WATERVILLE, CO. KERRY, SOUTHWESTERN IRELAND
courtesy Waterville Golf Links
rated #5 on Golf Digest Ireland's List of Top 100 Courses in Ireland.
WATERVILLE Golf LINKS,
a classic Irish links with
convoluted American roots, has done the improbable: being awarded
position #5 on Golf Digest Ireland's list
of top-rated golf courses in Ireland,
behind only Royal County Down, Portmarnock links, Royal Portrush, and
Lahinch Old Course. That's right.
The 2015 Irish edition of Golf Digest Ireland continues to have the Eddie Hackett +
Tom Fazio hybrid on the lonely western end of the Ring of Kerry ahead of
some of our favorite Irish linkses and as well as some perennially top-ranked Ireland
Granted, Waterville's setting on the famed Ring of Kerry give it
location cachι available to few places on the Emerald Isle. Granted,
too, Hackett and Fazio are two recognized master designers, despite
opposing design philosophies.
For Waterville and its many enthusiastic supporters, the news is
gratifying. Yes, today there seems to be a Top-Ten List for
everything, with rankings shifting according to how the judges like to
slice and dice things. Still, here is a respected publication disrupting
the golfing canon of Ireland: Waterville looks down upon the likes of
Ballybunion, Rosses Point, Enniscrone, Donegal, Royal Dublin,
and venerable Ballyliffin Old. Let play "The World Turned Upside Down."
occupies prime dunes land
along Ballinskelligs Bay just north of the village of Waterville
the southwestern extreme of Ireland's Iveragh Peninsula. Its
famous golf course earns Waterville much of its fame these days.
For golfers, at least, this remote seaside village of fewer than
1,000 permanent residents is the best reason to drive the Ring
of Kerry, the rugged roadway that circles Iveragh in just over
one hundred miles, rewarding drivers with sweeping views of the
wild Atlantic Ocean making
From the air it's easy to see
the difference between the rugged
back 9 (foreground) and the flatter
original front 9 at Waterville
Links. Tom Fazio's course alterations have made the front
9 more rugged, to match the hilly dunesland of the back 9.
courtesy Waterville Golf Links.
landfall after crossing from
North America and impressive glimpses of the
parabolic MacGillycuddy's Reeks
emerging at surprising altitude from the peninsular mists.
Indeed, driving the Ring and driving the links bring Waterville its
visitors and its fame today. But it wasn't always so. In an earlier
high-tech age it was Waterville's southwestern projection into the
Atlantic and toward America that first made its name. The Ring of Kerry
roadway and Waterville Golf Links evolved as Waterville became a focus
of the first great transoceanic telecommunications revolution. More
about this distinctive history of Waterville follows below. But first,
let's talk golf.
Watervilles venerable reputation ranks it among the legendary old links courses of
the British Isles. Over 100 years old, Waterville is rated among the top courses in
Ireland and #45 in the most recent GolfDigest.com top courses in the world outside of the
USA. And yet, the Waterville Golf Links seems to have at least as many associations with
Americans as it does with the Irish. And the course has undergone more extreme makeovers
Waterville did not become an 18-hole course
until 1973. Its original 9 holes were not designed by Irish golfers, but by the
Anglo-American contractors laying the first transatlantic cable who were looking for an
activity to pursue in their free time. Waterville continued to be the American
communication giant ITTs Irish 9-hole company course until the 1960s. Then it was
sold to an Irish-American, who expanded the links to 18 holes, with the help of a design
team including Irish and Americans.
In the 1980s the course was sold to a small
group of Irish-Americans, who attempted to promote its image as an international links by
attracting top American pros to play at Waterville. The late Payne Stewart one of
several American professionals in the membership was made captain of the club shortly
before his untimely death.
Starting in the 1990s American course
American golf architect Tom Fazio.
His Waterville redesign project
clearly intends to change the
into a resort destination
for well-heeled American golfers.
courtesy Waterville Golf Links
architect Tom Fazio began an
extensive course makeover of Waterville that is now complete. Waterville
is Fazios first course project outside of the US,
Mexico, and Barbados. Fazio is well known for his major overhauls of natural sites. Like
bringing a forest of trees to a desert course or completely re-sodding an existing set of
fairways or by creating a course on a vertical site that doesnt lend itself to the
horizontal game of golf.
"Links land is a geological rarity,"
it says on Watervilles web site. "Less than one percent of all the courses in
Ireland and the British Isles are championship links. Waterville is one of these. Golf at
Waterville is a mystical experience the beauty of classic links land, surrounded by
the sea, yet forever challenged and shaped by the elements." And also by Tom Fazio,
whose project aims to modify the relatively level original inland 9-hole site by adding
more dunes. The goal is to make a new eastern front nine on
steroids to be consistent with the hillier
the western back 9 that was added
in the 1970s. Not one to leave well enough alone, Fazio is also tweaking
Eddie Hacketts 30-year-old western back nine "to capture more of its
natural beauty and challenge."
The real goal, of course, is to draw more
guests, especially well-heeled Americans, to a course where Nature is second-billed to Tom
Fazio in order to command 160+ for a round, nearly as much as they ask at Ballybunion also
a County Kerry links where Nature remains the principal course designer. Fazios redo
has bumped Waterville up the list
to #45 in the world, only
38 places behind
waterville golf links,
Waterville, County Kerry, Ireland
Tel: (+353) (0)66 947 4102
Fax: (+353) (0)66 947 4482
No handicap certification or proof of club
Advance tee times required.
Course Open & Playable Year Round.
LENGTH & PAR:
18 Holes, 7,311 Yards, Par 72
November thru March (daily):
October (daily): 120/18-holes.
September (Mo-Fr): 150/18-holes.
September (Sa-Su): 170/18-holes.
Golf Cart (Buggy): 50/round; reserve in advance.
Pull Cart (Trolley): 5.
Club Rental: 50; reserve in advance.
available on request: 40/bag senior caddy; 25/bag junior caddy;
Request in advance.
Practice Pitching Green.
Clubhouse with Restaurant & Bar.
Visitors' Lockers, showers, towels.
BOOKING OF TEE TIMES
(required in advance):
Tel: (+353) (0)66 947 4102
Fax: (+353) (0)66 947 4482
Credit Card information necessary to hold booking. 25% of greens fee
charged to your credit card to secure your tee-time booking. Full payment of
fees due no later than 30 days in advance of tee-time.
CANCELLATIONS & NO-SHOWS:
Cancellations without penalty of existing bookings outside of 30 days prior to
play. Cancellations within 30 days of play suffer loss of all green fees.
No-shows (without notice of cancellation) are penalized
100% of greens fees.
HOME AT FIRST make your
tee-time reservations at Waterville Golf Links as part of your next trip to
Ireland. There is no service fee for this service!
Take the N70 west from
Kenmare about 1 hour to Waterville. Once in Waterville, follow the coast road NW
about one mile to the course.
HOME AT FIRST
in and near the bustling town of Kenmare, County Kerry, on the N70 Ring of Kerry
road about 60 minutes east of the course. Also in Glengarriff, County Cork about
100 minutes southeast of the course.
OTHER REGIONAL COURSES OF
Skelligs Bay, Waterville, County Kerry. New (2006), down-market
(50/round) golf course & "resort" across town from Waterville Golf Links, built
on its famous neighbor's draw.
Kenmare G.C, Kenmare, County Kerry. No pretense here. The coastal town of
Kenmare wanted a fine Irish golf course despite lying miles from quality links
land. But lovely, rolling parkland abounds here, and, wisely, they commissioned
the great Eddie Hackett to convert the town's old 9-hole local track into an
18-hole jewel in 1993.
Killarney Golf & Fishing Club, Killarney, County Kerry. Two 18-hole
lakeside courses 3 miles west of County Kerry's over-priced, over-visited, and
over-hyped tourist capital, Killarney. Good courses, but, predictably, over-priced,
over-run, and over-hyped: "When anyone sees Killarney, even if he is the
basest heretic, he must believe in God." More Blarney than Killarney. 60 minutes
north of Kenmare.
Ballybunion, County Kerry. Number 7 in the world away from the
USA, and best of many fine courses in Southwestern Ireland. Along with a
handful of other noble, storied links courses around Ireland's perimeter,
Ballybunion helps comprise a gold standard chain of links golf courses that may
surpass even Scotland as the finest collection of traditional golfing venues in
the world. 2Ό hours north of Kenmare.
Tralee, Tralee, County Kerry. At its best, a rival to Ballybunion as top
course in the Southwest. But, because its greens fees also rival Ballybunion's,
Tralee does not offer as much for the money. Maybe there are enough high-rollers
in these parts for whom value for money is never an issue. 1Ύ hours
north of Kenmare.
Dooks, Glenbeigh, County Kerry. Traditional links on the north shore of
Iveragh Peninsula (Ring of Kerry) with views across to the Dingle Peninsula.
Quality course offering a genuine welcome, but, as with Tralee and Waterville,
this proves an expensive combination. 75 minutes north of Kenmare.
Bantry Bay, 1 mile north of Bantry
town, western County Cork. Excellent value waterside course perched scenically
above Bantry Bay. A local course in all the right ways. 15 minutes southeast of
Glengarriff. Less than a hour south of Kenmare.
Old Head of
Kinsale, south of Kinsale, southern County Cork. Number 7 in the
world away from the USA. Golf as spectacle. Golf as a statement of class: old
Norman-Irish-British-Colonial in a nouveau riche guise. Gold-plated miniature
golf to the max. Amazing scenery presented as Ireland's most exclusive golf
safari experience for high-rolling "sportsmen". Two hours southeast of Kenmare.
One hundred minutes eat of Glengarriff. Where's Yeats? Where's Shaw? Where's the
Irelands Iveragh Peninsula is almost the western limit of Europe.
Waterville is almost the western limit of the Inveragh Peninsula. Golf
Waterville began in the 1880s when the men
laying the first transatlantic cable between North America and Europe needed something to do during
their off-hours. Organized golf on the links land at Waterville first
occurred in 1889 under the banner of the Waterville Athletic Club. By
1900 Waterville joined the fledgling Golfing Union of Ireland. The
original nine-hole links was set on the level eastern section of the
peninsular property operated by Waterville Athletic Club for the
Commercial Cable Company, a predecessor company of International
Telephone & Telegraph (ITT).
On May 21, 1927, aviator Charles A. Lindbergh buzzed the transatlantic cable station in
Waterville so it
courtesy Donegal Golf Club
could report his successful ocean crossing
to a world
awaiting word of the first non-stop flight from New York to Paris.
For more than fifty years Waterville nines fortunes were tied to those
of the cable company. When technology had evolved sufficiently that the
cable station was deemed no longer necessary in the 1950s, the club shut
its doors and the links almost went back to nature.
Then in the early 1970s the vision of
Irish-born American John A. (Jack) Mulcahy resurrected Waterford. Jack Mulcahy recruited
the great Irish naturalist course architect Eddie Hackett to join him and former Masters
champion Claude Harmon of Winged Foot Golf Club in Mamaroneck, NY, to convert the original
9-hole company club links into an 18-hole championship course which opened in 1973. The
new Waterville Golf Links was long for a links (at 7,300+ yards) and schizophrenic, with
the rugged new back nine a great contrast to the flat front. But the coursewith its
classic seaside links design and Irish-American ownership was a hit with Irish,
British, and American golfers, and its reputation grew substantially over the next 15
In 1987 a small consortium of Irish-Americans
purchased Waterville Golf Links with an expanded vision in mind. While golf in the British
Isles had mostly stagnated, it was exploding in the US in the 1980s mirroring the growth
of the nouveau riche upper middle class during the Reagan years. The new direction for
Waterville would be in line with this American trend for golf resorts. Waterville would
not only offer 4-star golf, but also 4-star fishing, and 4-star accommodation. To promote
the new, improved Waterville, a litany of top golf pros names like Payne Stewart,
Mark OMeara, Ernie Els, Jim Furyk, and, most importantly, Tiger Woods stopped
to play at Waterville en route to the British Open. Watervilles name was suddenly
mentioned in discussions of the best courses in Ireland, and the course became an
important Irish stop for American golf tourists.
Of major import in the evolution of Waterville
from golf course to golf resort is the redesign of the course by American golf architect
Tom Fazio and his team. In addition to the course changes (see introduction above), major
shoreline protection engineering are now completed. Meanwhile the resorts
hostelry, Waterville House, has been renovated, featuring an expanded golf practice
area designed by Fazio, as well as a health & wellness center and an improved fishing
program. Waterville, it turns out, 130 years after the telegraph emerged from
the Atlantic, continues to connect Ireland with America, Britain, and
The Continent in significant ways.
THE COURSE & SOME NOTABLE HOLES
WATERVILLE GOLF LINKS 16th HOLE 'LIAM'S
4, 386 YDS, ROUNDS THE
CORNER WHERE THE RIVER INNY EMPTIES INTO THE ATLANTIC AT BALLINSKELLIGS
courtesy Waterville Golf Links
LINKS 11th HOLE 'TRANQUILITY', PAR
5, 506 YDS,
runs like the valley
of the shadowamong the dunes. For some, with good luck and good weather,
this hole is properly named
"Tranquility". For many under other
conditions, it might better be called
LINKS 15th HOLE
'THE VALE', PAR 4, 428 YARDS:
CHEAT THE WIND BY
CRESTING THE FAIRWAY HILL ON A LOW TRAJECTORY. LAND
SKIP ONTO THE SUNKEN
FIGURE-EIGHT GREEN. BACK-SPIN YOUR SHOT TO HOLD
FIRM FOR DEVILISH
ROUGH LIES READY
TO STEAL YOUR BALL. AND TRY NOT TO LET THE BEAUTY OF
THE SCENE DISTRACT YOU.
Watervilles chief advantage may also be its chief disadvantage. Its remoteness on
the outer fringe of the Ring of Kerry makes Waterville one of the most difficult to reach
of Irelands big name golf courses. The remoteness may keep crowds from
linksland, as they sometimes do on more
accessible Irish links courses like Ballybunion and Lahinch.
Ring of Kerry and the Iveragh Peninsula offer outstanding scenery
combining some of Irelands highest mountains and most rugged coastline.
Walking and touring are excellent here. There are interesting villages
and towns with friendly
Ring of Kerry laps the rugged Iveragh Peninsula in Ireland's southwest.
courtesy Mimi McGinnis
restaurants and pubs
to explore, and lakes and islands galore
to discover. Like other parts of remote Ireland, the Iveragh Peninsula
is dotted with the remnants of pre-history and forgotten history. Birders, photographers, cyclists, equestrians, surfers,
sailors, and divers will find lots to keep them busy on the peninsula.
And, if the remote location leaves one hungry for civilization or a
reasonable facsimile, the supremely busy Irish tourist town of Killarney
is the eastern gateway to the Ring of Kerry about 90 minutes away from
SOUTHWESTERN IRELAND TO PLAY GOLF?
FIRST make your advance tee-times at
Waterville Golf Links and many other Irish golf courses as part of your pre-reserved
Theres no extra charge for this service.
FIRST offers independent, flexible, fly/drive travel to
Ireland and other great golfing destinations
in the British Isles.
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IRELAND travel program.
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