Set in the magnificent Meath countryside the sprawling 600 acre Killeen Castle estate is the perfect location for golf fans to see the best women golfers from the USA and Europe in action as they battle it out for the 2011 Solheim Cup. There are grandstands located all around the course if you feel like just sitting and watching the action or if you fancy following one of the matches you will be able to get close up to the action along the fairways and beside the greens.
Paul McCanny is the Head Golf Professional at Killeen Castle and he has been looking at some of the key shots and holes that are likely to prove most significant in The 2011 Solheim Cup.
1. Tee shot on 2nd
Par 5’s will be vital during The 2011 Solheim Cup at Killeen Castle. The tee shot on 2 has been narrowed by Alison Nicholas, the European Solheim Cup Captain, to encourage the longer hitters to carry the fairway bunkers on the right. If the players can carry their drives 270 yards the hole will become reachable in two shots and create an outside eagle chance. This places a premium on long, straight hitting.
2. 4th Green
The 4th green at Killeen Castle is probably one of the most difficult to approach. The green is very undulating with a deep greenside bunker at the front left of the green. Many will shy away from the left side of the green but as a result run the risk of the ball running off the green and down a fairly steep slope off the right side of the green which then leaves an extremely tough up and down to save par and a possible half.
3. Tee Shot on 5th
The 5th hole is one of the longest par 4’s on The Solheim Cup layout at Killeen Castle. As a result the tee shot becomes essential to creating a possible birdie which will almost certainly win this hole at any stage. The line for the ladies will be over the first bunker on the right which will leave them a mid to short iron from the flattest part of the fairway on the right side.
4. Approach on 7th
The approach on the par 5 7th will be a vital shot during The Solheim Cup. The matches will become more and more tense as they go through the last few holes of the front nine and any advantage on the seventh hole will help build a crucial lead into the back nine. If the players can get a good drive away they will be left with a typical Jack Nicklaus dilemma, risk or reward? If the pin is positioned on the right or back of the green the players will be tempted to go for the green and create an eagle opportunity. If they decide against it, they are then faced with a very difficult lay-up shot around the lake on the left. Most players will favour the left side of the green if they “go for it” as there is plenty of bail out room and the opportunity of an up and down birdie.
5. Approach on 10th
The tenth hole is a straight uphill par 4 which demands a precise tee shot to avoid the fairway bunker on the left. However, the approach shot is the secret to success. Any shot which lands on the left will feed away from the centre of the green and leave a difficult two putt. The play here is to aim to the right side of the green and let the ball kick left and gather towards the hole. Players must also ensure to leave the ball below the hole as the green slopes considerably from back to front.
6. 2nd Shot on 12th
Probably my favorite shot on the course is the second shot to number 12, a par 5. This hole has always had the utmost attention, right from the design stage in fact, when Jack Nicklaus was told he could do anything with the course except disturb the fairy tree at the front left of the green!!! This hole was actually redesigned during construction when an ancient children’s graveyard was discovered and the hole was re-routed.
Following a good tee shot, most of the players will face a second shot of between 190 and 200 yards to a well protected green with a greenside bunker on the left and a water hazard running across the front and up the right side of the green. There really is no bail out here so nothing less than a quality long iron or wood will do. The alternative is to lay up but I have a feeling that in the match play format the mentality will be all out attack on number 12. The grandstand here is a great place to watch the action on this superb hole.
7. Tee Shot on 14th
This hole begins the fantastic run of holes which will define The 2011 Solheim Cup at Killeen Castle. This par 3 is a stunning short hole which will test the player’s ability to control their ball flight. The pin positions will tempt the players but they must never take their focus away from the middle of the green. Any shot not struck perfectly will be punished as there are two particularly deep bunkers defending this raised green. Club selection here will be key so the caddie will play a vital role.
8. Tee Shot on 16th
One of the most talked about holes in the clubhouse at Killeen Castle. Many scorecards have been ruined by a poor swing at the 16th hole. As a result of its design and its position in the round it will surely influence several matches in this year’s Solheim Cup. The players are faced with a mid to long iron over water to a green which is very undulating and well protected. The players cannot bail out here so they will have to pick their target and trust their swing. The grandstand at the back of the 16th will be popular so get there early!
9. Tee Shot on 17
Any player who has stood on the 17th tee on the Jack Nicklaus Signature Course at Killeen Castle will know what I mean when I say that the tee shot is intimidating to say the least. A par four dog leg right, with water all along the right side of the hole. players must pick a line just right of the bunker on the left and trust their swing. Any ball not struck purely will not make the carry, and a faded shot will certainly meet a watery end. Probably the toughest tee shot on the course at a vital time.
10. Approach on 18th
There could not be a more picturesque finishing hole than the 18th hole at Killeen Castle. With anywhere between 150 and 160 yards up the hill with a 12th century castle as the back drop and around 30,000 golf fans watching, this shot will test even the finest players in world golf. The green is well above the level of the fairway and has several plateaus which will demand a very accurate approach under the severest pressure.