Environmentally, Dooks Golf Club has to be one of the most natural golf courses in the world. Everything is in harmony with its surroundings – it’s a beautiful place for golf. The course is enchantingly located on a promontory on the southern side of Dingle Bay. The MacGillycuddy’s Reeks Mountains stand guard to the southeast and stretched out in the foreground to the north and west are the sandy peninsulas of Rossbehy and Inch Point. The vista is simply breathtaking.
Officers from the Royal Horse Artillery laid out a short nine-hole course in 1889 and they introduced the local gentry to the game of golf. This establishes Dooks as Kerry’s oldest golf course. It was clearly a challenge to settle on a name - initially the club was known as Caragh and Dooks, then Glenbeigh, then Dooks and Caragh and finally, they settled on plain and simple – Dooks. Around 1900, the course was extended to 18 holes, but due to escalating costs, the club soon reverted back to nine holes.
In 1963, a shockwave arrived through the Dooks letterbox. The letter was from the land agent, serving notice to hand back possession of the golf course and club. The course was laid out on leased land, but unfortunately the original lease wasn’t signed. Immediately, a “Save Dooks” campaign was launched and for the next two years the golf club was front-page news. £7000 was eventually raised and in 1965, the members became the proud owners of Dooks Golf Club.
After all the publicity, Dooks grew in popularity and soon became overwhelmed with golfers wanting to play the now famous links. Clearly, the course needed extending to 18 holes, but funds were tight. Lateral thinking was needed. After much debate, nine members volunteered to form and lead teams to construct nine new holes. In September 1970, against all odds, and inside a meagre £3000 budget, a newly extended 18-hole Dooks opened for play – designed and built by the members. The outcome is fantastic, the new holes blend perfectly with the old.
Dooks Golf Club is a tranquil, engaging and fun golf course. It also provides a true and traditional links experience. The course is not of championship length, measuring just over 6,000 yards, but don’t let this put you off. It’s a thoroughly enjoyable challenge. Beware of the toads though – the warm, sandy linksland at Dooks is home to the Natterjack, and is one of the amphibians' last remaining habitats. The club has adopted the Natterjack toad as their emblem. Don’t worry if you’re squeamish, though. These little creatures are nocturnal, emerging only when the golfers have gone home.
There are numerous memorable holes, but the 13th will remain etched in the mind for a very long time. Many of the greens are undulating, but the green of the par three 13th is the big dipper in roller-coaster terms. Dooks is certainly an inspirational golf course, a very special place. Additionally, it is also one of the most sociable and friendly golf clubs on the planet and visitors can certainly be assured of a warm and friendly Irish welcome at Dooks.
Why Dooks does not appear in the BI Top 100 is a mystery to me. Having played all but 6 of the current list, I can name at least half a dozen courses that do not come close in comparison. It is an absolute joy to play.
If you've not been over there before, this makes for an excellent introduction to links golf in Ireland, before moving on to more esteemed neighbours. The views are - at almost every turn - fantastic, and the course itself has all the elements you would expect to find in links golf: firm turf, sand dunes, steep-faced sand pits, a couple blind shots, and some well routed holes to take advantage of it.
The routing is a bit odd, in that 18 finishes the whole length of the hole away and across the first from the clubhouse, otherwise the pattern was largely of side-by-side parallel pairs giving you one hole down wind and one hole with. The course was in good shape and had the firmest greens we encountered on our trip (06/17), with runout greater than the rest. The course has too many indifferent holes to be on par with the neighbours, but is still a fun, worthwhile, 2nd-tier play.
A number of others have weighed in on the nature of the scenery you get to enjoy when playing Dooks. There's no question that a clear sunny day the joy in being out on the links is ramped up considerably. The architecture is also quite good -- not in the same category with the likes of the Old Course at Ballybunion or Lahinch -- but quite entertaining in many ways. Dooks is about fun golf for the masses. There are trouble areas to avoid but the overall presentation -- both off and on course is nicely done.
You don't see anything of the course when you arrive at the clubhouse and when you make your way beyond the practice green and up the short hill to the 1st tee you really don't have a clue on what's just ahead. The 1st is a stellar opener -- giving a peak at the scenery you will encounter shortly. The hole is a great testament to what an opening hole should be. The fairway pinches down in width the further you attempt to hit the ball. Two menacing bunkers guard the left side in the same manner as a dog guards his master's house. The green is also done well -- just enough landing area for a fine approach but nothing tolerated that's not played with sound execution. The short uphill 2nd is also a fine hole. Strong players can attempt to hit their tee shot over two bunkers patrolling the left side. The green is also devilish because any misses to the sides will require a deft touch.
The most fascinating aspect about Dooks is the routing of the holes. Few people ever mention this as the course is on a hilly site but only in two instances -- the uphill 12th and downhill 14th -- do the holes really move up and down the hillside. The bulk of the holes play perpendicular and therefore force players to work the ball accordingly time after time. Dooks is not a long course but positioning of one's ball is a constant matter that needs one's full attention.
The lone blemish for me on the outward side come with the long par-4 469-yard 7th. The number one handicap hole has one small defect -- it's fine to narrow fairways for longer hitters but not to the point where the gap is a mere 15 yards! There's little point in attempting the risky play when the margin for success is overly restrictive.
The inward half is a bit less in overall hole quality. The talked about par-3 13th certainly merits special attention because of the vexing green. Thankfully, the ending series of holes features the likes of the uphill par-4 17th and the fine closer at the par-4 18th. The latter is wells served by a narrowing entrance that mandates a quality tees shot so as to provide the best look at the pin location.
Dooks was on "fire" when I played it this past July. What I mean by that is that the links was running super fast. There have been comments that with a number of the greens being elevated the ground game option is negated. My issue when I played was not that the ground game option was not present but that the super firmness of the terrain made such shots nearly impossible to calculate once landing. No doubt the excessive heat and dry conditions that impacted much of Ireland and the UK this summer.
Far too many people may not include Dooks on their Irish itinerary and that would be a huge mistake. The course is a fine test and when combined with the breathtaking scenery and the warmest of welcomes from the membership and staff it's likely going to result in a grand time.
by M. James Ward
Played Dooks with 14 mates this past June. Agree with many of comments made. I found the course fabulous. Would go back in a "heart beat".
A beautiful, classic and friendly links course. The views are unmatched anywhere else I have played and some of the holes are as close to perfect as you can get (3, 7, 9 and 11). However, it suffers from a few lacklustre holes, especially on the back nine, and some wasted opportunities.
The ground game is difficult to play as so many greens are severely raised which means a high shot your only option.
This is a proper members club full of charm and great play.
What the "Top 100 Golf Courses" has already written in their summary review about Dooks is worth repeating and expanding upon. Yes, Dooks is probably one of the most wonderfully natural links golf courses in the world, certainly in Ireland -- the play is warm, fun, easy-going and enjoyable, like spending company with an old friend you haven't seen in years. Yes, it's a beautiful place for golf, too -- not only the course itself (the land, the hole designs, the routing, recent redesigns, etc) -- but the views across Dingle Bay to the towns, fields, shores and mountains on the other side are simply breathtaking and heavenly. And yes, even the Dooks logo and mascot (a natterjack toad) are unique and memorable -- enough, that after a friendly and sincere greeting from the staff upon arrival, a round that balances the challenging with the manageable (a great course for match play, too, by the way), and a cold pint with a delicious meal in their warm clubhouse restaurant after the round -- I bought a LOT of trinkets in the pro shop, wanting to remember the amazing day for a long, long time to come. In summary, Dooks is twice the experience for half the price -- compared to most of the tracks in southwest/west Ireland. If we have the privilege and pleasure of returning to Ireland someday, Dooks will be the first reservation we make. Don D
Also on the Ring of Kerry, but much closer to Killarney, sits this previously hidden gem, which has been affected by a healthy infusion of tourist play. While still a very scenic course with a number of good holes, its charming idiosyncrasies have to stand up to a different kind of scrutiny today. The conditioning is rustic and the green surrounds often a bit too rough for putting. And the heathland holes towards the end of the round look a bit out of sorts on this seaside property. All of that is perfectly acceptable for a quirky village track, but perhaps less fitting for what Dooks is trying to represent today. Click the link to read more… Ireland – any decent golf on the West Coast?