"An American Country Club" in Co Meath, that exactly how I would describe Killeen Castle. From the moment you set foot on the property to the very second you leave you are pampered and looked after with a level of service that I have only encountered at very few places the World Over. The guard at the gate immeaditely sets the tone for a special and secluded day, only allowing entry for members and those on the time sheet for that given day. The very long entry road sweeps through the grounds, offering glimpses of what is to come and as you arrive at the modern clubhouse, you are greeted by extremely friendly staff at the bag drop where your clubs are taken, in my case I next saw mine on the exemplary driving range (one element of an exceptional practice complex, which included the only Dave Pelz school outside the US) where they seemed cleaner than ever before.
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
Date: December 02, 2010