Tom Watson is one of the greatest links golfers of all time. A five-time Open champion, Watson first visited Ballybunion in 1981 following an article by legendary American writer Herbert Warren Wind. In it he ranked Ballybunion in the top 10 tracks in the world, saying, ?It?s one of the finest seaside courses I?ve ever seen.? Watson has visited as often as he can since and was Ballybunion?s Millennium captain.
The first attempt to form a club at Ballybunion was unsuccessful. After a founders? meeting in 1893, 12 greens were laid out on the links but the club suffered financial difficulties and lapsed in 1898. It was not until 1906 that it reformed and it was 1926 before plans were drawn up to extend the course to a full 18. There have been alterations since, most recently by Tom Watson. In 1995 he updated the links, ?a facelift for the century-old lady?.
Over the years Ballybunion has been the venue for many notable competitions, including the Palmer Cup, the Irish Professional Championship and even a visit from the World of Golf TV series in 1970. In 2000 the course hosted the Irish Open, with Sweden?s Patrik Sjöland holding off home favourite Paul McGinley to take the title.
The course is a rugged and natural links of the highest quality. The narrow fairways, which are flanked by impressive dunes, are riddled with contours and undulations. Approach shots must be precise to find the small targets and if you make it to the green in regulation your work is far from over.
Clinging to the Atlantic coast the wind is, of course, a factor. On a blustery day the challenge can be severe. The 11th hole deserves a special mention as one of the greatest par 4s in the world. From the tee, the waves of the Atlantic crash onto the shore to your right while huge sand hills lurk on the left. The fairway descends in tiers until it reaches a plateau green overlooking the water. It?s simply stunning.
Co Kerry, Ireland
T: 00353 68 27146
STATS: par 71, SSS 70, 6,654 yards
GM TOP 120 RANKING: 6