Eddie Hackett: Golf Architect
Eddie Hackett designed, extended or modified over 100 golf courses without leaving Ireland. No job was too big or too small. His design philosophy was minimalist.
He worked in a similar way to architects of a bygone era, his layouts using the land mainly as he found it. In many towns and villages in Ireland, the small population could make financing a new club or improving an existing one difficult.
Hackett did not believe in major earth shifting and was prepared to work on modest budgets. This clearly attracted work in quantity especially as his reputation grew.
Best Eddie Hackett Golf Courses of Dublin and the Southwest
Eddie Hackett has more of his designs in the Ireland Top 100 course rankings than any other golf architect. In top100golfcourses.com for Ireland, he currently has 16 courses.
Seven of his designs are in the top 20 and eleven in the top 50. In the following Dublin and South West Trail, he has seven ranked courses and Arklow that could be played en route.
The South West
Waterville Golf Club (7378 yards, Par 72)
Waterville is a very remote course located on a promontory with the Atlantic Ocean on one side and the River Rinny estuary on the other. It is a fine stretch of linksland and it has an enviable World ranking with an excellent design initially by Eddie Hackett.
It is in the southern part of the famous “Ring of Kerry” tourist route. There are excellent views of Macgillycuddy Reeks to the north and across Ballingskelligs Bay to the south. In the 1960s the club was in poor shape and was bought by an American Jack Mulcahy.
He had the vision to build a world-class testing links golf course. He engaged Eddie Hackett who was assisted by Claude Harmon, a close friend of Jack and past Masters champion.
The terrain was ideal, and after exhaustive planning and work, the course and its new clubhouse opened in 1973. The full course is very long but several tees are available on every hole so that all standards of golfers can enjoy a game here.
The fairways are moderately undulating and while the front nine is relatively flat the back is more rugged and exposed snaking through of high dunes. The signature hole is the 200 yard par three 12th known as "The Mass Hole". It has a great design and historical significance.
The area that Hackett originally planned for the green was sacred ground. The Irish construction workers refused to build the green in the protected valley since this hidden location was a place to celebrate mass at a time when it was punishable by death due to Cromwell’s persecution. Eddie, a devote catholic himself stretched the hole.
He moved the green to higher ground among the dunes thus preserving the sacred ground. The result is a scenic and challenging par three considered one of Ireland's best.
The 17th tee is said to have the best view and is known as “Mulcahy’s Peak” named after the owner who saved the club and initiated its redevelopment.
Killarney Killeen (7252 yards, Par 72)
Killarney is in a wonderful part of Ireland. The relatively small town has historically always catered for visitors. It is in one of the most beautiful parts of Ireland situated in a National Park and part of the famous “Ring of Kerry”.
There is a spectacular mountain and lakeside scenery. The Killen Course is the flagship course of Killarney Golf Club. The course is on the banks of Lough Leane and is a challenge even for long hitters, with water hazards posing problems on nearly every hole.
The Lakes of Killarney and the McGillycuddy Reeks provide a spectacular backdrop. It is said to be a spectacle that is difficult to match anywhere in the world. The course opened in 1972 and was designed by Eddie Hackett.
It is on relatively flat ground with great conditioning, diversity and thrills. On the European Tour, it has hosted the Irish Open four times, won twice by Nick Faldo when in 1992 only three players ended under par. Killeen has also hosted the Curtis Cup and Solheim Cup.
Fortunately for the average player, there is a choice of tees. The par-four fourth is awkward and plays to a green that is visually stunning with water to the right and rear.
The view from the tenth is outstanding with a mountain and lakeside backdrop. It appears to be a relatively short par three but you must carry a man-made pond and hit the green. Anywhere long or short will be in the lake or pond.
The 13th is Index 1 and is a long demanding par four with a stream at the front of the green. On the seventeenth, you need to avoid the right side of the fairway which has a hazardous water feature.
The approach shot is difficult and you are advised not to attack the pin if it is left of the very deep pot bunker. The 18th is a testing finishing hole with water all the way down the left adding pressure particularly to your approach shot onto a tricky green.
Dooks Golf Club (6511 yards, Par71)
Dooks Golf Links is at the edge of Dingle Bay and has wonderful scenery as well as a technological challenge for golfers. It was founded in 1889 and is one of the oldest Golf Clubs in Ireland. The word ‘Dooks’ originates from the Irish ‘Douaghs’ meaning dunes.
The Wild Atlantic Ocean can be seen from practically every hole and Ireland’s highest mountain range, the McGillycuddy Reeks, overlooks each shot. For a century the links consistently stayed a quirky 9 holes.
Due to lack of funds, it was extended to eighteen holes in1970 by the members under the guidance of Eddie Hackett. This is typical Hackett helping clubs in a manner that they can afford.
The course is not as exposed to the winds as many links and features an amazing variety of gorse, heather and wildflowers.
The Natterjack Toad has been adopted as the club's emblem. It is rare and its habitat is preserved. The course also has both hares and rabbits which is unusual. Dooks is a delight environmentally with migratory geese, duck and waders off the estuary, with a large variety of gulls, ravens and choughs.
The chorus of the skylarks can be heard and there are kestrels, cuckoos swallows, sand martins, stonechats, wagtails, pippets and more. The course is perfect for the golfer seeking a tranquil environment. Its defence is not distance but layout rewarding the strategic thinker.
The par-three fourth is fourth 170 yards from an elevated tee. Go for the middle of the green. There is out of bounds on the left and a cunningly placed bunker on the right. If uncertain use the bailout area on the right.
The par-four seventh has a narrow gap at the end of the landing area You need a long accurate drive to make regulation. There are bunkers short of the green that slopes from the left making the approach demanding.
On the par-five 9th the drive is not for the fainthearted. Sacrifice length for keeping it straight. The green has bunkers in front and to the left and the huge green can have a pin position at the very back. A par can feel like a birdie.
The par four 18th needs a good straight drive towards the distant chimneys. It is tricky into the prevailing wind. With a short drive, it is advisable to lay up the second shot short of the dunes and try to chip close for ’up and down’.
Dingle Golf Club (6737 yards, Par 72)
The club is the most westerly in Europe, located at Ballyferriter on the Dingle peninsula in County Kerry. This is a Gaelic area where its name is Ceann Sibéal Golf Club.
It is set in a beautiful landscape on the Wild Atlantic Way. The Club was founded in 1924 and had two homes near Dingle before Eddie Hackett developed the first a nine holes golf course at Ballyoughtra (Ceann Sibeal) in the early seventies.
It is considered by many to be one of his most enthralling creations. Hackett was designing Waterville at the time. He was tasked to create an 18 hole course but there was only enough money for nine holes. Later taking inspiration from Hackett’s plans, Christy O’Connor Jnr completed the second nine which opened in 1991.
The setting is spellbinding having the Three Sisters rock high behind the course while the sea booms against the craggy cliffs below. Every hole is full of undulations and swales, with hazards laid down long before the game of golf was thought of, including a winding stream that meanders through the entire course.
The panorama of the Dingle Peninsula is revealed as you play. There are fishing villages, glorious hills, bays, mountains and the Blasket Islands out in the Atlantic. Many of the holes were "found" not made, Hackett said many times "I try to dress up what the Good Lord provides".
The par three tenth is quite tricky, at 197 yards it is uphill with out of bounds on the left. The green is blind because of a large sandhill and three pot bunkers guard the right.
The eleventh and thirteenth are doglegs requiring careful thought.
In between them is a crafty par three with a contoured green set at an angle to the tee shot.
Dingle town itself is a great place to spend the night. It has a reputation for fantastic seafood and you can enjoy one of the towns lively pubs with traditional music and a turf fire.
Other courses in this area are Bantry Bay and Ring of Kerry.
The Island (6903 yards, Par 71)
The Island is a top 10 ranked course in Ireland and one of the oldest, being founded in 1890. The detailed history is well recorded elsewhere. In summary four golfers from what is now Royal Dublin hired a boatman to take them to what they thought was a possible golf links site on an Island.
They found an excellent site with large dunes but it was on a peninsula surrounded by sea on three sides and wide open to the wind. Part of their motivation was to avoid the restrictions on Sunday golf at Royal Dublin.
From 1890 until 1973 when an access road was made the only realistic access was by boat. The early course it not attributed to any designer and was seemingly eighteen individual holes laid out by the members without serious earth-moving with fairways following the valleys between the sand dunes.
From this, the existing course evolved over time and its rugged beauty cannot fail to impress. The breath-taking dunes 25ft high, elusively stellar crevasses running through the terrain before reaching the challenging greens.
In 1973 the British architect Fred Hawtree was engaged to reorganise the course. His brief was liberal in scope. He was to retain the distinctive character of the course but to make whatever changes he considered necessary to “modernise” it.
Progress was quite slow, perhaps controlled by finance available. Eddie Hackett had trained with the Hawtree firm and he appeared to take over from Fred who had many other golfing interests.
Eddie was engaged in the eighties and made more improvements. He would have enjoyed working on this fabulous piece of linksland. His minimalist style and flexibility working with the available budget made him a natural choice.
The links have quirky charm, requires excellent shot-making skills and has many superb holes. The most notable holes are those closest to Malahide and the original Jetty. The 13th, 14th and 15th are on some of the best land where they are surrounded by water
The classic par three 13th known as “Broadmeadow” requires a 210-yard tee shot across the Broadmeadow Estuary back to the mainland. A memorable hole, it has a high plateau green close to the water’s edge. Tricky If played when the wind is blowing from the sea up the cliff face. Out of bounds on the right. You can play safe down the left side and chip onto the green.
The 14th known as “Old Clubhouse” is an intimidating short par four. The fairway at its widest point is just 15 paces across and subject to strong crosswinds. Anything right is in the bay, left is in deep rough it must be the narrowest fairway in Ireland,
The 15th known as “Prairie” is a great links hole across some rough undulations and ridges. It is best played down the left side of the fairway toward a large dune that frames a delightful green site, where a greenside bunker awaits the wayward shot.
St Anne’s Golf Club (6717 yards, Par 71)
St Anne’s Golf Club is a links golf course located on beautiful Bull Island which is a world-famous Nature Reserve. It shares the Island with Royal Dublin Golf Club. The club is only 4 miles from the centre of the capital city but its unique location is tranquil, unspoilt and natural.
The island is also a world-famous nature reserve. The club was founded in 1921 and the original 9 holes were laid out by club members. Eddie Hackett was employed to develop the course to 18 holes which is compact on just 70 acres.
The 18 hole links opened in 1989 and it is said that the standard of play increased considerably. It is an impressive traditional links golf course, relatively flat with three par fives and four par threes.
The fairways are tight the greens fast and there are many water hazards. Even on a calm day, it presents a severe yet exciting challenge. Add some wind and it becomes a major factor in how the course is played.
The location enjoys splendid panoramic views of Howth Head and across Dublin Bay to the Wicklow mountains.
The seventh hole is Index 1, a par four of 476 yards known as “Brent”, and a very tough hole. It doglegs slightly left and requires an accurate drive to the right of the fairway to open up the semi-blind green. There is an OOB on the right.
The 164-yard par-three 10th is unusual for a links course as the approach to the green must carry an ample water hazard. The change in wind strength can have you hitting a different club to this hole every time you play it.
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