To reach most of the top links golf courses in Ireland requires hours of driving on one and two lane, isolated roads to reach the promised land, and Old Head Golf Links was no exception. Once there, Old Head Golf Links is anything but normal links golf, and may be one of the more unique experiences in golf. Having played most of the links courses in The UK and Ireland, we found Old Head to be the most spectacular setting by far, even putting Pebble Beach in a distant second place. The routing though, is essentially an American style (Ron Kirby-former Nicklaus associate, and Eddie Hackett) wide open, links-style of layout, planted on top of Old Head, a cliff-top island 300 feet above the Atlantic off the southern coast of County Cork, Ireland, and hour south of the city of Cork.
The course has wide open fairways, conventional sand traps, and generally large, sloped, and undulating greens complexes. For the most part it’s a pedestrian routing with a few blind tee shots, but the holes routed along the cliffs are the highlight, and unmatched anywhere. Conditioning was excellent, and the greens were without a doubt the best we played on all week. We had the good fortune to play twice, the first day without wind under partly cloudy skies, the second in bright sunshine with 15 mph wind, both said to be anomalies at Old Head. In fact when we checked in at the first tee, we asked the Paddy, the starter, what the record was on Old Head, without hesitation he said “one day without rain!”
There’s high end accommodations available on the level below the clubhouse, very upscale, and pricey, we elected to stay in town at the Carlton Kinsale, a “Hilton” type Ireland chain, an updated and modern property in a very scenic setting on the outskirts of Kinsale. For dinner, we’d read from numerous reviews the recommendations of Fishy Fishy, and were not disappointed, although there appeared to be numerous upscale restaurants in the small sailing village of Kinsale.
Old Head was a fitting cap to our trip to the southwest, it is not to be missed, but only for the spectacular setting.