This picture, of Dooagh village on Achill Island, is on the wall in the Irish Writers Centre and was our prompt for Tuesday night. I looked at it and could see only one thing…
The fifth hole at Dooagh Golf Club is reckoned to be one of the most challenging in all of golf. When the Club was being set up it was decided that each member of the inaugural committee would design one hole each, and it was Mick-Frank Og MacAthair who got the job of doing the fifth.
If you live on Achill Island there isn’t a lot to do, which is why Mick-Frank had joined the club, even though he’d never played golf.
Actually, that’s not strictly true. On a stag weekend in Benidorm in 2004 he had played crazy golf, and it was from his hazy memories of this hungover experience that he took most of his inspiration.
The challenges start as soon as you address the ball. Indeed, addressing the ball – ie, putting it into an envelope and posting it to your house – may be your best hope of ever seeing it again. Your tee-shot is played from the brown patch at the front of the picture. This is made of pure cow-pat, making it hard to generate much distance with your shot and making shit, literally, of your white golf-shoes.
If you hit the ball to the right you land in the giant pit of quicksand. If you hit it left you land on the artificial ski-slope, down which your ball will roll for two miles into a trough of pig-swill.
Hitting the ball straight will find you on the escalator that runs across the centre of the fairway. If this happens you should race to catch your ball before it runs off to the right and drops off the island altogether.
Your second shot, if you ever get to play one, takes you past the giant sleeping walrus, and over the three custard-filled bunkers that guard the green. If you manage this, and walk up onto a green which is actually a giant duvet, you will notice that there is no flagstick. This is because there is no hole. Mick-Frank didn’t realise you needed one, he thought you just hit the ball into the windmill and that was that.
Windmill? Yes, the green did once have one on it. But windmills were invented by the Dutch, with their flat land and flat breezes, and were never intended for a wild island off the west coast of Ireland. The gales that howl in from the Atlantic caused the blades of the windmill to spin like a ballerina in a washing machine, blew all the lights in County Galway, and then the windmill helicoptered itself into the ocean.
So that’s Dooagh’s famous fifth hole – as I say, one of the most challenging in golf. But not the most challenging.
Joe-Pat O’Blaithin let his son, who has reached Level Twenty-Two of World of Warcraft, design the seventh, and if your ball lands in the rough it gets swallowed by a dragon.