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Christy O'Connor Jr. made great use of the natural features on the New Course at Headfort.
Christy O'Connor Jr. made great use of the natural features on the New Course at Headfort. (Mike Bailey/TravelGolf)

An unexpected journey: Headfort Golf Club's New Course, a premium parkland near Dublin, Ireland

Mike BaileyBy Mike Bailey,
Senior Staff Writer

COUNTY MEATH, Ireland -- When you think of Irish golf, links golf comes to mind, but the Emerald Isle has its fair share of parkland courses, such as the New Course at Headfort Golf Club, just outside of Dublin.

The New Course, which opened in 2000, isn't just your run-of-the-mill parkland course, though.

After decades of Headfort having just 18 holes (now called the Old Course), the decision was made to utilize a unique piece of land adjacent to the club. There are streams and natural lakes and ponds, wetlands and mature pines and oaks that seem to form natural golf holes, especially the par 3s.

When Christy O'Connor Jr. was hired for the job, he was careful not to disturb the natural land. So much so, in fact, that very little earth was moved, essentially leaving a bird and wildlife sanctuary.

The former Ryder Cupper said it was the finest piece of land he ever worked with and that the venue could host an Irish Open.

At a glance: Headfort New Course

From the back tees, the New Course at Headfort Golf Club plays 7,125 yards. That, alone, probably makes it a championship venue, but the sum of individual holes hardly tells the story.

The course starts out with a dogleg-left, 440-yard par 4 that plays uphill on the approach. This sets the tone early that the New Course at Headfort, even from the shorter member tees, is a formidable opponent.

And those member tees, by the way, are only 6,300 yards, but because of the elevation change, heavy air and some forced carries -- especially on the par 3s -- solid ball striking is a must.

The New Course has many memorable holes, but the par 3s stand out, primarily because they're difficult and varied. They often feature forced carries over marshes and ponds, such as the 200-yard seventh or the 17th, which features an island green.

The par 4s are no bargain either. The ninth and the 18th both have tee shots over wetlands (the ninth's approach is also over water). The 10th is a formidable dogleg right, and the 13th, which plays uphill, is the course's No. 1-handicap hole.

As for the par 5s, none are short enough to be easily reached in two, but they probably do represent the best birdie opportunities, particularly the 15th, the No. 15 handicap hole.

Headfort Golf Club's New Course: The verdict

The course is just part of the equation; the real experience is before and after the round in the clubhouse restaurant and bar. No round is complete without a Guinness or Murphy's afterwards, and the clubhouse, which sits above the Old Course, offers panoramic views of the property and plenty of great conversation from the members and locals.

Golf packages are also available with the award-winning Headfort Arms Hotel located in the Heritage town of Kells and only minutes away from the club.

But back to the course: The New Course is the perfect complement to the existing Old Course, which has been around since 1928. With four sets of tees, it accommodates most levels of play but probably is a little more geared toward the intermediate to advanced player.

Overall, however, it's a change-up from the great links golf courses in Ireland but not a letdown in any way.

Mike Bailey is a senior staff writer based in Houston. Focusing primarily on golf in the United States, Canada, the Caribbean and Latin America with an occasional trip to Europe and beyond, he contributes course reviews, travel stories and features as well as the occasional equipment review. An award-winning writer and past president of Texas Golf Writers Association, he has more than 25 years in the golf industry. Before accepting his current position in 2008, he was on staff at PGA Magazine, The Golfweek Group and AvidGolfer Magazine. Follow Mike on Twitter at @MikeBaileyGA and Instagram at @MikeStefanBailey.

Any opinions expressed above are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of the management.

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