Tralee Golf Club

Tralee golf links are to be found on the rugged Atlantic coast of Ireland's southwest. The links feature towering dunes, undulating fairways, punishing rough, cliff top tees and greens.

The only opinion that is generally undisputed is that Tralee is one of the world’s most scenic true links golf courses. Some golfers reviews say that they would return just for the views. Another says there is no golf course in the world that beats Tralee for scenery.

When it comes to its quality as a golf course opinions differ. Many praise it and cannot understand why it is not higher in the rankings. At the other extreme, one leading golf architect considers that given the fine terrain its design is a wasted opportunity.


Tralee Golf Club History

The club was founded in October 1896. The first nine-hole course, was at Mounthawk, believed to be where the sports field is nowadays. In 1897 they opened a 9-hole course at Fenit on the southwest side of Barrow Harbour, membership was 120.

Following WW1 and during the Troubles in the 1920's it was a difficult time in Ireland. A Captain Lionel Hewson was hired to design a new course in Oakpark, Tralee.

He was wary of the men who sat around  watching him while he carried out his work. He wrote later that "bullets used to fly in those days on little provocation." A Major McKinnon in the Auxiliary Division of the Royal Irish Constabulary was shot dead on the course in March 1921 while playing golf. In the 1961 Golfer's Handbook, the club was listed as Mount Hawke Golf Club Tralee with a membership of 130 and nine holes measuring 6,060 yards, par 72.

From the Golfer's Handbook 1965/6 it was listed Tralee Golf Club Mount Hawke with a membership of 150 and nine-holes measuring 5,901 yards, par 71.

The club had a membership of about 500 in the early 1980s and continued to play its golf on the nine-hole course at Mounthawk.

The current Tralee Golf Club course at West Barrow, Ardfert, designed by Arnold Palmer, was opened for play in 1984. It was a great achievement for the Club, having decided to buy land at Barrow back in 1980


Tralee Golf: Course Run-Through

(6966 yards, par 72)

The layout that Arnold Palmer created mixes links and clifftop golf over two contrasting nines with the late Ed Seay credited with the routing. With a relatively flat front nine you may not expect a tough course. The holes run close to the coastline with most of the ground elevated. There are fantastic views from cliff tops across the Atlantic.

By the time you reach the third hole you will have realised that this front nine contains some considerable challenge.

The back nine plays through the mountainous dunes and across ravines to tight plateau greens. The drama is picking up significantly and you need to concentrate and take nothing for granted. Accuracy is paramount as is the choice of club and type of shot. Poor shots will certainly be punished.

As Tralee Golf Course sits right on and above the Atlantic Coast there will be a great deal of wind. This is to be expected especially the prevailing wind from the Atlantic being on the West coast. It adds another dimension to the character of the course.

On any particular day depending on the wind strength you need to make sure you have the correct club and have thought about the type of shot to play. This is a tough course where you need to find the right places on the undulating fairways.

Play conservatively at times to avoid the punishing rough. Take account of clubbing from elevated tees and to elevated greens.

There has been work done over time to update and improve several holes on the front nine. In this respect the contrast with the back nine has been reduced. Each front nine hole has been reviewed and changed except the 2nd and 3rd  which were already quite dramatic.

Tee complexes have been updated on seven holes. The 1st, 4th and 5th have been given varying numbers of revetted bunkers and reshaped greens to allow more chipping options. The 6th tee was raised to give better sight of the fairway and its green complex was remodelled.

The 7th was given a smaller green nearer to the water’s edge. The 8th tee and green are now right on the shoreline with the fairway recontoured and two new bunkers added. The 9th had the fairway pushed more to the right. There are four new bunkers and the green has been shaped long and thin with a revetted bunker.

Tralee is now a wonderful golfing experience from start to finish, with two very different nines presenting the golfer and very different challenges. The back nine was always an adventure and a severe test to all.

Some Selected Golf Holes

Hole 2

584 yards, Par 5, index 2

This is said to be a very memorable three-shot hole. There is a distracting spectacular view. It doglegs right around the cliff edge with a stone wall on the left.

Each shot needs to be considered carefully.

It doglegs right again around an inlet and tempts you to cut the corner but cutting the corners brings the cliff into play.

The fairway narrows approaching the green which is open at the front.

Hole 3

194 yards, Par 3, index 16

A famous thrilling par three played across a rocky cliff face to a green that is terrifyingly close to the edge.

Finding the green is a great relief on this hole.

In a strong wind, they can close the hole and play to a relief green.

Hole 7

161 yards, Par 3, index 18

A short hole but quite difficult in a westerly wind.

The narrow tiered green is protected with bunkers on the right.

Putting from the wrong tier can be very tricky.

Hole 8

386 yards, Par 4, index 8

A great hole with a dogleg left routed along the curvature of the coastline to the left.

A pulled shot can end up on the beach.

The approach needs great care because the green contours have a severe slope.

Hole 12

460 yards, Par 4, index 1

A good drive is essential to set up a reasonable approach shot.

There is an eighty-foot chasm before the green to clear.

The plateau green is heavily sloped from right to left. With wind this hole is difficult and spectacular. It is considered one of the best par fours in the world by some golf writers.

Hole 13

152 yards, Par 3, index 17

You are in the heart of the biggest dunes.

From the tee it needs a carry up to the green across a chasm, club choice is key.

However, the green is on a quite narrow ledge.

It is a windy setting and the green has hazardous rough to the front and behind.

Hole 15

300 yards, Par 4, index 9

The shortest par four it is drivable with the wind behind.

Most players lay-up, but the landing area is a fairway surrounded by dune grass and there are three fairway bunkers about 100 yards from the green.

A good pitch or a running shot is required to find the small green.

Hole 16

197 yards, Par 3, index 13

From an elevated tee set in the dunes with the Atlantic in view, it looks down on a small target with out of bounds all along the right.

The tee shot is all or nothing across a chasm to a green on the edge of the Ocean.

Miss the green right and the dunes dropping down to the beach await, miss short and the ball runs back down a steep slope.

Hole 17

360 yards, Par 4, index 5

From an elevated tee, it is played across a gorge to a narrow fairway with the wind ever-present.

Accuracy from the tee is essential to set up an approach to the green high on the clifftop.

The backdrop to this hole is stunning.

For many, this is the most memorable hole at Tralee.


Tralee Tourist Attractions

Aside from the stunning golf to be played, there is plenty to be intrigued by and do around Tralee

Dingle Peninsula

Tralee is close to the Dingle Peninsula that extends 30 miles into the Atlantic Ocean on Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way. The peninsula is dominated by mountains that form its spine, running from the Slieve Mish range to the Conor Pass and  Mount Brandon, Ireland’s second-highest peak.

The Blasket Islands lie to the west and the peninsula is dotted with lovely villages and archaeological treasures. The area is rich in tradition, literature and culture and native Gaelic prospers alongside modern languages.

You can relax and savour the scenery, the flora and fauna, the art and photography, craft trails, the culture, the archaeology, the local food, craft distillery and breweries and meet the people.


The Gallarus Oratory

The Gallarus Oratory is an old building on the Dingle Peninsula. It has been presented variously as an early Christian stone church, a 12th-century Romanesque church or a shelter for pilgrims.

The Oratory overlooks the harbour at Ard na Caithne. There are various explanations of the meaning of Gallarus. It could be something like a house or shelter for foreigners or pilgrims (Gall Aras). It could also mean rocky headland (Gall-iorrus).

The Oratory is the only intact example known and has attracted considerable attention. It is built of large cut stones from the Dingle beds of sandstone. They fit perfectly together.

The Oratory’s shape has been compared to that of an upturned boat because of its sloping sidewalls. The interior room is approximately 16 ft by10 ft and suggests more an Oratory or a small chapel than a church.


The Conor Pass

A scenic and dramatic route crossing the north to the south coast of the Dingle Peninsula through a high mountain pass. A narrow and twisting road, it runs between the town of Dingle to the south and Kilmore Cross at the north of the peninsula. 

The views from the road are stunning with a panorama of mountains, lakes and valleys below. It weaves its way in places around cliff faces and past high mountain lakes. There are two viewing stops at Peddlar's Lake on the north side and at the top.

From the car park at the top, there are incredible views north and south of the Dingle Peninsula along the Wild Atlantic Way. Lough Doon is a glacial mountain lake above the road on the north side of the Conor Pass.

Beneath the lake is the Conor Pass waterfall. The lake can be reached up a small rock path above the car park. After heavy rainwater runs down the mountains in streams and waterfalls.


Rose of Tralee

If you come to Tralee in August, you can be witness one of Ireland's largest cultural events, which is celebrated in Irish communities around the world. The Rose of Tralee is named after a famous ballad about a wealthy Protestant, who fell in love with a poor Catholic maid. She was the fairest in the town, and thus called 'The Rose of Tralee'. 

The festival is essentially a beauty pageant, with 'Roses' coming from Irish communities around the world. So there would be a Rose of London, a Rose of Liverpool, a Rose of Chicago, New York, New Zealand, Toronto, France and the list goes on.

It draws a big crowd and an even bigger watching audience. It has previously been presented by Terry Wogan, and has even had its share of famous contestants such as Gabby Logan, who as the Leeds Rose of 1991.

The small, beautiful town comes alive for the festivities with parades, plenty of drink and food. It doesn't get much more Ireland than the Rose of Tralee.


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