Five things you should know before playing ... Lahinch
1. The ground is your friend
So go pound it! Lahinch, like most links courses in Ireland and Scotland, features firm, fast fairways. If you're not used to playing on links ground, you'll likely catch a lot of shots thin, unless you really know how to hit down on the ball and take a divot in front of it. The softer turf on American courses allows you to make a more sweeping swing and still make good contact. That won't cut it at Lahinch. Make sure the shaft is leaning forward at impact with your weight over your left foot, and try to take a nice, healthy divot. Start with half swings on the practice range to get the feel. Once you learn how to pound dirt, build up to three-quarter and full swings.
2. Perfect the bump-and-run
This is good advice for any course, but especially for rounds played at Lahinch, where the fronts of most greens are free from hazards and rough. This allows you to run the ball up to the pin instead of forcing you to fly a wedge an exact distance and make it stop where it lands. You can hit bump-and-runs with any club, but use you PW, 8- or 9-iron for the best results. Raise the club up on its toe a bit, and make what amounts to a long putting stroke with a little extra wrist action. Try it with each of these clubs on the range to see how far each shot flies. Make sure to read any breaks on the green since the ball will roll on the ground more than it flies in the air.
3. Play blind
Prep yourself for the par-3 5th, "The Dell." It's a completely blind shot, with every possible pin position guarded by a huge mound fronting the green. Trust your caddy on this one (you have no other choice). The Dell is one of few remaining holes at Lahinch that are original Old Tom Morris designs. The others? Updated by Alistair MacKenzie, the man behind Augusta National and Cypress Point. The mound shields the green on this par 3, but the other 17 greens are open to the wind. Take the breeze into account when choosing your line of putt.
4. Putt with a wider base
Wind doesn't only affect full-swing shots. If the gusts are strong enough, wind can wreak havoc on your putting game. When you take your normal putting stance with a taller posture and your feet close together, you make it easy for the breeze to jostle you out of position. Instead, move your feet outside your shoulders for extra balance and play the ball in the center of your stance. Grip down on the shaft and flex your knees so that your chest is closer to the ball. This compact address position is less affected by wind, allowing you to keep your stroke on line.
5. Ride the breeze
Lahinch sits hard against the Atlantic on the western coast of Ireland. Some holes play against the prevailing winds and others play dead into them. In between these two extremes are several holes where the wind blows across the direction of play. If the wind is blowing left-to-right, don't fight it, ride it! Stand slightly closer to the ball and position it one ball's width forward of where you normally play it with the club in your hand. Aim 10 yards left of your target for, say, a 10-mph wind and 20 yards left for a 20-mph wind. Then, open the clubface a few degrees. As you swing through impact, feel like the underside of your right forearm is pointing up more than it points down the line. You know you've done it right if the toe of the clubhead points skyward as you swing into your follow-through.