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The Castlemartyr Resort includes an 18th-century manor house connected to a newer portion of the hotel that opened in 2007.
The Castlemartyr Resort includes an 18th-century manor house connected to a newer portion of the hotel that opened in 2007. (Courtesy of Castlemartyr Resort)

Castlemartyr Resort: A five-star golf retreat in County Cork, Ireland

Jason Scott DeeganBy Jason Scott Deegan,
Senior Staff Writer

CASTLEMARTYR, Co. Cork, Ireland -- To Trevor Norris, the golf course at Castlemartyr Resort is a baby, still growing up and brimming with potential.

He has nurtured Castlemartyr Golf Club, located 17 miles west of Cork in southern Ireland, from conception. He helped architect Ron Kirby lay all 6,790 yards of soil over a former sugar beet farm in 2006 for a celebrated opening in August 2007.

Kirby, who has worked for Jack Nicklaus, Dick Wilson, Gary Player and Robert Trent Jones Sr., became a megastar in Ireland after the opening of Old Head Golf Links in nearby Kinsale in the 1990s. Castlemartyr, one of Kirby's latest Irish treats, continues to mature into a fun resort course at the luxury five-star resort.

Castlemartyr Resort, once managed by Capella, is now part of the Dromoland Collection, which includes Dromoland Castle Hotel & Country Estate, one of Ireland's most authentic castles in Newmarket-On-Fergus in County Clare, just minutes from the Shannon Airport. Kirby helped redesign Dromoland Golf and Country Club in 2003 to rave reviews, earning it a ranking among the top 25 golf courses in Ireland by Golf Digest.

Guests can book golf vacation packages that include visits to both properties, affording an opportunity to experience two distinctly different regions of Ireland.

Much like its sister layout at Dromoland, Castlemartyr is often overlooked by club-wielding foreigners. Locals, however, love the course for its affordability and playability. Norris calls Castlemartyr a "hidden gem" that is "the best value" in the region.

"It's a special thing to be given a piece of land to sculpt with a legend in Ireland (like Kirby), and to have influences on the bunkers and such," Norris says. "This will be here long after me."

Norris is most proud of Castlemartyr's commitment to the environment. It was the first course in the United Kingdom, he says, to use "PermO2Pore," a soil amendment that helped the greens mature quickly and stay in top shape year-round.

Castlemartyr Resort's modern flair

As a resort, Castlemartyr combines centuries old with modern flair. A reported 90 million Euros were spent to renovate a 17th-century manor house and build a separate hotel wing over a two-year period before opening in 2007. Celebrities such as Beyonce and Jay Z have rested their heads here.

The resort's theme centers around the ruins of a 13th century castle originally owned by the Knights Templar, a Christian military order. The grounds are also home to an ancient chapel, which contains the tomb of the third Earl of Cork.

The hotel lobby and Bell Tower Restaurant reside within the original manor house, as does the stylish hangout called the Knight's Bar. The 11 manor-house state rooms and suites feature silk-lined walls, soft furnishings, LCD TVs, wireless Internet and touch panel controls that turn lights on and off and open and close window drapes. Rainforest showers highlight modern bathrooms. All rooms have views of a swan-filled lake.

The fine dining in the Garden Room is under the stewardship of Executive Chef Roger Olsson, a veteran of several Michelin-starred London restaurants. A patio behind the manor house is a perfect place to savor a sunset or take in a traditional afternoon tea among the formal gardens and walking paths. Reward yourself with an after-dinner jaunt down to the Knight's Bar to sample one of the best collections of Irish Whiskeys in the land.

Ninety-eight more contemporary guest rooms and suites reside in the new wing, as does the bravura glass enclosed spa and fitness center and several pools. A separate entrance leads to the Capel Suite, a glass-enclosed banquet hall that can entertain up to 180 guests.

The golf clubhouse, added in 2008, is meant to be "futuristic," Norris says. Vibrant greens and uniquely shaped furniture decorate its upstairs bar and restaurant. A wall of glass overlooking the 18th green appears to be a giant flat-screen TV to players walking up the fairway. One cool touch inside allows players to leave a signed golf ball to be displayed in the glass-enclosed bar as a sort of hall of fame for those who hit memorable shots or post career-low scores. The bold clubhouse design is unique, but some believe it doesn't fit such a tradition-rich game.

"You either love it or hate it," Norris admits. "It's totally different than what's out there."

Jason Scott Deegan has reviewed more than 700 courses and golf destinations for some of the industry's biggest publications. His work has been honored by the Golf Writer's Association of America and the Michigan Press Association. Follow him on Twitter at @WorldGolfer.

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

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