How can somewhere so wild, so tough, so beautiful converge into a course which is so hard to play and yet so satisfying no matter your standard? It’s hard because it demands accuracy and observation as the course slopes this way and that.
It’s tough because it twists and turns across a mountain side and is a killer for the unfit. The final hill up to the clubhouse from the 18th is a calf burner.
Its wildness comes from being carved out of the granite mountains of Kerry twisting between gorse and pines, rocks and deep gullies, drops and ditches.
Its beauty comes from the vast expanse of Kenmare Bay with the islands of Greename in the foreground and mountains blue in the distance. The final ingredient which makes this course tough comes from the weather, which it is true is often sunny and hot, but when the mists roll in and the rain sits on the hill it becomes a bleak unfriendly place.
It is the work of architect, Eddie Hackett, and designer, Ron Kirby, who used 250,000 tons of sand to sculpt it out of the rocks and woodland. It took four years to build and was opened in 1997. The layout reinforces the grandeur of the setting with a broad clubhouse half way up the hill overlooking a winding drive. No building could dominate that hill but it does make a statement of conventionality of a comfortable base for a game of golf and amusement later.
Excepting how do you create a golf club with a large membership in a place with a low population even if they are crazy about golf? The answer is you don’t. There are about 500 male members, many of whom live far away. There are very few women members because the nature of the course, its geographical position militates against the cosy social background against which women like to enjoy their game.
James Mitchell, Managing Director, co visionary of the enterprise, well aware that Ireland’s golf courses offer a leisure playground to the rest of the world chose a different route. Ring Of Kerry offers a complete experience to golf tourists. There are a number of houses tucked away on the course available to rent for short or long stays. The houses are fully furnished to a high standard. The clubhouse is available for wifi and other social amenities. The course is maintained to a high standard, there are plenty of buggies. The facilities in the club house are good. There is the conventional golf club bar, a pros shops and comfortable locker rooms.
Beside that the Ring of Kerry offers golfers and the community in the area a restaurant and pizza bar on the top two floors of the clubhouse. The restaurant serves good food with generous portions. I tried calamari and sea bass and both were delicious.
If you play at Kerry, you will soon meet James Mitchell. He is the cog around which the enterprise turns. You will find him chatting to customers, in the pros shop, organising events, or in the kitchen. He has one aim; that Ring of Kerry offers an extraordinary golfing experience.