Waterville – fair, fun and friendly and a great golf course as well

Monday morning saw an interesting phenomenon at about 5:30am. A bright object appeared in the sky. It was yellow and we think is called the sun. It was something we have not been familiar with in Ireland (or most of Scotland either).

It was enough though to get Gary excited and he rushed out the door to go and take photos at Waterville, a two minute drive down the road.

After a quick photo shoot covering most holes thanks to a motorized cart being available we made our way to the club for our 9am tee time. The weather was glorious and it was great to be outside playing this beautiful golf course.

Waterville is a lovely course situated on a peninsula. Surrounded by water on two sides it presents a scenic picture with a backdrop of a beautiful mountain range.

The course was remodeled by Tom Fazio about 10 years ago and it is a strong test of golf when the wind blows – which it generally does. Today was a three to four club wind and is something we have become very used to as we have made our way around the various courses.

Waterville does not have towering dunes, and holes play in similar directions, yet the way it is routed makes you feel each hole is miles away from all others. Excellent playing surfaces and true greens gave us chances to make birdies – if our approach shots were good enough!

Waterville is popular amongst golf professionals who visit ahead of the British Open to play the course and get used to the conditions typically encountered with Open Championships.

Payne Stewart enjoyed a close affiliation with Waterville prior to his passing and a bronze statue of him overlooks the old course. Tiger Woods and Mark O’Meara are members and Mark returns each year to play in the father and son event with his father.

Everyone at Waterville is friendly. From
Noel Cronin, the affable secretary, who was at the club at 6am on Sunday hoisting the Australian Flag in honor of our visit, through to Noreen and her daughter Linda who work in the golf shop. They were great in helping Gary choose which jumper goes best with his complexion!

Noreen’s husband Liam was the old professional prior to their son Brian taking over. Liam holds a special place in Waterville’s history with the course record of 65 that included 2 putts on every green except the 345m par 416th where he holed his tee shot for an albatross 1. Amazing!

Our playing partner for the day was Kerry, a fellow lover of golf visiting from Kansas City in the USA and combining business with pleasure (a bit like us). After some initial difficulty we soon got used to each others accents.

Waterville’s logo features a hare and the reason became apparent as we played the course. Hares ran from all different directions and added an extra element of interest to the round.

Coming to the end of our Links4032 trip we have realized how much walking we have done (around 400km) and have been very thankful for the ECCO shoes which have made the walk and the rounds pain free. Having comfortable feet is essential and we have had no issues in this regard thanks to our footwear!

We would strongly recommend you play Waterville if coming to Ireland. It is fair, fun and friendly – a good combination.

Shot of the day

After a slow start Gary came to the 6th needing something special. A long par 3 into the wind Gary’s 4 iron hit the green and the 20 foot birdie helped his cause en route to a solid round of 36 points.

Overall birdie tally

Gary (3 birdies, cumulative 48)
David (0 birdies, cumulative 17)

A long and winding 3 hour drive to Old Head awaited us after our lunch at Waterville. Average speed on Irish roads? 49km per hour. These roads are challenging with bushes lining the side of the road literally on the road itself. Beware a truck coming in the opposite direction. Stay tuned,,,,

By golfselect

Tralee – like Arnie, a back 9 wonder

Gary and Dave with our playing partner for the day – some guy called Arnold

Saying goodbye to our new friends Aoife, Seamus and Dermot at Teac de Broc we headed 45 minutes away to Tralee – an Arnold Palmer hidden gem.

Tralee is a relatively new golf course having been established in the 80’s with a design by Arnold Palmer. A life size bronze statue of the man sits overlooking the course near the 18th green.

Along the way we tuned into the local news. Must have been a slow news day because we got everything from some world news through to death notices (yes – including address and where the funeral was being held) and flight cancellations (for the record the Aer Lingus 12:30pm flight from Shannon to Boston was cancelled – lucky we weren’t playing golf in the US in the afternoon).

We were fortunate to get onto Tralee as today was Captains day where all the golf club captains in the County Kerry region congregated for an annual match. We pretended to look “captainly” and no one knew the difference!

We felt a little bit at home with the girl from the golf shop as she has recently returned from 9 months work in Australia. No points for guessing where she worked – Melbourne of course, the worlds “most livable city”.

The course starts gently but does not really get going until the 10th. The back nine at Tralee is awe inspiring and amongst our favourite nines on our whole trip.

On the back nine we were confronted with spectacular vistas, dramatic carries over 30 metre deep ravines and holes that ranged in length, requiring us to use most clubs in our bags.

Our favorite holes were numerous but the standouts was the par 3 13th.

The 13th can be summarized in one word – Wow! A par 3 where hitting the sliver of a green perched into the side of a 60 metre sand dune is the only option to guarantee your par. The sense of scale has to be seen to be believed here. Miss the green short (as Gary did) and you are faced with a chip back up to a green off a 70 degree slope. Keeping your balance is the main challenge.

We have come to the conclusion that everyone plays golf in Ireland. After our game and prior to the 2 hour drive to Waterville we had a quick bite to eat at a local pub – O’Donnells.

Our waitress could see we were golfers (scorecards in hand and pencils busily scratching notes on what we could have done better!) and started telling us all about Tralee Golf Club. This girl knew what she was talking about and plays off a low single figure handicap. Next to us was a friendly farmer and his wife who were also members of Tralee.

The only other note from today was to comment for the record that we saw 2 rams and 3 turkeys en route to Waterville.

We arrived at Brookhaven House around 10pm where our host Mary greeted us and started talking to us like we were old friends! We love Ireland and the people in particular.

Shot of the day

The 18th is a mid length par 5 playing back to the clubhouse. David hit a drive into the left rough but then blasted a hybrid onto the green to 20 feet. His eagle putt came up 5 inches short for a tap in birdie – his second of the day.

Overall birdie tally

Gary (0 birdies, cumulative 45)
David (2 birdies, cumulative 17)

Waterville awaits tomorrow – a beautiful top 100 course located in the south west of Ireland. Stay tuned….

By golfselect

Ballybunion – a tale of two Toms

After a solid 6.5 hours sleep at Teach de Broc we headed for the much anticipated Old Course at Ballybunion – a course 120 years old and firmly planted in the top 20 courses in the world.

After checking in with Maurice the caddie master (to be honest we expected a caddie master called Paddy or Seamus or Dermot) we organised a forecaddie (someone who gives us lines off the tee and reads putts rather than carry our bags).

Tom is the oldest caddy at Ballybunion at over 70 years of age he has an expertise and knowledge about the course second to none. He now “only” carries one bag a round rather than the two he routinely strolled around with up until 2 years ago. His broad Irish accent was hard to understand but added to the charm of playing in the drizzly rain that we were faced with for a number of holes.

Ballybunion opens with an ominous sight. A graveyard sits to the right of the tee waiting for a slicer depositing their first shot of the day. The left to right wind did not help our thought process but thankfully we negotiated the first drive and we were away. The 2nd hole bears the teeth of Ballybunion with a 400 metre par 4 playing uphill through a narrow opening to a green perched on top of the hill. Tough for the number 1 index hole to come so early in the round.

The course really gets going from the 7th and as you finish the front nine you are in anticipation of the back nine that everyone speaks so highly about. The other Tom of Ballybunion – Tom Watson (5 time Open champion) loves Ballybunion and was made an honorary life member a number of years ago.

The back nine is routed through the high sand dunes with ocean views on all holes. The 11th hole is special – a par 4 playing alongside the ocean heading downward to the hole. A series of plateaus form the tiered landing area before an approach through the dunes to a green perfectly positioned alongside the water.

Back to back par 3’s on 14 and 15 require precision shots with different clubs – 8 iron on the 14th and driver on the 15th. The course then heads inland with a wonderful par 5 that is reachable for two with a good drive and hybrid. It again plays through the dunes that Ballybunion is renowned for.

The course was in very good condition with greens being receptive to approach shots. In fact it was the first time we remember repairing pitch marks on the greens.

With the course being absolute ocean front and battered by the Atlantic Ocean (especially in Winter) coastal erosion is a ever present threat. A rock wall which commenced building in 1975 protects the course from falling into the ocean. Tom recounted a story about the old 7th hole where the original green fell into the ocean many years ago.

We were playing 36 holes today (on the Old and Cashen courses) and after our round on the Old met with Vari (the general manager) and had a good chat. She explained the impact the GFC has had on international visitation and we noticed that, although the course was busy, it was not at the heady levels of 2008.

The Cashen course, located alongside the Old, is a Robert Trent-Jones Senior design. It is more visually dramatic than the Old and has some sensational holes (great for a photographer also).

Our second round finished at 7:30pm and after a lovely meal in the clubhouse (beef and guinness stew for David and Atlantic Salmon for Gary) Gary then headed out to take some photos salivating at the picture perfect scene before him.

Shot of the Day

The 17th hole is a sweeping dog leg left par 4. With David struggling off the back of the green for 5 and needing to do something special he produced the shot of the day with a magical chip into the hole for a point.

Overall birdie tally

Gary (2 birdies, cumulative 43)
David (1 birdie, cumulative 15)

A welcome sleep in tomorrow with a late tee time at Tralee, an Arnold Palmer course 40 minutes further south. The finish line is in site and it is all catching up on us – lack of sleep, body soreness, travel, packing/unpacking but we are still loving it. Stay tuned…

By golfselect