Waterville Golf Club

Waterville is one of the remotest courses in Ireland. It has had difficult times but the quality of the golfing terrain along with some sentimental ex-patriot Irish golfers has kept it going and fortunately they engaged great golf architects.

It maintains a strong position in the rankings for the Irish Republic but cannot take that for granted.

Fortunately, County Kerry is a very popular area with visiting golfers and being on the Ring of Kerry also can help.

 

Waterville Golf History

The earliest formal golf at Waterville was in 1889 as part of Waterville Athletic Club which was run for the Commercial Cable Company.

A modest nine-hole layout occupied the eastern section of the present links.

Access to the club was originally difficult involving train and stagecoach. Eventually, technology reduced the need for the Cable Company. After struggling for years eventually the club ceased to exist and the links lay dormant in the late 1960s.

The redeemer of the club's fortunes was an Irish born American, John Mulcahy from New York who had the vision to build the most testing golf links in the world.

Ireland's leading golf architect Eddie Hackett joined Mulcahy in the project. Mulcahy fell in love with the sandhills bordered on Ballinskelligs Bay on one side and the River Inny on the other.

The terrain was ideal and after exhaustive planning and work the course and its new clubhouse opened in 1973.

On the 220 acre peninsula, the new links never felt cramped.

The original nine holes were reconfigured and expanded to create today's front nine. Its layout was designed as a contrast to the more rugged and exposed back nine. The result was a course that was quickly appreciated as a potential major Championship links.

 

Waterville Golf Course

(7378 yards, par 72)

Waterville is on a peninsula surrounded by the sea in the remote South West of Ireland. The routing of the front nine is on relatively flat land while the back nine is through high dunes.

The remoteness of the course means that it is unlikely to attract any major tournaments as the local area would be overwhelmed.

The course is long from the back tees but several tees are available on every hole so that all standards of golfers can enjoy a game. During the following years under the leadership of John Mulcahy and its famous long driving professional Liam Higgins, Waterville enjoyed great popularity.

Many of the world’s leading players appreciated the course and used it to prepare for the Open Championship. Els, Furyk, O’Meara, Stewart and Woods prepared for the 1998 British Open at Royal Birkdale which was then won by Mark O’Meara.

In 1987 Waterville was sold to another group of Irish Americans. They loved the game of golf and were keen to continue the traditions of the links while introducing the latest horticultural techniques.

The clubhouse and pro-shop were updated and golf art and memorabilia were added to create an ambience consistent with the club's long history.

They engaged the international golf architect Tom Fazio to update the Eddie Hackett masterpiece. Fazio’s principal brief was to work on the flatter terrain of the front nine and create an outward half as outstanding as the inward one.

The Fazio project in conjunction with a major coastal protection programme was completed in 2006 without interruption of regular season play.

The result is a links golf course that combines tradition with creativity and on barely a single hole does the pace slacken.

The course gradually builds in terms of difficulty with the drama gradually increasing to a very strong finish on the final holes. Most of the time you need to forget the lob wedge and think bump and run and creative shot-making.

John Mulcahy passed away at the age of 88, and as requested, his ashes were buried on the famous Mulcahy's Peak on the 17th.

He leaves behind his greatest legacy to Ireland. There is not a weak hole on the course and the par threes are very good and testing with all three close to 200 yards.

There are plaques at various places which give some history and insight. With the wind, some very testing par fours, clever routing and well-placed bunkers you need to keep your concentration, as good scores have to be earned every inch of the way. 

Waterville is a links that combines the best of both worlds. The stunning natural setting houses a collection of holes that simply follow the lines dictated by the land.

Where Mother Nature has not been so considerate of golfers, modern techniques have been introduced so that what were once the weaker holes are now entirely worthy in their own right.

Over 100 years old Waterville links combine sand dunes, gorse and native grasses, firm fairways, sod faced bunkers and subtle putting surfaces all intertwined by the ever-changing weather.

Golf at Waterville is an experience with the beauty of classic links land, surrounded by the sea, yet forever challenged and shaped by the elements.

 

Waterville Golf Highlights

Hole 1

445 yards, par 4, index 11

The opening hole is ironically called ‘Last Easy’ which it is not. It has out of bounds down the right.

Hole 2

464 yards, par 4, index 17

A formidable par four with a burn to the right and six bunkers on the right of the fairway in play. Two bunkers left of the fairway and two more protecting the green.

The fairway runs downhill towards the green that sits in front of the water and behind which are the first views of Ballinskelligs Bay.

Hole 5

586 yards, par 5, index 9

From the top of a dune, this par five is an authentic three shotter. It doglegs right with a bunker on each side of the fairway which is lined with bushes.

You need three accurate precise shots to make par. There is a good undulating green with small bunkers to the front

Hole 11

498 yards, par 5, index 12

This hole has an appropriate name ‘Tranquillity’, some consider this the best par five in Ireland.

Played in splendid isolation almost 500 yards down a passage through the huge dunes, it is a classic seaside hole.

Gary Player described it as "the most beautiful and satisfying par five of them all". With a following wind, a good drive can gain more distance from a ridge. Then it would only be a short iron to the green.

Hole 12 

200 yards, par 3, index 16

This hole plays from the top of one dune to another and is difficult in a twirling wind. Known as the ‘Mass Hole’ because it was here in the dell between green and tee that Catholics used the hollow for mass, to avoid prosecution.

Originally the green was to be in the hollow but it was considered sacred ground and changed.

Hole 16

386 yards, par 4, index 2

Known as Liams Ace, where former club professional Liam Higgins once recorded an outrageous hole-in-one and set a club record of 65.

This is a beautiful hole sweeping left to right with the green above you and stunning views.

Hole 17

194 yards, par 3, index 18

The elevated tee is the highest point on the course and is appropriately named Mulcahy’s Peak. It is 250 feet above sea level and has extensive views over the sea and the mountains.

The green looks small, especially into a strong wind. It plays long with the green sloping back to front

Hole 18

538 yards, par 5, index 10

The elevated tee is on the top of a dune and the beach is 200 feet below. If the wind is off the Bay it needs a risky shot down the dune line for the wind to move it back into the fairway.

The narrow fairway plunges on down towards the green.

 

Selected Local Attractions near Waterville

Ring of Kerry

The Ring of Kerry is a 110 mile circular route around the Iveragh Peninsula in County Kerry in South Western Ireland.

It covers the towns of Killarney, Beaufort, Killorglin, Cahersiveen, Waterville, Caherdaniel, Sneem and Kenmare. The route can be narrow and winding.

With brief stops, it would take a day to drive. To fully appreciate it you need to take 'The Ring' at a more leisurely pace.

The recommended direction to go is anti-clockwise.

Skellig Islands

The Skellig Islands are two small, steep, and rocky islands lying about 8 miles (13Km) west of Bolus Head on the Iveragh Peninsula in County Kerry, Ireland.

They are famous for their thriving Gannet and Atlantic Puffin populations, and for an early Christian monastery that is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The smaller island Little Skellig is closed to the public. It has Ireland's largest and the world's second-largest Northern Gannet colony, with almost 30,000 pairs.

The larger island is Great Skellig, also known as Skellig Michael, and has two peaks rising to over 755 feet above sea level.

There is a sixth-century Christian monastery perched at 525 feet above sea level on a ledge close to the top of the lower peak.

Access to Great Skellig is available from Portmagee or Ballinskelligs. Skellig Michael is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Skellig Michael

Skellig Michael is a famous site of an old Irish monastery that can be seen in its original and true form. It is a monastic site on the top of a rock in the middle of the wild Atlantic Ocean.

The site represents an Irish expression of the Christian search for solitude, a solitude they believed would bring them closer to God.

In the sixth or seventh century when this site was founded it must have been a solitary place. The monastery was occupied for over 600 years.

There is no documentary evidence available to define when the site was founded but tradition allows its creation to St. Fionan and it was probably built around the sixth century.

It was attacked on a number of occasions by Vikings. Sometime in the mid-tenth century, the monastery was dedicated to St. Michael.

It was abandoned by the thirteenth century but still seems to have been used as a place of pilgrimage for many centuries by the monks who settled in nearby Ballinskelligs on the mainland.

The monastery which is best known for its beehive huts also incorporates the ruins of a church, a large and small oratory, a garden and a graveyard.

Life on Skellig would have been a demanding experience for the monks. Living quarters consisted of the beehive hut shaped habitation cells which while functional did not afford any luxury.

Their diet would most probably have consisted of fish and bird eggs. The monastic site on Skellig Michael is to this day in a very impressive state largely due to its isolated location and the unique building skills of the monks who built this structure.

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