Advantages Great links golf
Disadvantages Not lie;y to hold many major championships due to its remoteness
Location: Ballybunion, County Kerry, IrelandOpened: 1896
Designer: UnknownYardage: 6,503
Par: 71Major events: none
This course is unlikely to hold major events because, like Dornoch, it is so remote, but with the new course as well, you have here perhaps the best 36 holes of links golf in the world. The Old Course, by itself, ranks very high on everyone’s list of greats. As Tom Watson said during a visit “Ballybunion is a course on which many golf architects should live and play before they build golf courses.”If the 1st hole is a comfortable enough start with a drive to a wide fairway, and downhill at that, the 2nd is more testing by far. You have to miss sand traps from the tee but also have to be long to have much chance of making it up to the green. The 3rd is 220 yards but plays downhill to a severely undulating green. At the 6th, after 2 relatively easy par 5’s, you head for the Atlantic Ocean. It is not a long par 4 at 364 yards but the wind can play havoc with your ball. At the next 2 holes you play directly from the cliff edge and have a glorious view along the Atlantic shore (were you will be playing from if you slice your tee shot. I have had to play a drop many times after losing a ball to the Ocean), but at the 8th playing away from it with a following wind. This is no great help, as the hole is a short par 3 and the green will be more difficult to hold because of the reduced backspin. Apparently on one visit, Tom Watson played the hole 4 times and didn’t once succeed in keeping the ball on the green. At the 9th, the drive is between sandhills but can be helped onwards by a couple of steps in the fairway. There is a central sand trap short of the green and a steep rise to the putting surface.
This has already been outstanding golf, but I believe most of the real Ballybunion comes on the 2nd nine. The 10th heads back towards the Ocean, doglegging left through a valley, and at the 11th tee it is worth stopping to take in the view. Then a downhill shot confronts you – but not an easy one. There is the beach on one side and sandhills on the other (I have lost plenty of balls in both). Even a good shot can get into difficulties on the severely undulating fairway. If all has gone well with the tee shot, the 2nd shot must be well aimed between the sandhills that protect the green.The 12th, a par 3 of 192 yards, usually plays into the wind (sometimes so strong you can only just reach with a driver), because the green is in the sandhills and is steeply sloping at the front, you need a full carry on the shot. The 13th, 484 yards, is not in the least a long par 5 but does demand caution. For those going for he green in 2 (I advise you lay up) there is a stream about 80 yards short of the green which unsurprisingly I have found many times. Then come 2 par 3 holes, of which the second presents an extremely testing shot to a well protected, 2 tiered green.
The 17th has the most spectacular tee shot on the course, high up with dunes on either side. You are also heading straight for the United States of America. There is a sharp dogleg left. If the last hole is a bit of a disappointment, you can at least be sure of a very warm welcome in the clubhouse.
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