The Old Head of Kinsale is a narrow and unique headland of sandstone that stretches almost two miles into the Atlantic Ocean. The location is spectacular with high cliffs and it has an interesting history.
It is on the South coast of Ireland near Kinsale which is known as “The Gourmet Capital of Ireland’” and quite close to Cork which is the second city of the Republic. For centuries the public had access to the headland.
This changed in 1989 when by a company called Ashbourne Holdings, owned by John and Patrick O'Connor. acquired 220 acres on the headland.
They had plans to build a golf course on Old Head with ambitions to create one of the top 10 international courses. Then ultimately the world's premier golf club.
There was intense opposition from local environmentalists, ramblers, bird and whale watchers and numerous other protesters.
Fearful of losing the right to walk on the promontory some of the local population formed a protest group known as the "Free the Old Head of Kinsale" campaign.
However, in 1993 the construction of the golf links started and it opened in 1997 for play. Public access was no longer available.
Despite protests by demonstrators, the O’Connors' belief in the project was justified when the Supreme Court ruled that the right of access was “manifestly unreasonable”.
The judge said that golf and rambling did not mix. However, the company have since compromised allowing access to the cliffs by prior arrangement for anglers, bird-watchers and whale watchers.
The remarkable and stunning course on the Old Head of Kinsale will long be remembered as the brainchild of the late John O’Connor.
He once described the decision to buy the land as a €19 million “rush of blood to the head”. He forced the project through despite strong opposition.
He was a businessman born on a small farm near Glencar in County Kerry. He spoke fluent Irish and was educated in Kerry and Dublin before emigrating to Canada and the USA.
He founded a successful property development company with his brother Patrick. His dream was to create the ‘World’s Premier Golf Club’ and it would be a private, extremely exclusive and attractive to International golfers.
He succeeded in creating the private and exclusive club attracting International golfers looking for personalised service. The golf course is spectacular but has a way to go towards a top world ranking.
(7150 yards, Par 72)
Many of the leading golf clubs in Ireland such as Ballybunion and Royal County Down are blessed with exceptional locations often with wild, high sand dunes.
Old Head offers a unique location on the cliff tops of a promontory that would be hard to match anywhere in the world.
Although they like to call it a links golf course, it's actually a ‘cliff top’ laid out in a links style and the terrain was originally farmland.
The land was bought in 1989 and construction started in 1993. During this period the routing and design would be planned. There were five people involved in the design for various periods.
It was a big job with many options for routing. Ron Kirby was the lead architect responsible for strategy and final design with input from the late Dr Joe Carr.
Ireland’s leading golf architect the late Eddie Hackett also gave input but he was 79 years old when the land was bought and was involved in designing Carne which opened in 1993.
Liam Kirby a golf professional did work on the design and Patrick Merrigan golf architect and agronomist also worked on the design.
The course is one of the most outstanding golfing layouts ever conceived. In terms of drama and spectacle, it is unlikely that you will play a more gripping course throughout the golfing world.
The promontory rises some 300 feet above spectacular cliffs with the crashing waves of the Atlantic below. Look over a cliff and you will see seagulls way below you.
It is almost an island with numerous caves running beneath your feet as you play the course. The Ocean is on all sides with stunning views from almost every part of the course.
The routing uses the natural contours of the peninsula to perfection and the famous lighthouse provides a focal point of interest.
At Old Head man's ingenuity has created a modern international amenity in harmony with one of Ireland's geographical wonders. Some golfers say that it is such a memorable experience that all who can should play it at least once.
Many holes require you to carry a cliff or play along the cliffside which adds to the pressure. There is no fencing at the cliff edge.
The layout is superbly manicured with five par fives, five par threes, eight par fours and many huge greens. It stretches from the ladies' tees at 5,413 yards to over 7,150 yards from the tips.
There is a minimum of six tees per hole to suit golfers of all levels of handicap. The course is tremendously exposed with ever-changing strong winds or sea breezes.
It provides a stern but fair test to the touring pro and to players with various handicaps. Eight of the holes play directly along the cliff tops, they are so dramatic that you will not forget them along with the setting and the experience.
You are guaranteed a dramatic day of golf.
402 yards, par 4
A clifftop tee shot to a narrow fairway that doglegs sharp left. It requires an accurate tee shot down the right.
There are three bunkers at the turn and at the front of the green.
Aim for the right side of the green, as the ball will automatically feed left.
427 yards, par 4, Index 2
This dogleg left hole known as “Razor’s Edge” is one of the most photographed golf holes in Ireland, with Old Head Lighthouse in the background.
The safe play off the tee is up the right side.
Here the contours should steer your drive back towards the centre of the fairway. The Out-of-Bounds wall runs along the left.
Consider one more club to the elevated green which is next to the wall of the driveway to the lighthouse.
430 yards, par 4
Along the left it is Out-of-Bounds. The green is tricky, best to aim for the centre of the green regardless of the pin position.
There are slopes and undulations and run-offs on most sides.
193 yards, par 3
An intimidating par three with little room for error.
Any ball landing in the bail-out area left of the green will leave a tricky chip with the green running away from you.
564 yards, par 5, index 1
This is the signature hole and signifies the raw and rugged setting of Old Head.
From the cliff-side tee some 300-feet above the Atlantic It’s an intimidating shot even on a calm day and severely harrowing when the wind blows.
It is one of the most intimidating holes you will ever play.
Drive down the right side of the fairway. Proceed with caution as the fairway snakes down on the approach to the long slim green.
The sea is all the way down the hole on the left with the fairway meeting the cliff in places.
It is a stunning but scary hole.
342 yards, par 4
This driveable hole is a classic risk/reward.
The shortest par 4 on the course, it is slightly downhill and drivable for long hitters, especially with a favourable wind.
The safe play is down the left side as a wayward shot to the right will find trouble.
186 yards, par 3
This is the last of four spectacular par threes it is very scenic but a nightmare for any golfer battling a slice.
The wind will play a big part in this tee shot.
There are six large greenside bunkers surrounding the green ready to trap any approach that fails to find the putting surface.
The left side is popular but not always rewarding.
If you miss left of the bunkers you face a difficult chip back. Miss right and you are in trouble.
623 yards, par 5
A long spectacular and dynamic hole where you need to find the snaking fairway with your tee shot as it tumbles towards the lighthouse.
Your second also needs to be accurate as par is quite difficult on this hole.
434 yards, par 4
The tee shot is dramatic and daunting with a carry over water in a rocky inlet. It is a demanding finishing hole with Out-of-Bounds on the right.
The key is to find the fairway with your drive.
It is a dogleg left that turns you back towards the clubhouse.
The green has a tier in the middle and there are fall offs to the back and sides.
You need enough club for your approach shot to carry onto the front of the green.
Old Head Golf Club Facilities
Kinsale is a small fashionable resort town that nestles between hills and the shoreline with a maze of narrow, flower-decorated streets.
It boasts the greatest concentration of restaurants in the Republic and has long been known as the ‘Gourmet Capital of Ireland'. It does not offer Michelin or other international restaurants.
Kinsale has a Good Food Circle with 11 member restaurants. They take pride in serving delicious, top quality food with a great atmosphere.
Kinsale is proud to be considered a ‘Foodie Town’ and annually hosts the world-famous "Kinsale Food Festival" in October.
Apart from the restaurants, there are pubs, wine bars, antique and curio shops, jewellery shops, art galleries, beauty and hair salons, coffee shops and crafts showrooms.
It is a sophisticated cosmopolitan seaside town with a tourist season stretching from April to November.
Cork is Ireland's second city and has many fascinating attractions and things to do.
It is small enough to enjoy many things by walking. There is a signposted tour and guide booklet. You can set off and enjoy the streets which can be hilly.
There are traditional Irish pubs, nightclubs and some live gig venues.
Then you have the Cork Opera House which offers music events and plays, also the Everyman Theatre.
Just northwest of Cork is one of Ireland’s most talked-about attractions.
Blarney Castle was built some 600 years ago. It is one of Ireland’s supreme treasures.
There is much to see in the castle but the main focus is always on the Blarney Stone.
Known as ‘The Stone of Eloquence’ the Blarney Stone has attracted pilgrims and others in past centuries.
They have climbed the steps to kiss the Blarney Stone and benefit from the gift of eloquence.
Its powers are not questioned but its origin has many versions many being “pure blarney”. The Stone is located in the wall below the battlements.
To kiss it you need to lean back while holding a railing. The stone has then bestowed the gift of eloquence and you should never be lost for words.
This could be why people from Cork are said to be the most talkative in Ireland, which takes some doing. Corkonians have a sing-song tempo to their voice which is much copied by Irish comedians.
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