you play it, for the view. Stop, breathe it in, enjoy.

This week, the professionals have too much at stake to enjoy where they are. While the casual golfer can afford to pull out the camera, they cannot.

Again, perhaps that's cruel. To bring so many top names of the sport to one of it's premier locations and not let them enjoy their surroundings.

Then again, they're being led into a trap, of course - drink in where you are too much and this course will chew you up and spit you out.

But when the winner, whomever he may be, lifts that trophy aloft on Sunday evening, he'll finally be able to fully appreciate where he is and what he's done.

The beast of the Glashedy Links will slumber, and at the foot of the silent guardian hills, looking out over the crashing waters, that serenity will descend upon Ballyliffin once more.

Located at the northernmost point of Donegal, it's a long way to go for it. But boy is it worth it.

Belfast Telegraph

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