Destination Golf Ireland 2018 * - Page 96

Ballybunion (Old) Lahinch Take Old Tom Morris, add plenty of Alister MacKenzie and stir with some Martin Hawtree… spread liberally over a boisterous Co. Clare dunescape and leave for generations to come. Lahinch is one of the most revered links on the west coast. MacKenzie is the chief architect, with Hawtree working hard to restore MacKenzie traits which had been lost – around greens most notably. Today, even with Old Tom Morris’s Klondyke and Dell holes left untouched, there is a perfect rhythm that drives you into and through what feels like a ridge of dunes clinging to the coastline. And yet the variety is spellbinding with blind shots, long and short par fours and utterly deceptive approaches. Please be brilliant around greens. Waterville Golfers from around the world flock to Waterville, and the drive along the Ring of Kerry, above the sea, builds the expectation no end. This is something special, something idyllic, and the setting only makes the course all the more alluring. It is far too easy to fall in love with it. Few courses can boast such picture- perfect holes and such a sensuous rhythm. You can thank Eddie Hackett and, later, Tom Fazio for this links work-of-art. The dunes start low but build quickly into more dramatic and wonderfully pristine shapes. Raised tee boxes ensure you can see much of the hole and, with wide fairways, it will make you want to swing hard. It’s a long course so go right ahead. The front nine are excellent; the back nine are spectacular. 94 Ballybunion (Old) Sitting majestically on the Co. Kerry coastline, Ballybunion offers 36 holes of intrigue and brilliance. The Old course is revered but it wasn’t until Tom Watson’s rapturous endorsement rang around the world that the links became a bucket-list destination. Ballybunion has been basking in that glory ever since. Every shot on these hallowed fairways and sublime (spanking new) greens is links golf in its purest form. This is as natural a course as you could hope to find. Greens sit on high plateaus and in dells, fairways cascade between heaving shoulders and dunes squeeze greens like over-zealous bodyguards. Ballybunion builds from a (relatively) calm start and then just explodes on the back nine. Old Head Bold and dramatic, Old Head is undoubtedly one of the world’s greatest golfing experiences. The peninsula south of Kinsale blossoms like a pearl earring, dropping into the Atlantic Ocean. It promises tees and greens perched on 300 foot cliffs. Half of the holes here sit tantalisingly above a raging sea as you head out to a lighthouse on the front nine and then back again. For the back nine, press ‘repeat’. The back tee on the 18th is one of the scariest places you will ever hit a shot from, tucked above cliffs and below the lighthouse. It may be surprising to find that golf here is of the generous variety. On such an exclusive, plush course the objective is not to punish you but to let you play. If you don’t knock it into the ocean then you’re unlikely to lose it.