It is now quite a long drive to Old Head near Kinsale on the south coast. The clifftop links are located on a spectacular promontory. More then half the holes feature greens and tees at the edge of 250 feet high cliffs. One of the many very photogenic holes is the 4th, 'Razor's Edge' which has cliffs all along the left and the lighthouse behind the green. I must confess to be a little nervous just walking on the pathway from tee to green at the par 3, 7th. The 10th and 11th are probably the least memorable but the12th has to be one of the most fearsome. The tee at this par 5 is right on the cliff edge (there are no ropes or fences anywhere) and you hit up a steep hill to a distant marker stone 214 yards away. You are then confronted with a wide fairway that narrows quickly before you reach the green with the cliff edge just feet away from the left side.
The 13th is a very difficult long par 3 and then there is the short par 4,15th which can be eagle, birdie, or lost ball. The 16th is the most exciting of the short holes. A thin pathway connects you to the green which has to be re-laid almost yearly because of wind and salt spray damage. The 17th is a very long par 5 but it plays downhill and to yet another cliff edge green. You then have the scary walk to the18th tee below the lighthouse. A strong drive is needed as you hit off over the foaming waters below.
From a golf course architecture aspect there are critics of Old Head. Considering that the land was formerly very barren and rocky then I think they have done something spectacular in building this course. Words can't really describe some of these amazing holes. You definitely should play Old Head at least once but avoid a windy day - and, it is rather expensive.
Photo - Old head -view from the 18th tee with the 17th green to the left (photo courtesy Gary Prendergast)
There are virtually no other links courses until Rosslare at the south east corner of Ireland. There are no dunes but the sea is uncomfortably close with part of the links temporarily submerged in 1990. Six of the par 4's are over 400 yards in length. I thought one of the best holes was the very short par 4, 13th. It is driveable at only 282 yards but anything right is OOB and the green is raised up with steep banks and two pot bunkers on the left. Holes 15 -17 are good par 4's which run beside the beach where a hook will put you in thick marram grass or possibly on the beach. The 18th is a bit different with trees and a stone wall acting as potential hazards. There aren't any spectacular holes but Rosslare is certainly worth playing if you are in this location.
We are now heading north along the east coast on the N11 to The European at Brittas Bay. But first, ten miles to the south of The European is the course at Arklow. Over the years they have lost some holes to the sea and encroaching industrial development. There are some good holes amongst the low dunes and the large greens are very good with interesting mounds and swales. Some of the best holes are the 2nd, 3rd, 6th and 15th.
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