Alan Hedley takes a trip to the Emerald Isle and finds some great places to play and stay
Ballyferriter occupies a remote but very special and historic corner of Kerry.
The scenery is breathtaking – Sybil Head, Brandon Mountain, the Blasket Islands, Slea Head, the Pilgrims’ Way – are all very special ingredients in a unique and dramatic landscape.
And in it sits a golf course. Not just an ordinary golf course, because this is the most westerly track in Ireland, and therefore Europe.
Brexit matters not because golfers will still play golf and they will still make the journey to Ballyferriter to play Dingle Links, a course as beautiful as its setting.
Each hole sits in the natural landscape of one of the most unspoiled parts of Ireland and it’s probably to only links course where all 18 greens can be seen from the clubhouse.
What can also be seen is a winding burn that twists and turns through the course and which I was able to view at very close quarters more than once.
This is real links golf. Every hole is full of undulations and swales and the magnificent panorama of Dingle Peninsula is on view with small secluded inlets, hills and mountains and the great Blasket Islands out in the wild Atlantic.
If I had to pick out one hole on this 6,680-yard layout, it would be the ninth, where a good drive over the burn is needed to set up a long iron (or more) to a wicked raised green. Watch out for the par threes – the second is 227 yards, the fifth 202 yards (alongside water), the ninth is 197 yards (with out of bounds left) and only the 12th is relatively short at 161 yards.
Beaufort’s parkland course is a complete contrast, nestled among 200-year-old trees, the ruins of a 15th Century castle, lakes and rolling meadows, and surrounded by the MacGillycuddy Reeks. There has been significant upgrading to Beaufort recently, including the addition of lakes, fairway bunkers, irrigation and mounds.
Seven miles from Killarney, Beaufort sits at the base of Ireland’s highest mountain, Carrauntoohil, part of the MacGillycuddy’s Reeks and at 7,004 yards off the back, it isn’t short.
The front nine holes are relatively secluded and amble between mature trees and gorse on generous undulating fairways with the pick of them the 187 yard par three eighth, where the tee shot is played from a small copse to a well-protected green.
The back nine is good for scoring if you avoid the big bunkers and judge the pace on the multi-tiered greens, with the par five 12th an excellent hole wending its way along a shaded valley, while a real feature is the ruins of Castle Core.
Another feature is the excellent, welcoming clubhouse, restaurant and golf shop managed by Helen Clifford.
Killarney captures everything you would want from your golf club – wonderful lake and mountain views make for a spectacular backdrop to one of the world’s most renowned golf courses.
The lake views on the first four holes of the Killeen course will almost make you forget how dangerous they are, and there is the spectacular par three 10th virtually playing on to the lake.
It is long at 7,000 yards but there are three tees on each hole so it is eminently playable, as is the second course, Mahony’s Point, which has a truly spectacular finishing hole that more than matches the closing stretch and the 18th on the Killeen.
There is also a third course, Lackabane, which hosted the Irish Ladies Open Championship in 2002, and which is undergoing redevelopment.
There was just time on the way back to Dublin to take in nine holes at Killorglin – an 18 hole parkland course of just under 6,500 yards and what a welcome we were given.
The course is in the shadow of the majestic Macgillicuddy Reeks and on the other side it enjoys magnificent panoramic views of Dingle Bay and the Slieve Mish Range beyond.
This is a great driving course with excellent greens and an excellent deal on green fees – well worth a visit.