|The new golf course plays around the 19th-century ruin at Ballyheigue Castle Golf Club. (Brandon Tucker/GolfPublisher.com)|
TRALEE, Ireland - Golf courses in Ireland are generally divided into two groups: links and parkland.
But how about a "Castle Golf" subcategory? We North Americans can't get enough of old castle ruins that are seemingly on every corner in Europe like they were 7-Elevens. We're instantly drawn to the remains of these massive fortifications.
Golfers have one more reason to check out one in particular. A golf club that plays around an early-19th-century ruin: Ballyheigue Castle Golf Club near Tralee in County Kerry.
The Crosbie family, who owned the land since Elizabeth I awarded it to them in the 16th century, built the castle in 1812. A good portion of the castle was burned down by the IRA during the War of Independence, which spanned from 1918 to '21. The remains of it are said to be haunted. A paranormal experience was reported in the 1960s on the anniversary of the Danish Silver Raid that took place on these grounds in 1731.
The golf club isn't that old by a long shot, having been established in 1996. The course is squeezed onto pretty small acreage and is only nine holes. But it's plenty long and modern at 3,441 yards with large greens and bunkers. It's parkland in style, but sits just off the coast. It features a handful of sharp dogleg holes.
The fifth is a long par-5 with an almost 90-degree dogleg right with a stone wall and burn running along the edge that swallows up shots hit left. It's one of two long and tricky par-5s, with the seventh playing back toward a green in the shadows of the castle.
The eighth and ninth stand out in particular as you walk along an old stone wall to cross over to the other side of the property that overlooks the sea. The eighth is a downhill par-3 with the best views of the sea on the course. The ninth is a short par-4 about 300 yards long playing up to the doorstep of the castle.
The remaining holes play around light trees and within stone walls that encircle the course.
True enough, if this castle weren't here, this little parkland would show up on few touring golfers' radars. It's located on the southwest coast of Ireland, in the land of links heavyweights such as Lahinch and Doonbeg. Ballybunion, Tralee and Waterville are south of Ballyheigue.
Ballyheigue Castle satisfies any player's itch to play golf at an old castle ruin, and that's about it. It's only €28 to play a full 18 holes on the nine-hole course. For golfers looking to squeeze in a quick nine on perhaps a travel day or simply wanting to try something a little different on their trip (without spending much cash), this is a serviceable option with a rolling layout, large greens and hole variety in a charming Irish village.
Tralee is a good-size town about 15 kilometers from Ballyheigue, which doesn't have a whole lot itself. You can find any number of hotels, guesthouses and B&Bs there in a vibrant city center. The four-star Brook Manor Lodge on the outskirts of town is a friendly, bright and modern guesthouse worth a look.
The pro shop is modest and serves light lunches, but you're better off walking into town to find one of many pubs or restaurants.
May 22, 2007
Brandon Tucker is the Managing Editor for Golf Channel Courses & Travel. To date, his golf travels have taken him to over two dozen countries and over 500 golf courses worldwide. While he's played some of the most prestigious courses in the world, Tucker's favorite way to play the game is on a great muni in under three hours.
Any opinions expressed above are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of the management.
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