Starting with the clubhouse, which boasts a supremely friendly atmosphere, and is better equipped and more modern than you might think, Ballybunion offers the total package when it comes to a day’s golf. The practice facilities are excellent, with a large driving range just across the road from the clubhouse, and ample short game facilities on hand to allow you to get warmed up before heading to the 1st tee, and as we have already stated, the golf courses are superb.
The Old Course is perched in an idyllic position on the Shannon Estuary, offering not only a world class test of golf, but sweeping views of the rugged yet beautiful south west coast of Ireland. This is one of the world's best traditional links golf experiences and having been eased into the game through the 1st few holes, the course suddenly comes alive as you reach the 7th tee, just before you head into the awe-inspiring dunes that house the back nine.
The closing nine holes merely reflect the magnificent turf on which the Old Course has been laid out on; with fairways and green complexes following the lay of the land and testing the golfer to their limits, all the while traversing and being flanked by the ancient and enormous sand dunes that dominate the land.
At just 6,500 yards, the Old is not long, but there is a genuine premium placed on leaving your ball in the best place with the next shot in mind. Sometimes at Ballybunion, less is more and the golfing purists out there will love it. In fact five-time Open Championship winner Tom Watson, perhaps the most famous to endorse Ballybunion's undeniable quality, once said, "I am now of the opinion this is one of the best and most beautiful tests of links anywhere in the world."
Signature Hole – No. 16: Par 5, 509 yards (Blue Tees)
There are many holes at Ballybunion which could rightly claim to offer a “signature” experience but for a small snapshot of what the course offers on the whole, the 16th is the one. Teeing off within touching distance of the ocean, you must either be brave and cut the corner of the dogleg, which makes the green reachable in two for the longer hitter, or lay back safely, tuning the hole into a certain three-shotter.
From the corner of the dogleg, the hole turns inland and the fairway stretches uphill between two banks of enormous dunes. It’s all about accuracy from here and once on the green, golfers can turn and take in a magnificent ocean view before turning their attention back to the matter in hand...avoiding a dreaded three-putt!
This is a course for the golfing connoisseur, and fully justifies its position within the world's best 25 layouts.
|Opened for play
||Irish Open (2000)
The Old Course at Ballybunion was, needless to say, a tough act to follow so when additional land was purchased in 1971, it was clear an architect with a recognised track record of success was required. Robert Trent Jones Senior was the man chosen and his Cashen Course is proof enough that he was certainly up to the task.
The course opened for play in 1982, and perhaps because of the lofty reputation of the Old Course, it sometimes doesn’t get the credit it deserves. Set amongst even bigger dunes than those on the Old, the Cashen takes its place on a perfect patch of links land between the crashing Atlantic Ocean and the River Cashen.
Just like the old, the course simply follows the lay of the land and while it’s a few hundred yards shorter in length than its illustrious neighbour, many who’ve played both would suggest the Cashen is more difficult. If you get the chance to play both on your golf tour of the south west coast of Ireland, do so because since its inception in the early 80s, the Cashen has only served to build upon Ballybunion's deserved reputation as a must play for any golf aficionado.
Signature Hole – No. 15: Par 5, 487 yards (Blue Tees)
The 15th is a beautiful par 5 which, while not being long be any stretch of the imagination, is very demanding as it snakes its way between a myriad of massive dunes, before climbing towards the ocean and onto the elevated green. This hole is all about course management and requires straight hitting to make your score.
Due to the elevated green, which is well protected by the dunes and a dramatic false front, the prudent play is to lay up with your second shot and trust your pitching skills. Either way you choose to play the hole, the sheer drama on offer here adds lots of excitement.