Ballybunion Golf Course, The Old Course – Ballybunion, Ireland, County Kerry
Of all the rounds of golf we have played during our travels around the world, the day we played the Old Course at Ballybunion was by far the worst weather experience.
If not for the fact that it was our only chance to play the course – no one in his or her right mind would have played golf this day. With sustained winds of 25 mph and gusting to over 50 mph, add in intermittent rain showers – it made a challenging golf round that much more “fun”! Yet, foursome after foursome followed like “Lemmings over a cliff”.
Ballybunion is considered one of the finest links courses in the world, however, its remote locale on the Irish southwest coast has prevented the course from being selected for many top championship events. Ballybunion was ranked by Golf Digest in 2005 as the seventh best course in the world outside the United States and continues to be among the top 100 courses in the world.
We played with another daring couple, Michael and Julie from Toledo, OH – and our Caddie, yet another Shane! It was Julie’s 50thbirthday that brought them to Ireland (her family heritage) but it was Michael’s love of golf that brought them to Ballybunion.
Because we were battling the weather for the entire round, it was difficult to focus on the beauty of the course itself, as much as we would have liked – but are thankful for the chance to have walked the course and experienced it’s majesty.
The first six holes played alongside Sandhill Road where many homes were visible – giving it a bit of a different feel from the previous coastal courses we played. On the first hole we play right past a small ancient cemetery which is very much in play (yes Liz landed in the middle of it – in which her ball still lays) with an abundance of Celtic crosses, so keep your drive left!
One of the most unique designs of this course is that your tee-shot for Hole 4 goes right over the green of Hole 3, and this similar feature happens again between Holes 5 and 4. It is a very odd visual seeing a flag directly in front of a tee-box!
After hole 6 the rest of the round is along the coast (lucky us, extra wind!) The course is tight and the natural grasses that make up the “rough” on these Links courses are high and thick – and are to be avoided – so hit em straight!
This is not a very forward friendly course and Liz had no chance for a hole-in-one or a birdie on most of the Par 3s as they were very long and mostly all carry.
Even in the greatest conditions, the last 3 holes will be challenging, as they are all narrow, uphill and dogleg lefts, with Hole 17 called Devils Elbow – if that does not tell it all!
Thanks again to our Caddy Shane, we appreciated his professionalism, friendliness, eagle-vision at finding “lost” balls and knowledge of the course – Shane, long with Michael and Julie helped to make the round enjoyable in spite of the weather.