Old Head - Cork - Ireland

Old Head Golf Links,
Kinsale,
Cork,
Ireland


  • +353 (0) 21 477 8444

  • John Dwyer

  • Joe Carr and Ron Kirby

  • Danny Brassil


Visit Golfbreaks.com for a golf holiday at Old Head

A number of people were involved in the creation of Old Head Golf Links: Dr Joe Carr, Paddy Merrigan, Ron Kirby, the late Eddie Hackett, Liam Higgins and Haulie O'Shea. The course opened for play in 1997 and it's laid out on a narrow headland, jutting out for two miles into the Atlantic Ocean.

Old Head Golf Links has to be one of the world’s most exhilarating sites upon which golf is played. You feel as though you are on the edge of the world here at Old Head and if you suffer from vertigo, some of the tees might present a problem. Three hundred feet up, looking over the edge of the cliff, you will notice seagulls gliding below you. Atlantic waves crash onto the rocks, booming and echoing as they smash into the cave tunnels. It certainly takes your breath away.

Take some extra golf balls; you may well lose a few unless you are really on top of your game. There is little margin for error along the edges of the holes bordering the cliff-tops. The signs should be adhered to; they warn you off looking for balls for obvious reasons! Take note of the marker posts, or should we say “Stones of Accord” (the club’s logo) – they give you the right line for your tee shot.

Old Head really is a very special place indeed. The peninsular tells a lamentable tale, perhaps mourning the loss of life (many vessels sank in this vicinity). The Lusitania went down here too, in 1915, not because of the rocks, but courtesy of a German torpedo. Or perhaps it’s the spirits seeking peace from golf balls peppering their ancient burial ground at the approach to the 10th hole.

There are many memorable holes at Old Head, none more so than the 17th, called “Lighthouse”. It's a long par five requiring a bold second shot to the right-hand side of the fairway, anything left will leave a blind approach to the green that is nestled in a punchbowl on the edge of the cliffs. The 18th is a dramatic closing hole that should be played from the high back tee for maximum drama. Our favourite hole, is the do-or-die par five 12th – it’s one of the most outrageous holes in golf – whatever you do with your tee shot, don’t bite-off more than you can chew.

Anyway, we recommend that you dig deep and pay the green fee at least once. It’s unlikely you will play a more dramatic course anywhere in the world.
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Reviews for Old Head

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Old Head is without question one of the most scenic locations for golf on earth. The issue is whether the golf is as good as the scenery? To borrow a Texas expression -- Old Head is "all hat and no cattle" -- which equates to a course centered on the appearance than the actual substance.

When you first arrive at Old Head the views are nothing short of intoxicating -- most especially when the clouds have lifted and the sun glistens off the Atlantic Ocean.

The peninsula which Old Head is situated rests on 220 acres of land that juts out over two miles into the Atlantic with majestic views featuring unrelenting waves crashing against the rocks far below.

One of the misconceptions concerning Old Head is the usage of the word "Links" in its official title. Nothing could be further from the truth. In comparable ways -- Old Head is akin to how Pebble Beach describes itself -- a "Links." That doesn't mean to say the course doesn't play firm but it's not as firm as what you will find on a legitimate links course. The layout provides for five par-3 and par-5 holes respectively. The remaining eight holes are par-4's.

Unlike Pebble Beach - Old Head possesses too many holes defined as pedestrian. In straightforward terms -- they don't add to the totality of the site - just vanilla in terms of strategic elements. Those holes represent one-third of the course and includes such holes as the 1st, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th and 13th holes.

Just beyond the aforementioned holes are those I rate above average -- having elements of quality but not enough to be defined as especially memorable. Those include the 3rd, 9th, 10th, 11th, 14th and 15th holes.

The visit to Old Head centers on the remaining holes. They border the edge of the property and each is well done. The 2nd hole livens the proceedings considerably after a dull opener. The par-4 dog-leg left provides for both a heroic line of play over the protecting bunkers on the left side and there's a bailout area provided for the meek of heart. At the 4th the intensity of the setting ramps up considerably. Appropriately named "Razor's Edge," the 4th requires two consecutive top tier shots to execute. The green is also well-placed -- literally hanging on the side of the plunging cliffs -- the slightest pulled approach means certain death for one's golf ball. The backdrop is also inspiring -- with the famed Lighthouse standing guard.

The return nine is the better of the two sides and it's helped with the likes of the 12th, 16th, 17th and 18th holes. The 12th is a daring risk/reward par-5. The tee shot must be played over a part of the edge of the property - those who opt to cut off the corner had best deliver a first rate effort. The green is reachable for the strongest players but the green is pushed ever so close to the edge where any missed shot is forever doomed.

The 16th is a quality par-3 although a bit over shaped. The penultimate hole -- is a rollicking dynamic par-5 hole with a serpentine fairway. The ending hole -- called Sanctuary -- needs to be seen by any player from the extreme championship tee which sits at the base of the impressive Lighthouse. The hole turns left in the drive zone and concludes immediately near the clubhouse.

The sad thing is that there was the possibility for a truly stellar golf course. Old Head is the blessed with a jaw-dropping outward appearance, but when forced to show the inner workings, the design itself, with few exceptions, is more about the view than what's contained within its boundaries. A real pity.

by M. James Ward

February 16, 2017


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Oliver
February 20, 2017

There are some contradictions within this piece and a general lack of pragmatism. For example, the last paragraph suggests there only "few exceptions" whereas the author endorses 12 holes as being at least above average. That represents a comfortable majority of holes !

Even many of the feted courses of the world do not have 18 great holes; there is always a compromise. There are at least 6 holes at Old Head that live long in the memory.

The author compares OH with Pebble Beach, a place I love. PB could be challenged in that considering the land available and the money available, it should be better. On this note and a glance at the overhead shots of the land shows that there is very little spare land on the peninsula. As such, some sympathy is required: the obvious question is "what else could the architect have achieved".

Very little coast line is not utilized and those holes which enjoy that topography are truly staggering. Old Head is not an essay on course design it is a monument to the land it resides on and to this end it is sublime.

It would be a shame if potential visitors to OH were it some way deterred to make the pilgrimage on the basis of this, in some respects, ill conceived review. A trip to Old Head should be any golfers "bucket list".

Hugh
February 22, 2017

Old Head is an experience that I’ll never forget, despite the shortcomings of some interior holes. I’d return in a heartbeat.

I'm a rapid golfer from the States, and Old Head is the most picturesque course I've ever played. It's more beautiful than Ballybunion, Tralee, Lahinch, Waterville, and Doonbeg. It's not a links course, but it's situated on the cliffs. We played it in October 2015 amid glorious sunshine and light winds. You have to play this course at least one time. It's breathtaking and a genuine challenge. I'm delighted that they continue to make improvements to the course.The only course that compares to the vistas is Tralee, which is another modern course in Ireland.
November 02, 2015


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I have had the pleasure to play Old Head 4 times. My most recent was two weeks ago. My first was in the first year it opened. I have also traveled to NZ to play Cape Kidnappers and Kauri Cliffs. I use to say Old Head was Pebble on steroids and Cape was Old on steroids. Well this past visit redefined that. Old Head reigns supreme. It just keeps getting better. The holes on the edge…10 of them are just breathtaking. The new 13th par 3 which green sits back to back with 7 is another cliff hangar. Dig deep and analyze the architectural merits and maybe it is just better than average. But the greens were the best we played in all of SW Ireland and we played all the go to’s. The turf while not per se links is seaside at elevation and in great shape. The non stop beautification thru additional plantings is spectacular. The only negative is the built up berms take away many of the views from the interior tee boxes. Old Head is far superior to the ratings it gets. Time will prove that out. We hired a photographer for the day here. Nelius Buckley….Free plug. If you have a group…Do that…The place is so very special and having good photos just doubles the experience.
October 09, 2015


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Call me old fashioned, but if you’re going to call yourself a “Links” golf course, then your golf course needs to be built upon links turf in the true sense of the word and, generally speaking, comply with the definition of a links course (i.e., The soil is sandy and drains easily, Fairways are rarely (if ever) watered - except by nature - and play firm and fast, Bunkers are numerous, and while they range from very small to very large, are typically deep, Old Head Golf Course - Photo by reviewerThe rough features natural seaside grasses). While the cliffs and coastline will render you speechless, the meat and bones of this isolated track is not a links course, nor does it offer much in the line of architectural inspiration. Have you ever noticed that the vast majority of photos are taken from the air? (same goes for Torrey Pines and the back nine of Cape Kidnappers) The “inland” holes at Old Head feel manufactured and lacking anything that will stay in your memory. Many holes felt like you’re playing in central Florida with flat shallow bunkers occupying the blandness. I did appreciate the routing along the spectacular cliff edges, the rolling topology, the magnificent green-site locations on the par 3s, the stone ruins and of course the emblematic lighthouse, but didn’t appreciate that you can hit 4 irons out of the bunkers, when apparently you’re on a “real links course”. Too many of the bland holes take away from the spectacle that surrounds them.
May 21, 2015


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Playing the Old Head of Kinsale is certainly right up there amongst my most memorable on-course experiences. Despite having to endure strong winds and heavy showers for much of the round I can honestly say that I loved every minute of our time at this extraordinary location. On no other course have I felt such a keen sense of both exhilaration and trepidation due to so many tees and greens being situated on the cliff edge.Old Head Golf Course - Photo by reviewer With a rough sea crashing onto the rocks a few hundred feet below this was without doubt an adrenaline fuelled experience. There are so many memorable holes to choose from but I would pick the par-5 12th as one of my favourite holes from anywhere in the world. The hole gradually turns left following the edge of the cliff all the way to the green which is attractively and perilously situated amongst rocky outcrops. From the par-3’s, the 7th, 13th and 16th would all have to be described as spectacular and I would pick the 2nd, 4th and 17th as standouts from the longer holes. Take a walk to the back of the 18th as the tee shot over a rocky inlet has to be seen to be believed. Kinsale is a great little town to stay for a few days and with good food and lively bars on offer it certainly ticks all the boxes. The green fee may look a little top heavy at 200 plus euros but for an experience of this magnitude I can’t wait to go back. Brian W
February 18, 2015


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Playing golf at Old Head is something that should be on every serious golfers bucket list. I have been lucky enough to play golf at a lot of the Top 100 courses in GB & I but this was an experience like no other. As with all golf in Ireland you have to be prepared for all weather and unfortunately as well as 35mph winds it was also tipping it down for the 1st 6 holes but this didn’t detract from the drama of the course it just means you have to lower you expectations for your score. We did have a magical moment though, as we got closer to playing the stunning par 5 12th a mist descended and visibility was down to about 170yds, we were all gutted, but as we stood on the tee waiting for the group in front to play the mist lifted and the hole appeared in all of its beauty in front of our eyes, simply stunning.
September 15, 2014


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Steven O Sullivan
January 28, 2015
Decent golf with extraordinary views.Pebble beach on steroids.Word of caution....it is designed for right handed players.Right handers get to enjoy the views and turn their backs to the ocean and tee off.No such luxury for us lefties.Phil Mickleson reportedly refused to even go up to the back tee on 18.If you do play left handed and don't have a head for heights you should unfortunately skip it. A design marvel. If the wind blows you need to be of a scratch standard and hit world class shots just to keep the ball in play.
Having had the pleasure of playing this course twice over two days I cant recommend it highly enough. as a 22 handicapper i assumed it would be way ahead of my abilities but the way it is set up takes into account your ability. So the low handicap golfer can attack the course and reap rewards and mere mortals such as I can get around within our skill set.That said it is extraordinary from every hole, the views are breathtaking if you can get there do so.
July 31, 2014


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Readers, I urge you to play Old Head. It is quite simply an experience that will stay with an awful long time. I stayed onsite which was also very rewarding. Arrived late at night but at 6.30 the next morning I opened the curtains to see the lighthouse, the ocean the cliffs and 4 superb golf holes. Just simply breathtaking. I have never wanted to play a golf course so much than Old Head at first sight. Back to the golf. I am a 6 handicap golfer who played OH on 21 April 2013. It is possible that the staggering scenery can overshadow the design. This would be a very good golf course without the scenery. I have played Pebble Beach, and this is as memorable. There are only 1 or 2 holes that are not directly on the cliffs, but these remain good golf holes with astonishing views. I am a huge fan of links golf and I much prefer a links to an inland course. I do think however that the reason that Old Head is not more highly ranked is some links based snobbery. I have played the vast majority of courses in Ireland that are ranked higher than OH and very few deserve to be ranked above it. This course is disctinctly playable with room off the tee and sensible greens. There are too many holes that warrant special mention. It is just an sensational experience. The day was grey and quiet which gave the land a mystical property. This is a top 50 world golf course.
June 26, 2013


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This and Spyglass Hill are my tw favorite courses in the World. Recreational Golf does not get any better than this. If you don't love this track you are not human!!!1 The cliffs, the views, the style the elegance. If I could play this course 5 times a week I would never tire of it!!!!
May 09, 2013


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Played Old Head in 2007 and can say it was one of the best experiences I've had playing golf. The drive to the clubhouse and thru the "pearly gates" starts getting your juices going. The layout was very good, but not necessarily great. The condition of the course was excellent. What makes the course is the views. The only two courses that I've played that can compare views are Pebble Beach (which isn't quite as good) and Cape Kidnappers (in New Zealand) which is on par. The front nine is fairly tame and wide open. You can get away with some stray drives. However, the back nine gets a little tighter. The final 3 holes are as good as it gets. $350 American to play, but I'd pay it again in a heartbeat.
January 23, 2010


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Arch Underwood
April 05, 2012
The most scenic course I have played and I have played 12 of your top 100 and been to 4 others