Out of Bounds: is Calamity at Royal Portrush the world’s best Par 3?
The eyes of the world will be on the manicured beauty of Amen Corner next week
Tiger Woods tees off at the Par 3 12th at Augusta National in 2018. Photograph: Patrick Smith/Getty
A lot will be made of the Par 3 12th hole at Augusta National Golf Club next week when the world’s elite players arrive to play a hole which has angelic appearances with devilish intentions. It is a picture of purity, of manicured perfection and it has captivated anyone who has set sights on a hole of 155 yards which is part of that hallowed golfing turf known as Amen Corner.
But, is it the best Par 3 in golf?
Standing on the 16th tee of Royal Portrush Golf Club the other day, a different kind of beauty was in evidence.
In contrast to the not-a-grass-out-of-place perfection of Golden Bell, the wild rawness of the 236 yards Par 3 on the Dunluce links - a hole known as Calamity - has a golfing perfection that surely is unmatched.
In our case, dark clouds out over the sea brought some sort of menace while those ahead of us were silhouetted by those rays of sunlight breaking through. The challenge for those of us playing from the front of the tee box over the chasm filled with wild grasses was one that proved beyond us on the day, yet a walk back to where players competing in the 148th Open come July reaffirmed that these best-of-the-best play a course that is on a different planet.
Calamity - which overlooks the Valley course to the right, where the fifth hole of that course will be turned into a driving range during the championship - is one of those holes that produces a mix of awe and fear, an emotional concoction that only adds to the whole experience of attempting to conquer a hole that demands respect from hacker and professional alike.
For all four of us in our group, the challenge of finding the green from the tee proved to be as elusive as selecting all six numbers in the lottery. The calling card of the chasm and of the huge dune which drops from the green down the right proved beyond us.
When the Open was last played at Royal Portrush back in 1951 - when Calamity was the 14th rather than the 16th hole that it is today in the redesign - the South African player Bobby Locke identified a bail-out area to the front left of the green. It was a saucer-shaped depression and, in all four rounds, Locke’s hooded tee shots found its safety. Forever since, it has been known as Locke’s Hollow.
Next week, players will again return - as they do every April - to the Par 3 12th at Augusta National and be drawn in by the aesthetic beauty of the short hole. Come July, the raw beauty - and challenge - of Calamity might have them believe they’ve played the best Par 3 in the sport.