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Waterville Golf Links

WATERVILLE, CO. KERRY, SOUTHWESTERN IRELAND

Photos courtesy Waterville Golf Links

Waterville 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 courses. 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."

 

 

W

ATERVILLE Golf LINKS occupies prime dunes land

along Ballinskelligs Bay just north of the village of Waterville near 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 Golf Links. Tom Fazio's course alterations have made the front 9 more rugged, to match the hilly dunesland of the back 9. Waterville Golf Links photo.
From the air it's easy to see the difference between the rugged
back 9 (foreground) and the flatter original front 9 at Waterville
Golf Links. Tom Fazio's course alterations have made the front
9 more rugged, to match the hilly dunesland of the back 9.

Photo 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.

          Waterville’s 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 than Madonna.
          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 ITT’s 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 course into a resort destination for well-heeled American golfers.
American golf architect Tom Fazio.
His Waterville redesign project
clearly intends to change the
course into a resort destination
for well-heeled American golfers.

Photo courtesy Waterville Golf Links

architect Tom Fazio began an extensive course makeover of Waterville that is now complete. Waterville is Fazio‘s 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 doesn’t lend itself to the horizontal game of golf.

          "Links land is a geological rarity," it says on Waterville’s 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 topography of

the western back 9 that was added in the 1970s. Not one to leave well enough alone, Fazio is also tweaking Eddie Hackett’s 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. Fazio’s redo has bumped Waterville up the list to #45 in the world, only 38 places behind
Ballybunion, and climbing.

WATERVILLE Golf LINKS

LOCATION:
waterville golf links, Waterville, County Kerry, Ireland
Tel: (+353) (0)66 947 4102   •   Fax: (+353) (0)66 947 4482
e-mail: info@watervillegolflinks.ie   •   WEBSITE

Visitors Welcome:
• No handicap certification or proof of club membership required.
• Advance tee times required.
• Course Open & Playable Year Round.

LENGTH & PAR: 18 Holes, 7,311 Yards, Par 72

GREENS FEES:     Currency Converter

• November thru March (daily): €60/18-holes.

• April and October (daily): €120/18-holes.

• May thru September (Mo-Fr): €150/18-holes.

• May thru September (Sa-Su): €170/18-holes.

FACILITIES:
•
Golf Cart (Buggy):
€50/round; reserve in advance.
• Pull Cart (Trolley):
€5.
•
Club Rental:
€50; reserve in advance.

• Caddies available on request: €40/bag senior caddy; €25/bag junior caddy; Request in advance.

• Practice Putting Green.
• Practice Pitching Green.
•
Practice Areas.
• Clubhouse with Restaurant & Bar.
•
Visitors' Lockers, showers, towels.
• Pro Shop

BOOKING OF TEE TIMES (required in advance):
Tel: (+353) (0)
66 947 4102
Fax: (+353) (0)66 947 4482
E-mail: info@watervillegolflinks.ie

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.

Let 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!

DIRECTIONS: 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.

NEAREST HOME AT FIRST LODGINGS: In SOUTHWESTERN Ireland 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 NOTE:

• Skelligs Bay, Waterville, County Kerry. New (2006), down-market (€50/round) golf course & "resort" across town from Waterville Golf Links, built to capitalize 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, 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. 2Ό hours north of Kenmare.

• Tralee, Tralee, County Kerry. At its best, a rival to Ballybunion as top links
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 the
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 bar?

 

H

ISTORY: Ireland’s Iveragh Peninsula is almost the western limit of Europe. Waterville is almost the western limit of the Inveragh Peninsula. Golf at

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

The late Eddie Hackett, course designer of Donegal G.C. at Murvagh -- for £200! Photo courtesy Donegal Golf Club.
EDDIE HACKETT
Photo 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 nine’s 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 course—with 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 years.

          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 O’Meara, Ernie Els, Jim Furyk, and, most importantly, Tiger Woods — stopped to play at Waterville en route to the British Open. Waterville’s 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 resort’s 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

#16 – 'Liam's Ace'

WATERVILLE GOLF LINKS 16th HOLE 'LIAM'S ACE', PAR 4, 386 YDS, ROUNDS THE
CORNER WHERE THE RIVER INNY EMPTIES INTO THE ATLANTIC AT BALLINSKELLIGS BAY.
Photos courtesy Waterville Golf Links

#11 – 'Tranquility'

WATERVILLE GOLF 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 "Treachery"
.

#15 – 'The Vale'

 

WATERVILLE GOLF LINKS 15th HOLE 'THE VALE', PAR 4, 428 YARDS: CHEAT THE WIND BY
CRESTING THE FAIRWAY HILL ON A LOW TRAJECTORY. LAND SHORT AND 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.

T

HE REGION: Waterville’s 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 Ireland’s big name golf courses. The remoteness may keep crowds from threatening to

overwhelm the

 

linksland, as they sometimes do on more accessible Irish links courses like Ballybunion and Lahinch.
          Meanwhile, the Ring of Kerry and the Iveragh Peninsula offer outstanding scenery combining some of Ireland’s highest mountains and most rugged coastline. Walking and touring are excellent here. There are interesting villages and towns with friendly

The Ring of Kerry laps the rugged Iveragh Peninsula in Ireland's southwest. Photo courtesy Mimi McGinnis.
 The Ring of Kerry laps the rugged Iveragh Peninsula in Ireland's southwest.
Photo 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 Waterville.

TRAVELING TO SOUTHWESTERN IRELAND TO PLAY GOLF?
Let
HOME AT FIRST make your advance tee-times at Waterville Golf Links and many other Irish golf courses as part of your pre-reserved Irish trip itinerary. There’s no extra charge for this service. HOME AT FIRST offers independent, flexible, fly/drive travel to Ireland and other great golfing destinations in the British Isles.

MORE RESOURCES:
• Golf in Ireland
• Home At First's
IRELAND travel program.

Want to learn about other courses throughout the British Isles
including some of the greatest tests of golf in the world? See our
IRELAND, SCOTLAND, ENGLAND, and WALES
Course Guides for more information.

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