“The Links” is now on it’s way. The scheduled changed slightly and the first club to visit was Ballybunion Golf Club in County Kerry on the south west coast of Ireland. The course played was the stunning Old Course that has been there for more then 100 years.
Tom Watson once said the following about the Old Course - "one of the best and most beautiful tests of links golf anywhere in the world". I totally agree with him and the feeling to be there is just majestic. Beautiful fairways tumbling down through the grass covered sand dunes – it’s hard to beat it and I certainly understand why the Old Course is consistently rated among the top courses in the world.
Arrived way to early at the club, hit a few balls on the driving range and as well some chipping. Very eager to get going and hit the first ball off the first tee.
Got a very warm welcome at the club and got introduced to my two playing partners, Michael Alford and Melvin Helmes. Michael is an overseas member at Ballybunion since 20 years and Melvin is a member at the Hillside Golf Club outside of Liverpool. Kenneth Mannix was my excellent caddie.
On first tee, not nervous but pumped up and the adrenalin was flowing.
The driver in my hand and POW, a good distance fade in the semi rough. Good recovery iron followed by a chip and two put - a bogy 5, which is OK. During the first 9 holes, I was struggling with the driver and the putter. Got excellent advice all the time by the caddie, but I didn’t execute. Must have been taken by the moment and of course, the course in itself. The first 5 holes are not that difficult, but the greens are tricky to stick the ball on. The score ended up at 43 shots for the first nine holes, which I wasn’t that happy about.
The back nine became a different story and I started to find the fairways and greens. The short game suddenly became rather good. The long irons worked extremely well and I found the rhythm. Par, par, par, par, birdie, par, par, bogy and bogy for a 36. A total of 79 (score card image at the end of this article) at the Old Course – I’m very satisfied. Life is wonderful……
A solid par on the signature 11th hole – fantastic feeling and it’ll be hard to find a more beautiful hole then this. One of the best par 4’s you will play anywhere! You need to aim the tee shot down the boundary line on the right hand side and fly your second shot all the way to the green, so make sure to take enough club to get up on green – yes, the wind will make it even more of a challenge.
We played from the back tee on the 17th hole, a stunning hole with the tee box on the highest point of the course. Solid drive aiming straight for the ocean, long iron a little short and a three put for a bogy – OK.
The shot of the day was though at the 15th 206 yards par 3. A 3 iron hitting the fringe on the front green and bounced about 10 meters to the right of the green and below it. My 58 degree wedge and a magical Phil Mickelson “right up in the air” shot set me up for a 10 cm tap in for a par – magic.
Playing the 18th hole up towards the clubhouse is moving the emotions and I certainly felt the soul of the Old Course grabbing my heart.
The Old Course certainly is links golf at it’s best and the experience was fantastic.
My playing partners, Michael and Melvin, made it even more special and I really enjoyed their relaxed company – much appreciated. Kenny, my caddie, was excellent and certainly helped me to get a good score. If I would have listened more to him on the front nine, the score would have been even better.
An outstanding first experience on my journey.
Many Thanks to Vari McGreevey and Brian O’Callaghan at the Ballybunion Golf Club for their hospitality.
GREAT THINGS ABOUT GOLF
A LINKS COURSE AT DUSK OR DAWN
The tee is empty, the slightest hint of breeze carries the call of a skylark and the smell of gorse as the sun’s first, or last, rays gently warm your back. Nobody in front or behind. This is golf as it should be: natural, uncomplicated and unhurried.
Ballybunion Old Course