Waterville Golf Links

The Southwest corner of Ireland is one of the most temperate places on the island since it is saddled by the gulf stream and as a result this area attracted the attention of an array of interlopers over the centuries.  The British introduced golf to this area as early as 1889 under the aegis of the Waterville Athletic Club in the form of a crude 9 hole golf course.  But the area did not prosper into a real golf destination until the 1960s when an Irish born American named John Mulcahy decided to introduce the most testing golf links in Ireland to the Ring of Kerry.  He teamed with Eddie Hackett, the most accomplished links designer of his time, and Claude Harmon, a past Masters Champion and head professional at Winged Foot in the United States.

The front nine was reconfigured and expanded to create the current outward half and inward nine was built on the more exposed and rugged ground which gives this links it’s unique character.

#12 Mass Hole (Photo by Aidan Bradley)

The course flourished under Mulcahy’s direction over the next fifteen years as well as the influence of their long driving professional Liam Higgins.  The sixteenth is named Liam’s Ace for the distinction of him having made a hole-in-one on this testing par 4.  The seventeenth is called Mulcahy’s Peak for the back tee on this panoramic par three gives one the sensation of being on top of the world.


Hole 16: Liam’s Ace – Par 4 (www.watervillegolfclub.ie/)

Over the years great champions like O’Meara, Woods, Stewart, and Els have played this course in preparation for the Open Championship.  Payne Stewart in particular took interest in the place and was named Captaincy of Waterville just before his tragic death in 1999.  The life size bronze statue of him stands behind ninth green as testimony to the special bond created with Waterville.

In 2003-04 the club commissioned Tom Fazio to do some major changes to the course.  The major change was replacing 6 and 7 with two new, far more interesting and challenging holes.  A number of greens were re-sited-including 16-Liams Ace-and new dunes and shell bunkers were woven into existing landscape to make a number of the holes more tactical and interesting to the eye. Actually looks quite original and makes the course that much better.

This is one of the windiest golf courses you will play in Ireland but the weather is usually temperate so the conditions are always tolerable.  Because of the temperate climate you actually will see a few Palmetto trees adorn the course-it seems like an aberration but the warm gulf stream wind is part of the weather patterns.  But weather aside this is one of the most challenging links courses in the country.  It has everything you want in a links layout-serpentine holes wending through tall, intimidating dunes.  Severe fall offs in the green complexes and large, swift, undulating putting surfaces that will challenge your mind.  I do not think you can appreciate the severity of the terrain until you get into the more rugged ground on the back nine.  But the walk down the fairway of the par five 11th-called Tranquility-will make it very evident to you how sublime and intimidating this course can be.

Don’t miss the memorabilia on the walls of the clubhouse or the bronze putting figure of Old Master next to the practice green.  It all part of the pure links ambiance of this wonderful destination.

Architect: Eddie Hackett (1973) (renovations by Tom Fazio 2004)

Tees                           Par            Yardage            Rating              Slope

Middle                        72               6781                 72                   139

(Click to see complete Waterville Golf Links hole-by-hole descriptions)

Lahinch Golf Club

This is a blue collar quirky links course that is nothing short of enchanting. As with so many of the old links courses Lahinch is embedded in a quaint summer resort town-complete with the “vacation trailer park” and probably a carnival midway if you come in the right time of the summer.  It sits just a few miles down the road from the famed Cliffs of Moher, Ireland’s version of Mt. Rushmore without the faces.

The village has that quaint Irish seaside character and the course holds a very special place among the great links of Ireland.  This is not a rich man’s golfing ground-it is everyman’s golfing ground where all are welcome as long as they love to play golf.

18th Hole and The Town (Photo from http://www.golfclubatlas.com)

The collection of holes is quite remarkable-the original routing was done by none other than Old Tom Morris at the end of the 19th century.  But what we see today are the refinements done in the late 1920’s by the esteemed Dr. Alister MacKenzie who designed Augusta National and Cypress Point. There are simply holes here the likes of which you will not see elsewhere.  Largest sand hills in Western Ireland except for the back side at Tralee-when my wife first saw the golf course from the edge of town her response was “what golf course”- the players and the greens just seem to be dwarfed by the grandeur of the hills.  Now add to the mix windswept hard undulating greens, real Mackenzie bunkering-strategic and intimidating, exposed windy conditions, and an occasional rain squall and you are in for a day of golfing challenges that will thrill and enthrall.

6th Hole Par 4 (www.lahinchgolf.com)

There is certainly no pattern to the routing of the course, you play a five par with a mountain in the middle of it followed by a three par where the green is hidden between two mounds that will remind you of some Grand Old Opry cleavage.  Pay attention on this tee because the driving area of the finishing hole literally crosses the driving line toward this green.  The next hole has a bunker in the middle of the driving area in which you could hide a herd of very large circus animals (6th hole shown above).  And so it goes-one very interesting, very quirky, and very challenging hole after another.  When you are done playing this course the first time you cannot sort out the holes in your mind-it is like a Rorschach Test with grass.

New Par 3 (www.dochara.com)

The course was renovated in 2002 and they have added and substantially changed a good number of holes.  To my eye a brilliant rehab job-the new holes are a wonderful fit-you would not know the additions were not original if you had not played it before.  The modifications just strengthen the character of an already strong test.

Goat Barometer (Photo from JamesT1 flicker site)

And don’t start your day without consulting the town meteorologists-take a look at the goats on the hill above the first tee-if they are scattered about the weather will be fair-if huddled take the umbrella and rain pants.  Rain or shine or both, you are in for a real golfing thrill ride this day.

Architect:  Allister MacKenzie

Tees                         Par         Yardage            Rating

White                        72            6559                127

(Click to see complete Lahinch Golf Club hole-by-hole descriptions)