By Charlene & Richard Mixa
Thrill in the Lure of These Fabled Links
Avenues of weathered sand dunes along rugged shores, tall fescue grasses rustling in the breeze, sunlight shimmering on the sea, and strong winds blowing across unprotected lands all mingle to create a perfect links golf course location. Add a sandy promontory jutting out into the Ballinskellig Bay at the tip of the Invereagh Peninsula in southern Ireland, and you find Waterville Golf Links. An almost natural golf course among the sand dunes, golf has been played on this mystical land since the 1870’s when Marconi engineers were laying the great transatlantic telegraph cables. With a recent Tom Fazio “make over” Waterville Golf Links lures even more golfers.
An early morning drive on a narrow and twisting road on the craggy eastern shores of the Ring of Kerry, we arrive in the remote village of Waterville and the Waterville Golf Links. Cloudy skies threaten as we tee off. On the first tee, we admire the poetic landscape of this course set amid sand hills, fields of Irish green, and the waters of Bellinskellig Bay. Amazing how the course winds around the peninsula. The No. 1 Hole gives us a glimmer of links golf. It lives up to its name, “Last Easy” as the following holes add their own uniqueness.
The front nine is relatively flat with plenty of fescue along the fairway to grab balls as well as numerous bunkers for an extra challenge. Weaving along the dunes the back nine has its own personality. Each hole gives a new perspective of links golf as well as fantastic and panoramic views of the peninsula. We find each hole requires precise shots to avoid the well placed bunkers, ball grabbing fescue, sand dunes, and other unexpected hazards. Waterville offers three dramatic par-3’s and five fascinating par-5’s. Club selection is of paramount importance because of the looming trouble. Short shots or errant shots create a whole new dimension in conquering Waterville.
Imagine an ace (hole in one) on a 366 par-4? UNBELIEVABLE! Liam Higgins, a local pro aced the No. 16 hole, appropriately named “Liam’s Ace.” We are content with pars. The final holes are fantastic both from difficulty and the spectacular views. “Mulcahy’s Peak,” No. 17, a par-3 requires a demanding tee shot, but also offers a phenomenal panoramic view as the sun peaks out from behind the clouds. An exciting finale is “O’Grady’s Beach”, No. 18, a par-5 along the shore with magnificent dunes above the ocean on the right of the fairway and heavy rough on the left ending at a most exacting green. The course continually keeps us focused on our next shot and next challenge. It is Irish golf with at least three weather changes from overcast skies, to patches of sunshine, to a misty rain, a heavy rain finally ending with a little sunshine.
After golf, it’s a short drive to the Waterville House, a relaxed forty acre estate country house on the Atlantic, that caters to golfers. Now this elegant four star 18th century manor house is combines the best of Irish hospitality and Irish sport. Each room is named for a famous golfer. Ours is the Director’s Suite (A. W. Tillinghast Room) which spacious and elegantly decorated with a Victorian flair. In addition to the Kingsize bed with plush linens, we have a large sitting area with a comfy sofa and chairs, as well as, satellite TV that gets American sports channels. Two huge picture windows look out over a walled garden and a practice putting green with expansive views of the bay. Picturesque! The gracious drawing room encourages relaxation and visiting with its extensive self serve honor bar. Our morning breakfast offers choices of cereals, fruits and a hot dish items to order. I enjoyed the poached eggs while Richard has the French Toast. He raves that it is the “best!” The staff is welcoming, friendly and courteous. A wonderful place to stay while golfing in Waterville or visiting the Ring of Kerry.
Are you ready to walk in the footsteps of Irelands earliest golfers? Visit Waterville Golf Links. Be captivated by a course that stands serenely in the top 20 of the world’s links. If you go:
Waterville Golf Links, Co. Kerry Ireland, Phone (from US) 011.353.66.9474102, www.watervillegolflinks.ie