Old Head Course
If, as I did, you drive out to the lighthouse beyond Old Head Golf course, climb to the top and look back over the course , it appears neat, tidy in a chaotic frame. From there you see Kinsale Head is a diamond and that the cliffs were used to create preposterous looking holes with wide fairways in a manageable form. The 13th, the Sovereigns, is particularly fine arcing cross a curve in the cliff and providing a challenging par 3. The 12th, the Courcean Stage, is an intimidating, 554 yards from the Pro tee across a chasm.
Old Head uses theatrical drama to provide its psychological challenges. It was designed and constructed by a consortium of brilliant men: Ron Kirby who is responsible for so many of Ireland’s good courses. Paddy Merrigan – an Australian course architect and agronomist. Liam Higgins – one of Ireland’s best known golf professionals. The late Eddie Hackett – former Irish golf professional and golf course designer who left his mark on many a turf and the late Dr. Joe Carr . All had a hand in the design and finally, Haulie O’Shea built it.
It’s a par 72, with five Par 5s, five Par 3s and eight Par 4s – stretching to over 7,200 yards from the tips, with a minimum of six tees per hole. Nine of those holes are along the edge with warning signs suggesting don’t walk this way. Apparently some idiots try to regain their balls over the edge. The weather will define your day. In fog you will wonder where you are, in rain you will struggle to shield yourself, the wind will play havoc or, you will get lucky, as I did, and play on a balmy day with a warm sun. The club’s greatest expense is maintenance fighting the eroding nature of the elements and the damaging effects of salt.
The build up to the first tee, meeting your caddie, chatting to the starter adds gravitas as you receive your card and a dark blue pencil and a handful of wooden tees stamped Old Head, few survive a good drive,. Walking on the springy turf with your caddie trudging behind me, the game felt significantly different. Playing out the first steady hole prepares me nicely for the first cliff bend called the Gunhole. The fairway curves around the rock face to the left with an obvious green high above your head.
There are 5 sets of tees on the teeing platform; you could build a par three easily between some of the tees on the Par 5s. It was there on the second tee that I noticed ‘senior tees’ for the first time. These are for elderly gentlemen who no longer have the power to drive from those occupied by the young and spritely. Rather a cool idea! Survive with pride.
The course is more about spectacle and seemingly impossible feats than it plays. Your caddie will advise on club, line and distance. All you have to do is comply and ignore everything but that little white ball.
- Par: 72
- Length: 6,508 Ladies 5,150
- Address: Old Head Golf Links Kindle Co Cork
- Telephone: 00353 21 477 8444
- Website: www.oldhead.com