The deep, natural harbour of Bantry Bay Golf Club is situated in the most southwesterly corner of Ireland, bounded by the Beara peninsula to the north and Muntervary headland to the south. At the top of the 22 mile-long bay, overlooking Whiddy Island, is the small town of Bantry.
Bantry Bay golf course lies along the coast from the town and although it is located beside the sea, it’s a parkland layout, sitting on cliff-tops overlooking the water. Eddie Hackett designed nine holes in 1975 then Christy O’Connor Jnr extended the course to a full 18-hole layout in 1997.
Fourteen holes overlook the sea with fantastic views to the Beara Mountains in the distance. Like a traditional links course, Bantry Bay has its share of tricky blind shots and the wind will play a large part in determining how difficult the test is on any given day.
The round begins with a par three, played to a green that has a pond to the front left of the putting surface. The next short hole is not until the 138-yard 9th where its exposure to the elements on an inclement day will present a severe challenge. The back nine features a very tough par four at the 12th hole – out of bounds on the left and a large bunker at the kink in the fairway means an errant tee shot will surely result in bogey or worse. The 18th hole is a 469-yard par five which offers the chance of a very satisfying birdie at the end of the round.
I played Bantry Bay on a typical May day in Ireland: mist, rain and wind to start off with broke out into glorious sunshine for the final 7 holes. If I’m honest I didn’t have that high expectations of a course that was more famed for its views than its holes, but I came away very impressed with the overall experience.
A parkland course where the sea is never too far away, it passed the ‘I remember all 18 holes’ test with quite a few I will be excited about playing again: the drives were especially good on holes 5 (a draw required to utilize the big drop in the fairway and get a level second shot), 10 (a fade needed to a thin looking fairway where the sea is all you can see on the left and I guess the wind usually blowing in from there), and 16 which is a beautifully framed downhill right to left long par 4 hole. And some exciting approaches to holes 5, 8, and 14 where undulation changes give you a chance of playing them a number of ways.
These undulation changes were probably the main thing I took from the course, it really helped give many of the holes their own character and challenge. I walked it and it was tougher than normal, but nothing to concern you if you usually walk and carry. It’s not championship golf but it’s a lot of fun to play, and I felt like I hit a lot of different clubs and a lot of different types of shots.