Killeen Castle dates back to 1181 and it was the seat of the Plunkett family from 1403 to 1951, when the 12th Earl of Fingall sold the estate to Sir Victor Sassoon who established a stud farm on the property.
Thirty years later, a fire gutted the castle and it fell into disrepair, lying abandoned and in ruins for over two decades until developers stepped in with plans to convert the castle into a top class hotel, construct a championship golf course and build over a hundred luxury houses on the estate.
In 2005, Snowbury – an associate company of Castlethorn Construction, one of Ireland’s biggest property developers – began work on restoring the 600-acre estate to its former glory and three years later, a fully refurbished Killeen Castle, routed over 350 acres, was ready to welcome its first visitors.
Installed with almost 500 miles of drainage channels and capped by over 40,000 tonnes of sand, the Killeen Castle fairways are defined in many places by mature trees (over seven thousand were transplanted during construction) with small ponds featuring prominently at a number of holes.Killeen Castle Golf Club hosted the revived Ladies Irish Open in 2010 – when Sophie Gustafson won the event by one stroke – in the lead up to hosting the 12th Solheim Cup series of matches between the professional women of Europe and the United States in 2011. The home team managed to reduce the deficit (to 8-4) in this series of matches when the European ladies overcame their old golfing adversaries by a margin of 15 points to 13.
An incredible historic idiot wind caught my tee shot at the first and dumped it into the large bunker on the left hand side of the fairway. I have to say “incredible historic” as the trap must only have been 130 yards away and otherwise I’d feel pretty self conscious. Fortunately I had yet to check the course guide, because if so I would have seen that my ball was in “The Shamrock Bunker”. Most likely I would have thrown up the bacon roll I’d just hastily stuffed inside me. Was it too late in the day to go somewhere else? Would I be the first person to walk off the course after 1 shot? At least this Jack Nicklaus design was already asking serious questions of a golfer.
The rest of Killeen Castle wasn’t this bad though, and things did improve. It was a decent enough place to be and if life wasn’t so short I’d surely have fewer regrets about playing here. It was challenging (if you like challenges) and the early season conditioning (April) was also good (if a little soft). The routing was effective in how it explored the property. I liked the use of the burn at the par 5 12th. In truth, other holes probably stick in my mind too, I just can’t recall them right now.
I am struggling a little to find the inspiration to write about Killeen Castle, but my OCD ensures I must submit something for a course I have played. I may not rush back, but would consider giving it another go. On a lovely windless sunny summer’s evening. This course is currently ranked as the 5th best of its type in Ireland after all. I don’t know if this talks to the quality of parkland golf in Ireland, or more my view of garden golf in general. Presumably the latter. I feel like a gymnastics judge being asked to preside over a figure skating competition. Or a figure skating judge filling in at a gymnastics competition.
As for a visit: if you like parkland golf, then don’t think twice, it’s alright. And if you know that’s not your thing, then you don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows
Played Killeen Castle in 2011 in the Cyder Cup just after the Solheim Cup so the course was in immaculate condition.
My abiding memory from Killeen was that the greens were very quick and undulating which made for some great Matchplay.
Just before we teed off we looked at the statue and the stunning castle in the background before turning round to the first hole which was a visual treat. It was encouraging you to boom a great drive straight down the welcoming fairway.
I found the course to be an excellent parkland track with strategic bunkers, fairly generous fairways and quick greens. It is also an aesthetic course to look at and there is plenty of water too to keep your attention.
I would love to come back and play Killeen again at some point. Birdieing the last hole in front of the gallery which slopes back up towards the castle was a fantastic memory to finish with. Thoroughly enjoyable.
As you may have gathered from my other reviews, I, as much as anyone else, enjoy these features of a club, but if the course is not good, the level of service or facilities will do nothing to mask it's shortcomings. This was my fear before teeing off, that after all that had gone on, the course would be a let down, thankfully this was not the case. The course covers a huge expanse of land, winding its way right across the estate covering 360 acres, imagine the Montgomerie at Carton House and multiply it by two!
From the outset you become aware of the stiff test that this Nicklaus Signature course presents. The sheers length of the course alone (7,700 from the tips) would be enough to strike fear into any man, before even a ball is struck, so my advice would be to select you choice of tees wisely as it will no doubt affect your enjoyment. The opening nine holes work their way from the clubhouse and go out the country before meeting the Enormously stunning castle at the turn. The pick of the bunch are the two par 5s. The 2nd a dogleg left and a three shotter for most, placement if everything on both the drive and the second shot, with a large expanse of water and deep bunkers tom be dealt with all the way up the left side. Number 7 is a different proposition and presents a genuine opportunity of a birdie, I suspect this was definitely a favourite of Nicklaus. If you manage a long power fade from the tee, which reaches the corener you are presented with a daunting proposition, a 250 yard+ carry over a huge lake, anything short is wet, however if you manage to carry the trouble you are rewarded with a chance to pick up a stroke. The front nine does not contain a weak hole and the design could not in any sense be considered poor, but from the holes in between the par 5s, something is lacking, which I can't put my finger on there is just an element of some of them being rolled off the production line, they are not unforgettable but nonetheless hard to remember.
After playing the tenth (probably the most nondescript hole on the course, I stood on the eleventh tee, hoping that I had not seen the best of the course and it was all downhill from here in. But as I walked towards my ball to play my second shot on 11, a glimmer of light appeared (an angled green set alongside a pond with the castle as a backdrop) and from here right until putting out on 18th my interest was well and truly regained. The last seven holes are nothing short of spectacular in my opinion and in many courses would all be considered a signature hole in their own right. The three par 4's (13,17,18) are an excellent blend one a strong right to lefter(13), another a great short "Cape" style hole tempting the player to bite off as much of the lake as he can chew(17), While the 18th is an extremely strong finishing hole with a creek and large trees in play the whole way up the left side. The 16th is the par three that will get all the attention during the Solheim, I believe the 14th is possibly the best of the lot. It is long at 210 yards, but the placement of the green is where Nicklaus earned his gold selecting the most natural green site on the course, set into a slight hollow surrounded by towering pines, one could be forgiven for thinking he was somewhere high in the mountains.
Almost everything at Killeen Castle is first class, service, fairways, greens, the halfway house, the list goes on, even the showers in the locker room are the best I have ever come across, trumping many other who pride themselves on such an asset. The finish to the round at Killeen is exceptional and will certainly provide great excitement during the Solheim Cup, but my only problem is the presence of 4/5 average hole in the front nine, which are in the same fashion as the "inner" holes at Old Head. They almost seem as if they have rolled off the back of the truck, a striking resemblance to all 18 at Moyvalley and are the only element which I feel is holding back the course from getting 6 balls. Comparing it to Mount Juliet, Nicklaus' other Irish creation, I find it hard to separate the two, both are second shot courses, laid out across beautiful country estates. Mount Juliet is a more natural creation and has much more mature trees located closer to the line of play, while Killeen just has that wow factor, particuarly in the finish! Nick