After the second round at Old Head we traveled north to Killarney for a 3 night stay at the Woodlawn House. Very pleasant B&B with large rooms and close proximity to downtown. Rutman and I made a mad dash to Laurels Pub to have our drink with Carole Brown. Great story about Carole but better off you discover it for yourself. If you're ever in Killarney, visit Laurels and ask to have a drink with her.
We shoved off early Friday morning for 36 at Tralee which was approx. 1 hour drive north. Tralee Golf Club was founded in 1896 and moved to it's current location and Arnold Palmer design in 1984. Situated on the Barrow Pennisula it's an ideal setting for classic links golf. Surronded on 3 sides by water and beautiful beaches, you find yourself hypnotized and in need of a quick head shake to get your mind back on the game. In Mr. Palmer's words... "I designed the first nine but surely God designed the back nine"
Nicky Six on the par 3 3rd hole
The front nine starts with a gentle introduction on holes 1 and 2 to our first links golf. But, upon reaching the third hole, you're quickly reminded that wind and coastlines are going to be a prominent part of this trip. After a quick turn back inland for #'s 4 and 5, you reach Palmer's favorite 3 hole stretch of 6,7,8. The par 4 6th has such dramitic undulations in the fairway I was unable to see over them and told Nick, it looked like an elephant burial ground. My favorite hole on the opening nine, #8 begs you to cut a big chunk off Barrow Harbor but into the wind your landing area is about 15 paces wide. On your walk up the 9th fairway, a relativley straight forward par 5 birdie chance, you've no idea what awaits you on the back side.
While playing the front nine, you're insulated from any clear views of the back but after passing the clubhouse and arriving on the 10th tee, you understand why this is considered one of the best closing nines anywhere and we had not even played it. My jaw litterally dropped when I got the first glances the dunes and elevation changes. Palmer gently eases you down the 10th until reaching the green and you feel like you're on a different planet. Moving to the 11th "Palmers Peak" you climb up to hopefully what's your 3rd shot and reach the highest spot on the course. On to the 12th to which our friend Matty G. said "you haven't lived until you've this approach shot" Standing at the bottom of the fairway looking over the "Chasm" to a green that somehow clings to the side of a 90 foot sand dune, you realize there is no bail out. The short par 3 13th is all carry over the backside of the same dune...again... no safe options, pick a stick and swing it. After a brief calm, if you call it that, on the split fairway 14th you reach the most visually pleasing stretch of holes 15, 16, 17. The 15th is the shortest par 4 and according to index the 2nd easiest hole but it ate my lunch on both rounds. #16 is one of my favorite par 3's on the trip. If you're lucky enough to hit the green and choose to avoid the path taking the more direct route to the green, I suggest straping on the crampons or pray you have some billy goat genes. The 17th ranks as my favorite hole on the backside. A short par 4 that requires an accurate drive to setup a short iron approach that's played to a severly elevated green with trouble everywhere. I pumped 3 wood over the right hand fairway bunker and found the small sliver of fairway 120 yards out which sounds good on paper but you're left shaking in your spikes when contemplating the next shot. 18 is a good hole finishing towards the clubhouse but after spending the last 2 hours in utter amazement, your thoughts are not so much about finishing strong but left remembering how special the back nine at Tralee really is.
#12 "Chasm" Matty G wasn't joking about this little gem
Rutman on #13 tee, nice pegs.
#17 tee. Fisher, RP, Kissick, Chris