Waterville Golf Links

Extraordinary dunes sandwiched on a peninsula between the Atlantic and the estuary of the River Inny, the 100-year-old links have been enhanced recently by some impressive alterations by Tom Fazio

Waterville has always been one of Ireland’s purest links. No wonder Tiger Woods, Payne Stewart, David Duval, Mark O’Meara et al used to make a point of playing here before The Open.

A ranking of number 4 in the Golf World Top 100 Golf Courses in Ireland and 13 in the Golf World Top 100 Golf Courses in the UK & Ireland for Waterville is truly deserved. A favourite with many panelists, this modern links on the south-west edge of Ireland continues to improve.

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Jack Mulcahy had a dream as big as his pockets were deep. The Irish-born American made his name and fortune across the pond and used a sizeable chunk of the latter buying Waterville House, its salmon- rich river feeding his angling ambitions.

While in residence, locals convinced Mulcahy that his fortune would be very wisely invested in the local golf course, an unloved, overgrown nine-hole a air that had lain dormant for a decade.

The American was already a member at Winged Foot and needed little convincing, seeing vast potential in a course that had been in existence in embryonic form since 1889. So he hired Ireland’s most celebrated links architect Eddie Hackett, and his friend Claude Harmon, the head professional at Winged Foot. Together, they collaborated to reinvent Waterville Golf Links.

Mulcahy’s vision was simple: to create the most testing links golf course in the world. When it reopened, in 1973, Sam Snead dubbed it “a magnificent monster”, while Raymond Floyd was not alone in describing it as “one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen.”

In the mid-1980s, Mulcahy sold Waterville to Jay Connolly, a highly decorated Vietnam vet and fellow Winged Foot member. He hired Tom Fazio to further renew the property.

Fazio made changes to 13 holes and, like Hackett, left the course in much better shape than he found it, to the point that it resides 13th in our most recent ranking of GB and Ireland courses. The most testing links on the planet? That’s open for debate. But one of its very nest? No question.

Three new tees have been constructed, on holes 6, 13 and 17, with the purpose of these changes being two-fold. To enhance the existing views from these tees and to increase the overall area to retain quality tee conditions for the whole year. 

All 94 of Waterville’s bunkers have also been renovated. This varied from the simple sand re-shaping or addition of fresh sand, to the complete re-contouring/rebuilding of the bunker. The work completed has enhanced the aesthetics and made them fairer and even more consistent to play from.

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On a nice day it is difficult to imagine a better links than Waterville. The scenery is sublime and the course is fair if you can hit it straight. It is the ultimate location. Totally enchanting, with distant mountains, rough seas, a river estuary, big dunes, and wild hares. 

This is a stunning course in the centre of a stunning natural environment - an amphitheatre on a huge scale. The stunning location may even overshadow the amazing course.

The holes tend to run from elevated tees down natural valleys as the layout cuts through the dunes rather than over them. 

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Over 100 years old, Waterville embarked on a new chapter of its fabled history when American architect Tom Fazio was commissioned to update the memorable Eddie Hackett masterpiece. “Everything about Waterville is truly spectacular -  the setting is one of the best I've ever seen for golf,'' said Fazio. 

Former Strictly Come Dancing judge Len Goodman said of Waterville: “I’ve had so many lovely times there and I love the course and the people who are so friendly and gentle. Every hole has an exotic name such as Heaven’s Highway…”

The clubhouse has recently seen the completion of a 3 phase renovation. This included a major reconfiguration of the front entrance, dining and bar area, locker rooms and new golf shop.

The restaurant and bar offers fresh seafood dishes along with the finest Irish cuisine by international chef, Rob O’Mahony. 

Whether you are dining or relaxing with a drink, the stunning view over the Waterville Golf links course and the ideal setting of Ballinskelligs Bay will most definitely not disappoint. 

 
 
Gemma Keepin