The Island Golf Club
|White M: 74.0/120 W: 76.0/120||397||362||394||356||339||299||412||278||153||2990||489||396||407||192||337||515||174||391||421||3322||6312|
|Green M: 72.0/118||384||335||378||346||317||276||401||268||145||2850||474||371||363||195||318||479||160||369||383||3112||5962|
|Red W: 72.0/120||368||299||365||334||300||274||352||253||130||2675||455||298||290||186||271||425||125||314||405||2769||5444|
Unpretentious but Super Course
After the excitement of Old Head, our next course was always going to be under the pump to deliver so it was up to Waterville, one of the oldest Irish clubs having been founded in 1889. It was tweaked in a major renovation by Tom Fazio around 2002 and is a tough test if golf. The late great Payne Stewart was Honorary Captain the year he passed away and Waterville has often been used by players such as Tiger Woods, Mark O'Meara, Ernie Els and others as somewhere to get ready for the Open Championship.
It's a links course in the truest sense with the course right in the bay. It was a very solid wind that greeted us on the first and we also copped a couple of holes of showers mid round but nothing more than that.
Waterville is very fair with the only blind shots the ones caused by yourself for playing to the wrong part of the fairway. She lays out clearly in front of you what is required and then leaves it up to you. When you play these courses, do yourself a favour and occasionally walk back to the back tees and see the difference it makes against the members tees. 7378 yards versus 6810 yards here.
The par fours here are as strong as any we have played and are the key to good scoring. A lot of the longer 400-440 yards were into the wind and uphill which made them very hard and our short games were given a fair working over. The putting surfaces played beautifully if a little slow and had some sneaky borrow in them as well.
The par 3 fourth is a terrific short hole into a strong wind that has you guessing which club to play and Fazio's two new holes, 6&7, are superb. Another characteristic of Waterville is the ability to play it in a number of ways. The traditional Australian or US golfer will look to hit the ball high and land on the green or fairway whereas I find a course like Waterville much more receptive to the lower running shot that is less likely to be affected by the wind. Each to his own in that one but I'm right!
The back nine starts with a tough par four but I think the last three that run across the top of the dunes along the beach back toward the clubhouse that are best. The 16th is known as Liam's Ace as this is the 386 yard hole aced by club pro Liam Higgins in his way to a course record 65. Yes that's 386 yards folks. We actually met Liam after the round and he wouldn't be 70kg wringing wet so go figure.
Seventeen is an exposed par three with tabletop green and eighteen a longish five that winds all the way back to the clubhouse.
Waterville proudly holds a position in the top 100 courses in the world and it isn't hard to see why.
The Hidden Gem of Ireland
The Island is not a course that immediately jumps into people's minds when talk of Irish links courses arises but given its location and topography it should be one of the first.
There are several things about this track different to other links courses. The front nine has eight consecutive par 4's to start followed by a par 3. The back nine is a more conventional par 36 with the traditional two par 3's & 5's and the rest 4's. The most interesting point though is the lack of bunkers. Not sure how many in total are on the course but there are only eight bunkered holes on the entire 18. This means the course terrain plus the elements are the defences.
The front nine is more difficult than the back as the back is laid out more clearly and is more a what you see is what you get layout. The front nine incorporates some soaring dunes that you play between with the propensity of a lot of blind shots if you stray to the wrong side of the fairway. Unfortunately about half of the greens had been renovated which made putting very difficult and speed judgement critical.
Additionally we were greeted with both wind and rain and, coupled with a really tough opening hole, made for a challenging start. It doesn't get any easier really as all fours present their own defences. The eighth requires local knowledge (read caddy or course guide) to know where the fairway runs out and the ninth is a nice 3. The tenth presents the first par 5 for the day but 15 is the better of the two by far. The thirteenth is my pick of the 3's and requires carry all the way to the green and is followed by 14 which has a dead straight fairway only twenty metres wide it's full length with the beach on the right and rough all down the 337 metre left hand side. The finishing hole is tough as nails playing back into the wind and only reachable in two by the longest hitters.
To give you an idea of the difficulty, the best score amongst our group of ten was 32 Stableford points then 27,25,24,24 & 22. It's the type of course you will play better after 2-3 rounds once you have sorted lines and carries out. In the first outing I would strongly recommend a caddy or at the very least a course guide.
The Island is a delightful find amongst the better known links courses of Ireland but this little beauty can hold its own in this company. The course staff from the pro shop through to the F&B crew are fantastic and will bend over backward to accommodate you.
Great true links course
My son and I played the Island on our recent trip to Ireland for Easter. The staff was very helpful and treated us as if we were club members. The course was in great shape, the greens were hard and fast. It was an extremely cold and windy day when we played which added to the experience of playing a true links course. The clubhouse food and draught cider were a great way to finish play at the Island. I will definitely be back on my next trip to Ireland.