BALLYBUNION, County Kerry, Ireland -- Perhaps nowhere else in the world can you stand next to a cemetery and feel so alive. Golfers on the first tee of the Old Course at Ballybunion Golf Club must avoid that famous cemetery on the right to kick off their round.
It's probably a bit unfair to think of the first five holes at Ballybunion as a mere warm-up, although that's essentially what the beginning stretch feels like until the dunes and Atlantic Ocean take over the senses. From the sixth hole on, towering sand dunes dictate the lines of play on this 6,802-yard, par-71 links dating to 1893.
Four rousing holes (nos. 7, 11, 16 and 17) romp directly along the ocean. Just when golfers think they've got it easy -- the downwind, 133-yard 14th hole is a mere half-wedge -- Ballybunion Old bites back with a rip-it driver into the gale to reach the 15th green, the end of a 216-yard, par-3 maze through the dunes.
Links golf just doesn't get any better than this.