When one thinks of golf in Ireland, inevitably Ballybunion comes to mind- and certainly no trip to Ireland should be contemplated without a visit to the Old course at Ballybunion.
Founded in 1893, the course was unknown until a remodelling by Tom Simpson prior to the 1937 Irish Championships.
When Tom Watson in his heyday (1981) fell in love with the Old Course at Ballybunion and told the world about it- it helped lift Ballybunion's profile to the stage to where it now sits- as an icon of Irish and links golf.
The town of Ballybunion is located on the west coast of Ireland facing the Atlantic Ocean. It is blessed with a stretch of towering dunes that are home to both the Old Course, and it's younger sister - the Cashen (designed by Robert Trent Jones).
But it is the old course you should come to play.
The first 6 holes play basically inland along the road, around the cemetery, and past a house.
In my opinion these are good golf holes, but they lack the visual impact of latter holes which journey though a vast dunescape with The Atlantic Ocean just a slice away...
When a golfer gets to hole 7 and heads back down along the coast the thrill factor goes up a notch or two.
Almost every hole from 7 to 17 has something to commend it. It is hard to pick out favourite holes- they are all so good and they are all so different!
Perhaps the par 4 eleventh is 'the signature hole', but for me the whole back nine is just sensational.
Perhaps the exception is the 18th hole which is decent, but a bit of an anti climax after all the excitement preceding it.
One of the highlights is hole eleven, which is just a hoot to play!
It has a tiered fairway- crack a drive straight and watch it bound down the tiers!
You are then confronted with an approach through an opening in towering dunes- it's great fun.
Equally good in my opinion are the magnificent par 3's including the back to back 14th & 15th holes.
Hole 15 can require a driver to reach what is a challenging green. It's a tough hole!
I also love the par 5 16th with it's "bite off more than you can chew" type tee shot and I think the elevated tee shot back toward the sea on the delightful short par 4 seventeenth hole is just exhilarating...
Notable holes include:
- hole 1, a par 4 with a graveyard in play!
- hole 7, a strong par 4 along the cliffs
- hole 8, a delightful shorter par 3 in the dunes
- hole 11, the 'signature hole' a rollicking par 4 down the coastline
- hole 15, a long and demanding par 3
- hole 16, a unique par 5 that turns away from the sea and through the dunes
- hole 17, a dogleg par 4 from an elevated tee to a green on the beach
Ballybunion is great fun.
Don't miss the opportunity to play it, and if you do head there stay across the road at Teach de Broch- it's a nice play to stay, and convenient to the practice facilities and both courses
To be sure!
Ballybunion- Old Course is a Travelling Golfer must play!
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