The Old Head Golf Links outside of Kinsale, Co. Cork, is one of the most unique golf courses ever conceived. It is built on a 220-acre diamond of land, jutting out over two miles into the Atlantic Ocean.
The links and practice area occupy 180 acres, and the remaining 40 acres of unspoilt cliff (rising in places to over 300 feet) frame the course.
Old Head is located seven miles beyond Kinsale, one of the most fashionable and scenic resort towns in Ireland, and only 30 minutes from Cork Airport.
Irish golf star Shane Lowry recently said, “Old Head is probably one of the most spectacular golf venues on the planet. You look at places like Pebble Beach that have such a great setting, but Old Head would stand toe to toe with any course worldwide.”
Over the centuries primitive lighthouses were built on the headland 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.
In 1989 the land was acquired by John and Patrick O’Connor and the links opened for play in 1997. Stunning, rugged Old Head is now one of the most sought after golf experiences anywhere on earth.
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, 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.
I was fortunate to play Old Head on my most recent trip to Ireland. As a Cork City native, I am very proud of this Cork jewel which allows players a bucket list experience of enjoying the most spectacular piece of golf real estate on the planet. Old Head is truly a gem – it’s impossible to find someone who has experienced the course to say otherwise.
Talking with brand manager Brent Dornford and director of golf Danny Brassil after our round, we caught up on the latest news from this truly unique golf course. Sitting on the outside patio of the Lusitania Bar, it was hard
not to gaze off mid sentence into the distance at the magnificent views across the course below us.
“Approaching its 20th anniversary, Old Head has rapidly grown to become talked of in the same company as far more historic courses and is already the catalyst of many an international visit to Ireland and is considered the highlight of an Irish golf trip,” Dornford said.
“It is no co-incidence that the most discerning global captains of industry are to be found among our membership and numerous statesmen, including former U.S. presidents, international film stars, sports stars and many of the world’s top golfers including Rory McIlroy have taken time to enjoy the Old Head experience.”
Old Head is essentially a private club which allows limited outside play. The vast majority of members are American and European high rollers who pay an annual membership to visit a couple of times a year. Old Head is continually looking to expand its membership and has a very active members schedule of individual and team events.
“We are not one to rest on our laurels and are forever polishing the diamond with the owners continually investing in the course and facilities to ensure that we maintain the exceptional standards that exceed the expectations of our discerning membership and guests,” Dornford says.
Course superintendent Neil Deasy outlined the recent changes to the course.
“Last winter was very bad weather wise. Two main projects undertaken on the course were the re-grading and reshaping of the white medal tee complex on hole 12 and the total redesign of the 16th green and surround,” he says.
“The old tee complex on 12 had started to subside over the years. We also did not have much teeing ground which meant not being able to take advantage of arguably the most daunting and stunning tee shot on the course. We decided to re-grade the tees and put in a freestyle tee complex.
“The 16th hole had taken an awful battering from the storms. When the time had come for reinstatement, we seized the opportunity to totally change the hole. The green surround was softened and reshaped and seven new bunkers installed. These bunkers were drained and a revolutionary new bunker liner which improves the playing and performance characteristics of the bunkers by minimizing washouts during heavy rain events and stopping contamination from soil and stones.”
Our round was full of awe inspiring views of steep cliffs and open sea views with a beautiful layout winding itself around the shadow of the ever present lighthouse. Thankfully it was a beautiful, relatively calm day which helped to lower the lost ball count.
Old Head has a setting which must be almost impossible to replicate anywhere else in the world and makes it easy to understand the reputation that this relatively new course has already built up.
After the round we were treated to a tour of the 15 luxurious suites which are beautifully furnished, and all offer magnificent views. An overnight stay will also grant access to the fitness suite and the Old Head thermal spa which offers a place for members and residents to unwind and restore.
With five star suites, a spa and fine dining on site, Old Head prides itself on offering the ultimate in service. It really is the pinnacle of golfing history in the making.