The K Club, or to give it its full title, the Kildare Country Club, is located in 550 acres of rolling County Kildare countryside. It’s the most renowned golf resort in Ireland.
The North course, or rather the Palmer Ryder Cup course, as it is now called, was deigned by Arnold Palmer, opening for play in 1991. The River Liffey meanders through the course and becomes hazardous on a number of holes, especially the 8th, where it runs all the way down the left hand side of the fairway.
There are four teeing areas to choose from and we recommend that you select the right one carefully because the Palmer course measures a whopping 7,337 yards from the blues, a par of 72. The SSS of 76 tells the story. The blues should really be left for the very best golfers, the likes of Phillip Price, Michael Campbell, Darren Clarke and Lee Westwood. The aforementioned gentlemen are the most recent winners of the European Open, held at the K Club in recent years.
In October 2006, the K Club played host to the biggest golfing event in Irish history, the 36th Ryder Cup. The Palmer course proved to be a worthy venue and millions of people witnessed an emotionally charged European Team romp to a record equalling victory – 18½ points to 9½.
You will either love the Palmer course or hate it; you might hate it if you are off your game because it will beat you up viciously, and you’ll love it if your game is on song. Either way, no one could dispute that it’s a challenging test of golf and it certainly provided plenty of entertainment during the Ryder Cup.
The holes are designed to shock and in some cases, they are intimidating. The 16th is a monster par five, measuring nearly 600 yards from the blue tees; the hole double doglegs past all types of hazards, including trees, water, bunkers and punishing rough, and then you have to have to find the green, fiercely protected on both sides by the River Liffey. Even more difficult than the 16th is the stroke index one par four 7th measuring 430 yards from the tips. It’s a potential card wrecker that requires an accurate approach shot to another green guarded by water. These are just two examples of what to expect during your adventure round the Palmer course.
In many ways, the K Club is reminiscent of the Belfry. Firstly it’s a tournament course. Secondly, it’s a resort course. Thirdly it’s dominated by water. Fourth and finally, it is tough. If you can afford it, you’ll never forget it.
I believe crticism should ilicit a positive result leading to learning and improvement rather than simply disenchantment. Some may argue or be surprised by my 1-Ball assessment so herewith, I qualify that. There are few 5-ball courses and that should be so. 4-Ball should signify excellence. The K-Club is a potential 3-Ball course which if not in poor condition with years of neglect could be a memorable and worthwhile golfing experience. However, the resort itself bears no relationship to the glowing description above. It lost its’ premier designation as both the hotel and clubhouses need major refurbishment. It has been suplanted by other truly premier resorts in Ireland. As to the golf course itself, while the design is very good and on par with many top quality parkland resorts in other countries and the United States it is in poor condition. Sand traps are filled with numerous stones some up to 1/3 the size of a golf ball. Tee boxes are far from the expected condition of a top quality resort especially in this price range. The K-club remains the most expensive membership based golf club in Ireland and much more than double in price compared to its’ far more meticulously maintained rivals. A key factor is a groundkeeping staff of about 10 for 2 golf courses compared to 40 greenskeepers at other top quality resorts. The lakes desperately need attention, the rough is often unevenly cut leaving some fareway adjacent semirough much longer than appropriate nor aesthetically pleasing given multiple patches of varying height. Holes and bare areas extend to the semirough and portions of the fairways. Actual fairway condition is fairly good except drainage was not buried deeply enough and in the 2018 Summer drought this left a crisscrossing of dead grass across multiple areas of every fairway, a condition sure to repeat and which will be costly to remedy. Tree roots growing at or within millimeters of the surface are generally normal but have become excessive due to a number of horticultural reasons with the end result potentially a danger such as a wrist fracture by an enthusiastic golfer. Ball washers are sometimes empty or absent and practice balls often forgotten to be collected and replaced. Much of the planting is overgrown and has lost its’ intended design element. The practice green is rather poor in design and often not reflective of the actual course greens. In short this is a maintenance and investment issue. Insufficient staff and a decision not to restore the golf course to its’ once heralded condition is for management to remedy. As of now, I would give this course a pass and focus on the unforgetable links courses or the several truly remarkable recently refurbished parkland courses in Ireland of which the K-club is no longer one.
While at risk of not seeing the wood for the trees here, the rating system suggested by this website is that a 6-ball value should convey “excellence”, 5-ball “very good”, 4-ball merely “good”.
Assuming your feedback is justified, let’s hope it does get a response
The cherry on top of Michael Smurfit's legacy is currently up for sale for approximately €80 million. I suspect that the conditioning of the course or lack thereof is driven by this.
The head green keeper Gerry Byrne has been in situ for many years and is one of the best around so it may be a case of loaves and fishes until a new owner comes on board.
Being honest, I'm not a huge fan of the layout. There are undoubtedly some truly great holes (8 and the finishing stretch from 15 to 18, however, there are too many holes which are there to get you from A to B as it were particularly the insipid run amongst the houses before the finishing stretch.
It's a pity that things seem to have taken a downward turn (I dont think the rack green fee has though). I can recall the first time I cast my eyes on the venue for the European Open back in the early noughties when Messers Campbell and Harrington went head to head on the final day..... the condition of the fairways and tee boxes that day were better than many clubs greens.
Lets hope for a sale to a real golf connoisseur who can polish a tired grand damme of Irish and European golf.
I agree with BB and Shane Derby. Even with some conditioning issues the course has not been rated fairly by Mr Desmond. I’ve played both courses at the K Club and I’m not a fan of either, but that is also true of every modern era European Ryder Cup course since the Belfry lurched into the scene in the mid 1980s. A 2 star rating would be the lowest fair rating for this course even though Mr Palmer’s course (GRHS) is architecturally uninspiring. I can’t help but feel that the original review is ill considered eschewing reaction for unspecified personal reasons.
Just read this... and the three or four comments. I accompanied a group of American golfers to Ireland three years back. After playing the K Club the consensus was “why did we bother?”. Apart from the final four holes, the course is pretty bland to be honest and it was already showing signs that the ownership might be losing interest. There are several courses in Ireland which merit a higher rating that that awarded to the K-Club.
Played it for the first time in August. Now don't get me wrong, I love Arnold Palmer -- but I'm not a big fan of his golf courses. Hole designs are somewhat redundant -- rare uniqueness is somewhat forced -- leading to, unfortunately, a forgettable round. I can see why the layout, routing and location would support an important event like The Ryder Cup; however, if it were not for the history of that event, the course is generally indistinguishable from other high-end parkland settings.
The K Club is a memorable place to visit and brought back happy memories of one of Europe's most emotional Ryder Cup victories. The whole resort oozes 5-star quality and the Palmer Course green fee certainly reflects the fact that you are at one of Ireland's iconic luxury destinations. The 7,350 yard Palmer Course might best be described as a rolling parkland layout which is heavily bunkered and extremely tough. The 1st is a gentle opener from the regular tees but the water running up the left must be avoided. In fact it soon becomes apparent that water is a constant threat throughout the round, playing its part on no less than 14 holes in total. Both short holes on the front nine have water coming into play, the 3rd also having a large front bunker to contend with and the River Liffey runs from tee to green alongside the 8th which is a very good hole indeed.
Of the longer holes the 4th is a well bunkered double dogleg par-5 and was said to be Arnold Palmer's favourite. The 6th and 7th are both picturesque and demanding, the approach shot on the 7th in particular has to be well struck to clear the substantial pond. The theme continues throughout the 11th, 12th and 13th, a lovely trio of holes which all have water close to the green. The 11th and short 12th are both very attractive and the 13th very tough with the well protected green biting into the lake. The 16th, a strong par-5, is certainly one of my favourite holes. The tee shot is relatively comfortable but the second shot must be played into a narrowing fairway before finally attacking a green positioned on a small island in the River Liffey. Big hitters may be tempted to go for it in two but a precise shot is required to hit this narrow and well defended target. The memorable finishing stretch concludes with the exciting 18th, it's huge green cutting into the lake providing a fitting conclusion to the most challenging of courses. Brian W
My experience of the course? Well the negatives are… very little elevation change and…. well that’s about it. I am stumped to think of anything else. Playing the course early in September after a dry spell certainly helped as the turf was superb. The course has matured well and initially I was surprised at the tightness of line off the tee. The risk reward factor is evident on every hole, leading to an exciting round with many heart in mouth moments reliving Ryder cup glory (or too often failures). Overall condition of bunkering, greens, rough and attention to detail was the best of any course I have played in the world and I say this through gritted teeth for the reasons stated at the top of the article. The best way to summarise my experience is to explain that my wife decided to take up the game four years ago and now plays golf to a good standard. Come January and she no longer looks to the thought of Caribbean beaches to see her through the cold dark months, but plans for the summer months around Carnoustie, St Andrews, Royal Birkdale, Woodhall Spa, etc…This years first trip is to be the K club and I can’t wait even though I’m paying for it out of my own pocket. Praise indeed!