Stats: 6,810 yds, par 72, SSS 75
Visitor information: Visitors may play every day from red, green and white tees and the blues on 17
2008 Ranking: 9 (Up 1)
Improvements since 2008 Rankings:
Course: Rye grass removed throughout the course and over seeding with bent and fescue. Reduced Poa Annua on greens
Gallery: Waterville pictures
It would take superhuman powers of resistance for any golfer to look at this stunning aerial photo of Waterville Golf Links and not be champing at the bit to book a trip out west at the earliest available juncture. Not only is Waterville our westernmost Top 100 course, it is also really the youngest in our top 10, despite the date on the ballmarker to the right reading 1889. For although golf was played here back then, as those working to lay the first transatlantic communication cables converged on this remote corner of south-west Ireland, the club ceased to exist in the mid 20th century.
From then on its rise to worldwide prominence and acclaim has been nothing short of phenomenal, first through the efforts of Eddie Hackett, Claude Harmon and John Mulcahy, who set out to create the most demanding links course in the world in the 1970s, and secondly through Tom Fazio, brought in for a further upgrade in 2006. The fruits of their labours is an exceptional links, with arelative inaccessibility that only serves to enhance its romance.
The opening three par 4s skirt the course’s boundaries, providing a hint of the magical landscape to come if you glance to your left. This trio is more than sufficiently defended by length, before the 4th, a Fazio reworking, then brings the first real taste of the most rugged dunes, which are revisited at regular intervals from here to the end.
The 11th and 12th are as stirring a back-to-back par-5, par-3 combo as you’ll encounter anywhere… and then you reach the 16th. This 352-yard dogleg left arcs round at the far end of the headland, and you may or may not have heard of local pro Liam Higgins’ scarcely credible ace here. Admittedly it was 20 yards shorter pre-Fazio, but you’d think this was the stuff of exaggerated Irish legend when you stand on the tee, were it not for a plaque commemorating the feat. That, though, is the Waterville story – a seemingly exaggerated Irish legend that just happens to be true.
Quality of test and design: Almost regardless of which tees you choose, you’ll need your ‘A’ game to get round unscathed, such is the challenge of fairways threading through dunes and mighty par 4s like the 7th, 10th and 14th.
Presentation: As with Ballybunion, the local climate ensures an almost year-round greenness to the fairways, which look stunning against the wispier grasses of the adjacent dunes and mounds.
Visual appeal and enjoyment: Surrounded on three sides by water, the course has an island feel at times. Couple that with spectacular dunes, as can be seen here, and the location is hard to beat.
Ambience: The most out-on-a-limb course in our Top 10, Waterville lies in a remote corner of County Kerry and golf here has a real ‘get away from it all’ feel about it.
Panellists’ comments: “The quality of the test never really dips till you take off your spikes”; “Waterville’s location and backdrop can’t help but soothe the weariest of bones”