Cork is certainly one of the most attractive courses in Ireland. It's delightfully situated on Little Island, a tiny peninsula, which juts out into the lovely Lough Mahon, in the estuary of the River Lee. The views across Cork Harbour are quite stunning.
Cork Golf Club was originally established in 1888 and the club had several homes before it finally came to rest on the free-draining limestone of Little Island. Nine holes were originally laid out by the club's inaugural Scottish professional, David Brown, and the famous English architect Tom Dunn.
Alister MacKenzie was approached while he was laying out the course at Muskerry Golf Club in the summer of 1924 to inspect the layout. His suggestions for minor alterations and improvements were implemented straight away.
During the club’s AGM at the Imperial Hotel in Cork on 21 October that year, authorization was given to "expend a sum not exceeding £600" to implement additional MacKenzie plans. His brother Charles MacKenzie and his British Golf Course Construction Company were appointed to carry out the work.
In March the following year, MacKenzie returned to advise on improvements to holes 5-12. He visited the club, spending the whole day on the course, and afterwards met with the committee. The following month, the Cork Examiner reported that work carrying out “elaborate plans of reconstruction” had been in progress for several weeks.
MacKenzie had a great talent for putting nature to the best possible use and he was certainly on top form at Cork. He combined an old quarry and the undulating links-like ground to marvellous effect, but it is the greens that bear MacKenzie's hallmark... large, undulating and, during the height of summer, frighteningly fast. This championship parkland course measures 6,731 yards from the back tees and over the years it's certainly tested the world's very best golfers. In the 1932 Irish Open, Alf Padgham narrowly beat the challenging Henry Cotton.
The opening three holes are fairly gentle and offer up a birdie opportunity or two, but Cork really begins to show its mettle when you reach the river at the 4th, a demanding 455-yard par four. It's a classic risk and reward hole, where your tee shot must carry across rough, dead ground to a distant undulating fairway. The more you cut off, the easier the approach shot to one of Cork's smallest and most challenging greens. In a similar vein, the par five 5th also runs parallel with the river and also requires a long carry off the tee. You need a precise approach shot, because the green is seemingly cut into the side of the river. It's a cracker.
A portrait of Cork's most famous golfing son hangs in clubhouse – 1946 British Amateur Champion, Jimmy Bruen. Bruen's swing was reminiscent of that of today's Jim Furyk. “He had not a very graceful or orthodox swing,” wrote Bernard Darwin in Golf Between Two Wars, “appearing to take the club very much inwards and bring it down with a loop at the top; he was rather a forcing player, but what force there was behind his shots! how consistently he played them and with what a masterful confidence!”
Frank Pennink and Dave Thomas carried out minor course modifications at different times down the years then Martin Hawtree was involved in rebuilding all the tees, refurbishing all the bunkers and adding a new green (the 12th) over a six year period, ending in 2013.
This has been my 1st visit to play golf in Ireland and I have been blessed by great weather and three days of varied and top quality golf, not just the standard of golf played but also the 3 courses played, offering variety in style, length, location and scenery.
The 1st course played, less than an hour after landing at Cork airport on Tuesday, was Cork Golf Club. After a quick check in with the pro, we spent some time in the very pleasant clubhouse, where we were made to feel most welcome. After a sandwich we headed out at leisure to the practice area and 1st tee which the clubhouse overlooks.
This is a delightful course with a lot of variety - water side holes, a quarry complex and more traditional parkland. The greens show the hallmark Alister McKenzie design and were the best defence the course offered.
The 1st 3 holes play towards the water - the 1st a gentle sweeping right to left to an uphill green. Having reached it in regulation I got a 1st look of the complex greens throughout the course and duly 3 putted!
The 2nd from a high tee is a straightforward par 5 where you can see the water from off the tee, a lovely view. The 3rd is a short par 4 with the green directly in front of the water. The downside of the surrounding area is seen on this hole with an industrial estate very visible. Industrial estates surround the course and do spoil the view. I was left wondering what the course would have been like before these estates were built. If you look out across the estuary/river then of course you cannot see them.
The 4th was a favourite of mine playing alongside the estuary. It’s a long par again to an uphill green. The 5th is having work done to it, so played short. It did not spoil the hole and the views down to the green surrounded by water to the right and rear were wonderful and probably the best view on the course.
The holes then head inland into a quarry complex. The 6th is a short par 4. A blind tee shot will penalise anyone who allows their ball to drift out to the right, as I did. Tip - take time to use the viewing platform of the hole so you can avoid my error! The green is framed by the quarry walls and a quaint house sits atop,
The 7th is the 1st of the par 3’s and a delightful looking hole. Strong winds needed to be factored in and the green running back to front made any putts coming back down the slope difficult to stop near the pin. The greens were amazing for time of year, quick and true. I loved them but my friends struggled more to get on with them.
The 8th remained within the quarry and there was quite a bit of work being undertaken on this hole. That could be said around the course, as the club looks to enhance the course even further.
The 9th is the 2nd of the par 3’s and another good hole and green.
The course then heads inland to a more parkland style. The 10th and 11th are straightforward enough par 4 and par 5 respectively, then you get the delightful short dog leg right par 4, to a high green surrounded by bunkers, with a tricky green runs back to front Mckenzie style. With a front pin position it was easy to putt off the green and take a high score. Great short hole.
Then the last of the par 3’s, a similar length to the others, but relatively straightforward, before you head back to the clubhouse on the 14th.
The 15th is teed off next to the clubhouse and back across the 14th green, with a beautiful set of bunkers as seen from the tee. The 16th was also a delightful short hole, with the green set high above to the right surrounded by bunkers to the front and a very narrow green, making this hole harder than its index.
You then tee off from a high tee on the 17th, I didn’t rate this hole visually, it had more of a municipal feel to it with a large grass hill to the right of the fairway, but again the green complex was nice
And finally a sweeping left to right back to the clubhouse to finish.
For the time of year the course was in excellent condition. The land isn’t sandy so there were plenty of mud balls, but the bunkers were immaculate with high quality white sand and fast true running greens. There was plenty of variety in terms of water holes, quarry holes and parkland holes. The clubhouse stands well and a very friendly welcome given. After a pint of Guinness was excellent we headed off for Waterville.
I would recommend make this course part of your trip - you wont be disappointed.
Cork, or Little Island as it's known to many, has a lot going for it and should not be missed when visiting Old Head of Kinsale. Expertly routed across an interesting and free-draining parcel of land, this is a traditional and popular members course located close to the city and harbour.
Right from the off you notice the eye-catching strategically placed bunkers and it doesn't take too long to realize that accuracy from the tee cannot be underestimated.
The course starts well with three solid holes laid out on well-manicured rolling parkland which lead us down to the shores of Loch Mahon. Here we enter a terrific stretch of holes where the difficult 4th and long but picturesque 5th hug the water's edge. Both are well designed and most certainly intimidating.
As we head back inland the character changes somewhat as we play towards the old limestone quarry. A degree of caution is required at the short par four 6th as this, the only hole without bunkers is both narrow and semi-blind from the tee. Still in the quarry, the stunning 7th is comfortably the best amongst the trio of par threes. Played over gorse and protected by two bunkers and a deep valley to the right, a well-struck iron shot is the key to holding a severely sloping green. This like so many of the putting surfaces could best be described as trademark Mackenzie, large, undulating and on this particular day, very quick.
The later holes do not provide quite as much drama but the quality and variety doesn't leave us. The short par four 16th, sweeping right to a shallow raised green, is excellent and the downhill tee shot that follows is both exhilarating and problematic with the course boundary running the full length of the hole.
If you like high-end golf at an affordable price in a very pleasant setting then you must add Cork to your list.
We played Cork Golf Club in the Cyder Cup 4 years ago over 5 hours in Monsoon-like weather and loved it. There were puddles on the practice green and we still went out and played a full round in those conditions. The clubhouse guys were very friendly and were amazed we were going out to play in it. I found the course brilliantly varied and interesting. One of the holes had a big carry over the water from the tee and as we played into the prevailing strong wind, we all struggled to carry it even though we are moderately big hitters. If we were to come back to Cork, I would love to play it in better conditions as I thought it was a superb track!
This is not a links course and strictly not even a seaside course and yet it feels every bit like one. It is located on a peninsula near Cork on the banks of Lough Mahon, which is a widening of the River Lee, shortly before it discharges into the Celtic Sea. But what's more important than that: it's an Alister MacKenzie design and features stunning holes along the river and through a quarry, as well as some very competent inland holes that play every bit as firm and fast. I have been told that two weeks prior to my arrival the course was actually brown, which is a rarity in Ireland. Click the link to read more… Ireland – any decent golf on the West Coast?