It was a long time wish to play the Palmer Ryder Cup course at the famous five-star K Club in Straffan, Co. Kildare. The K Club, which hosted the 2006 Ryder Cup, provided us with a truly memorable golfing experience and confirmed why it ranks as one of Ireland’s top parkland courses.
This Arnold Palmer-designed course is a must play “badge of honor” that has hosted the top golfers in the world and is the only Irish golf course ever to host the prestigious Ryder Cup.
The luxurious Kildare Hotel, Spa and Country Club is nestled in 550 acres of idyllic countryside offering golfers 36 of the most exciting and dramatic holes.
The Palmer Ryder Cup course and the sister Smurfit course excite and challenge golfers with treacherous rough, water hazards in abundance, long greens and undulating fairways.
Having availed of the stay ‘n’ play package last summer, we were able to soak in the atmosphere on the eve of our round there in the very stately and historic castle-like hotel. The original Straffan house dates back to 550AD.
The Jefferson Smurfit Group purchased the K Club in 1988 and it was opened as a resort in 1991. Since then the second course (Smurfit) was added to the resort as well as 33 bedrooms, garden and courtyard suites, a state of the art clubhouse and a luxurious spa.
From the moment you drive down the private lane to the K Club you are surrounded by beauty. Ancient trees stretch their arms high above, welcoming you to what is truly a very special place. Just 30 minutes from Dublin, the atmosphere is opulent yet relaxed.
Accommodation is sumptuous, and each of the 69 bedrooms has been individually designed and feature original paintings and antiques. The bathrooms feature individual hand painted murals.
Walking around the long ornate corridors was akin to being in a museum with all the artwork, tapestries and statues and gave one the impression of being transported to a different era.
The next morning after availing of the expansive breakfast menu, room we spent some time at the driving range. Afterwards it was time to tee it up and follow in the footsteps of that victorious European 2006 Ryder Cup team.
We opted to walk the course as we did not want to miss any part of the experience, taking in the lush countryside with its abundant nature and river views. Definitely a walk not spoiled, and it is pretty level over all for anybody with concerns about its walk ability.
The par 72 course measures over 7,300 yards from the tips but has four tees to suit all skill levels. The River Liffey meanders through the course and becomes hazardous on a few holes, including the 8th where it runs down the left side of the fairway.
The intimidating 16th hole is a monster par five measuring almost 600 yards from the blue markers and is one of the holes where the Liffey comes into play on both sides.
The 430 yard 7th is a very challenging par four with the island green guarded by water.
The final hole, a 537 yard, par five ends up back at the clubhouse. From the viewing area there, the landing area of the tee shot can be observed. The huge galleries there in 2006 must have made the completion of the hole all the more nerve wracking, especially with the water hazard guarding the green on the left and sand guarding the right.
A very enjoyable round overall, and if there is a next time I would like to play the much different Palmer Smurfit course which is described as being an inland links style course. Here too the River Liffey has to be negotiated. This course has been the home for the Smurfit European Open.
As we exited the large castle gates, we definitely had the feeling of leaving a little oasis of golfing heaven behind.
A truly unique experience which we hope to revisit. Visit www.kclub.ie for information.
OUR next stop, Old Head Golf Links, is one of the most unique golf courses ever conceived in the history of golf. It is built on a 220-acre diamond of land, jutting out over two miles into the Atlantic Ocean with steep cliffs dropping off 300 feet in places.
It is located 40 minutes from Cork City, beyond the historic and beautiful town of Kinsale which has many gourmet restaurants, quaint bars and a very scenic town center along the port.
Over the centuries primitive lighthouses were built on this piece of land to assist navigation and warn against invasion. The existing lighthouse was built in 1853 and is located on the southern tip of the headland behind the 18th tees. The remains of two earlier lighthouses built in 1667 and 1814 can still be seen near the 7th tees.
There have been countless shipwrecks in the vicinity of the Old Head over the centuries. The sinking of the Lusitania by a German u-boat in 1915, costing 1,200 lives, was instrumental in bringing the U.S. into World War I.
Old Head Golf Links has been ranked number one by Links Magazine as the most spectacular golf course, ahead of Pebble Beach in California.
In pre-Christian times and up to the 17th century the Stone of Accord (the Old Head Logo) was commonly used to seal important deals and to make up after arguments. It was also used as a wedding stone when couples exchanged vows for one year and renewed the wedding contract by joining hands through the hole in the stone.
Stretching over 7,200 yards from the tips, the par 72 course, is comprised of five par fives, five par threes and eight par fours with six tees per hole.
With an ever-changing sea breeze, the Old Head provides a stern test to the touring pro and high handicapper alike. It is surrounded by the ocean on all sides and commands the most spectacular and stunning views.
It is designed as a walking course where members and guests are encouraged to walk the links with a caddie. Old Head boasts the largest group of professional caddies in the country.
It was not our first time playing there but the magnificent views from the holes that are played along the cliff tops still take the breath away. It has to be a case of letting your score here taking a back seat to the total unique setting for this golf course. Make sure and enjoy all these truly one of a kind golf course views!
After the round, the Lusitania Bar at Old Head offers stunning views of the Atlantic and the Old Head Lighthouse especially from its beautiful outdoor terrace. There also are 15 luxurious suites there, available for rent, all beautifully furnished with unbelievable sea views. An overnight stay will also grant you access to the fitness suite and the Old Head thermal spa which offers a place for members and residents to unwind and restore.
The many historic restaurant bars in nearby Kinsale such as the Spaniard, Bullman and Whitelady are just a small sample of the après golf possibilities there.
For more information on the Old Head golf course visit www.oldhead.com.