Ballybunion Golf Club in the south west of Ireland regularly appears in golf magazine top ten world course lists. The fact that this is also a links style course makes its ranking especially surprising. The following introduction to the courses design should give you some insights to why it is such a great course.
In 1998, former president Bill Clinton visited Ballybunion for one sole reason – to play the Old Course at Ballybunion. Given how remote this little Irish town is the locals were genuinely amazed by having such an auspicious individual visit their golf course. But for golf aficionados, playing Ballybunion is right up there with playing St. Andrews in Scotland.
The Old Course was established in 1893 and its original design made best use of the dunes and undulations of this coastal stretch of land. Over the intervening time only minor redesigns have been made. An additional 18-hole course, the Cashen course, was built in 1984 and has bedded in quickly, but it is the Old Course that everyone wants to play for its dunes, dog-legs and blind tee shots.
The 1st hole eases you into the round with an ominous cemetery that marks the out of bounds along the right hand side of the fairway. The front nine is especially notable for the run of holes from the fourth to the sixth. Each plays in the same direction, directly into the prevailing Atlantic breeze which makes for an exhausting 1300 yard if the wind is strong.
The fourth hole, a par-5, has a great blind-shot from the fairway over a large dune. Luckily, there are course markers (large white stones) placed on the mounds to aid the placement of shots. The fifth is a rarity in golfing terms – a par 3 with a blind tee shot.
The back nine has an equally variable set of holes with most playing with the wind on your back. Throughout the course the drainage on the fairways and greens makes for an exceptionally fast surface. While you may welcome this on the fairways, it can make putting a real challenge.
The lush surrounding countryside and Atlantic Ocean views add to the memorable nature of this course and make it one course that you will wish to play again and again. Don’t forget to look out for the Bill Clinton statue in the village to commemorate his visit.