Bill Clinton has declared that his favorite golf course is Ballybunion in County Kerry.
The former U.S. president nominated the famous links course as his favorite in the world in the 50th anniversary issue of Golf magazine.
“I love it,” Clinton said of Ballybunion’s course. “It's perfectly Irish: beautiful, rough, and a lot like life — you get breaks you don't deserve, both ways. You just have to keep swinging and know it will all even out.”
"Before I even set foot on Ballybunion Golf Club, the historic links on the southwest coast of Ireland, I had played it in my mind with the aid of photographs and an old course guide lent to me by an English friend."
Clinton tells of the time Dick Spring, the Tanaiste (deputy prime minister) of Ireland at the time, asked him to join him for a game during his official visit to Ireland in late 1995.
The American president was thrilled, but as he says “fate intervened,” and on the day the two were supposed to play, U.S. troops were scheduled to fly from Germany to Bosnia, so Clinton had to leave for Germany earlier than planned to see them off.
But Clinton vowed to make it up to the people of Ballybunion, and he followed through in September 1998.
“I returned to Ireland to support and celebrate the Northern Ireland Peace Accords — and at last to play Ballybunion,” Clinton said.
“It was an overcast and windy day as I joined Dick, Irish finance minister Charlie McCreevy, club captain Brian McCarthy, and the great Christy O'Connor on the links.”
The President goes on to describe the “intimidation” he felt while playing his favorite golf course.
“I stood on the first tee in front of more than 10,000 people, without having taken a single practice shot, looking at one of the most intimidating opening shots in golf.
“A cemetery borders the fairway for 200 yards down the right side, and on that day, a strong wind was blowing from left to right. I aimed the driver well left but the wind curved it over and beyond the cemetery anyway. I was so keyed up I missed the next two shots and made a triple-bogey 7.
"A few holes later, on a short par-4, I couldn't stop the ball on the small green atop a fast, bald five-foot rise. I hit it back and forth until it finally stopped and I putted in — for a 12! On the back nine I made a quadruple-bogey 7 on a simple par-3. I was 15 over for three holes! Still, it was a great day. I played the other 15 holes in 10 over and managed to break 100.”
Since his first experience on Ballybunion, Clinton has played the course twice more, and has visited his one and only statue in the world, a life-size bronze figure in the center of Ballybunion several miles from the clubhouse.
Famously, another Bill Clinton-related landmark was actually taken down in Ballybunion prior to the president’s arrival.
In 1998, Monica's Hair Salon in Ballybunion got a makeover, and became, for one day, the “President's Shop.”