Day 3: Waterville Golf Links Ring of Kerry
Early wake up call today (especially for Nick since he was locked out of the B&B but luckily Hank heard him yelling outside at 2:00am and let him in) so we could make the hour long drive to the far western reaches of the Ring of Kerry. The drive around Ring of Kerry is absolutely breath taking with lowland swamps transitioning to the huge hills sheep call home. As if there was any doubt another special day was in store, we caught a full rainbow over Ballingskelligs Bay.
The earliest records of golf in Waterville can be traced back to the late 1800's when workers built and manned the first transAtlantic cable stations connecting Europe and North America. The bulk of the course you see today was completed in 1973 after purchase by John Mulcahy and has undergone numerous changes since the latest of which under Tom Fazio's watchful eye. Waterville has special place in the hearts of some well known sticks; Woods, Els, O'Meara, Furyk, Appelby, Duval, Jansen all of which have used it as not only a tune up course for the British Open but also to satisfy their salmon fishing desires. Joining them every step of the way, the late Payne Stewart fell in love with the place and in return the locals adopted Payne as their own. He was awarded the Captaincy of Waterville the year of his death and since they've dedicated a Bronze statue in remembrance.
Having studied the history and golf at Waterville, I was really looking forward to teeing it up and she didn't disappoint. The weather was classic Ireland, mid 50's and rainy mist all day. Starting at the opening hole where you stare down a 430 yard par 4 complete with pot bunkers left and right and a green that appears 2 miles away, you know it's time to pull on the big-boy pants. Holes 2 and 3 are the best par 4 back-to-back combo we played. #2 "Christy's Choice" is a long par 4 with a tight tee shot that has to be hit solid in order to reach the green with your second shot. A long iron or hybrid is not the ideal club to attack a slanting, angling, juking green that look as if it was placed there with the sole purpose of deflecting approach shots. Somehow I managed to sneak it on in regulation and was enjoying my walk to the green along with the calming view of the inner bay sanctuary when I was suddenly interupted by Cooker sprinting (fast walk) back to the tee-box to rescue his abandon Bloody Mary. #3 is an incredible hole hugging the inner bay on the right side with a dog leg approach to a severly slanted back to front green. After starting with 3 consecutive pars, I knew something had to give and it surely did at the short par3 4th hole. For a hole that looks short enough that you could throw your egg from the tee box, it bit our whole group hard, complete with "four jacks" and "on again-off agains" we all doubled the hole. In an effort to erase the horrible memory, I forgot which hole but at one point on the front, Hank found himself greenside bunkered went totally spaz, I stopped counting the swipes at 9 and I'm sure he'd still be there if Fisher hadn't jumped in to stop the bleeding. After Kissick's All-County par on the intimidating 9th hole, we went 4 up in the match.
The backside sends you back out from the clubhouse for more abuse and beauty. #10 is a tight long par 4 that progressivly tightens to about 5 yards wide before the green, don't plan on running it up here. #11 "Tranquility" is a splendid par 5 that's reachable if you carry your drive over the plataeu where the first half of the fairway runs out. That's the easy part...carding bogey from the fairway 200 yds out takes some real work...errr some real hacking. #12 "Mass Hole" named for the hollow in front of the green where Catholics gathered way back when to hide from the haters. An intimidating tee shot of 185 yards that's all carry if not, you visit the "hole" at which point praying is the only option. The tee shot on #15 is blind so pick a house in the distance, swing it and hope you find it somewhere in the short grass. Made par here to close out our match. The final 3 holes at Waterville turn from the inner bay and run up along the ocean. #16 plays entirely up hill and upon reaching the fairway you have the first wonderful view of the ocean and get a little caught up in the moment until you realize the approach shot still awaits. O.B. right and major trouble everywhere else, this is an intimidating 2nd shot and most severly sloped green on the course. You're rewarded for hauling your sticks up the big climb to the 17th tee. The highest point on the course offers tremendous views and yet another 190 carry to a large sloped green. #18 ranks as my favorite closing hole on the trip, from the tee it looks something short of 800 yards down there and bunkers guard the drive, second and third shots. Walking down the fairway you hear the waves crashing the beach, look towards the clubhouse in a mist and realize this place is special and you're damn lucky to have expereinced it.
Approach to #2 with inner bay in background
9th hole from the tee box
9th hole from the tee box
12th hole "Mass"
View from 17th tee
18th O' Grady's Beach
RP, Kissick, Fisher, Hank (17th tee)