A number of people were involved in the creation of Old Head Golf Links: Dr Joe Carr, Paddy Merrigan, Ron Kirby, the late Eddie Hackett, Liam Higgins and Haulie O'Shea. The course opened for play in 1997 and it's laid out on a narrow headland, jutting out for two miles into the Atlantic Ocean.
Old Head Golf Links has to be one of the world’s most exhilarating sites upon which golf is played. You feel as though you are on the edge of the world here at Old Head and if you suffer from vertigo, some of the tees might present a problem. Three hundred feet up, looking over the edge of the cliff, you will notice seagulls gliding below you. Atlantic waves crash onto the rocks, booming and echoing as they smash into the cave tunnels. It certainly takes your breath away.
Take some extra golf balls; you may well lose a few unless you are really on top of your game. There is little margin for error along the edges of the holes bordering the cliff-tops. The signs should be adhered to; they warn you off looking for balls for obvious reasons! Take note of the marker posts, or should we say “Stones of Accord” (the club’s logo) – they give you the right line for your tee shot.
Old Head really is a very special place indeed. The peninsular tells a lamentable tale, perhaps mourning the loss of life (many vessels sank in this vicinity). The Lusitania went down here too, in 1915, not because of the rocks, but courtesy of a German torpedo. Or perhaps it’s the spirits seeking peace from golf balls peppering their ancient burial ground at the approach to the 10th hole.
There are many memorable holes at Old Head, none more so than the 17th, called “Lighthouse”. It's a long par five requiring a bold second shot to the right-hand side of the fairway, anything left will leave a blind approach to the green that is nestled in a punchbowl on the edge of the cliffs. The 18th is a dramatic closing hole that should be played from the high back tee for maximum drama. Our favourite hole, is the do-or-die par five 12th – it’s one of the most outrageous holes in golf – whatever you do with your tee shot, don’t bite-off more than you can chew.Anyway, we recommend that you dig deep and pay the green fee at least once. It’s unlikely you will play a more dramatic course anywhere in the world.
Old Head Golf Links is located on some of the most remarkable golfing land in the world! With 300ft cliffs and a headland protruding 2 miles into the Atlantic ocean, Old Head Golf Links guarantees a dramatic day's golf.
With a site like this, you need to bring: your camera, your waterproofs, a beanie, your 'A' game, and plenty of golf balls!
Old Head is clifftop rather than traditional links golf, with magnificent views, and utterly exposed to the elements.
Come prepared for wind, or rain or both, and you are sure to have a memorable day- no matter what the weather does.
Although Old Head Golf links is a members club, it has a very comfortable clubhouse with accommodation and meals available for a small number of green fee players- and with players coming in from all over the world it can be a real golfing meeting place.
Out on the course, the focus is firmly on the setting and the views, but there are some amazing golf holes.
From a golfing point of view the course has a number of nice, unremarkable inland holes. These holes offer a chance to regroup after the high octane golf on offer around the cliffs.
You may struggle to recall the inland holes, but the clifftop holes will be forever imprinted in your golfing memory banks.
It is the overall experience, the views, the setting, and those spectacular clifftop holes that you will remember
Peter Wood is the founder of The Travelling Golfer – click the link to read his full review.
Old Head is a course that gives me mixed emotions and a mixed opinion. It is one of the most breathtaking, dramatic, and stunning golf courses in the world. By every measure, it is one of the most memorable courses I have ever played. It is not the most beautiful nor picturesque as the views from some of the cliff side holes (eastward looking) are of nothing really interesting, yet some of the views from the cliff side holes make you want to stand and look for ten minutes or more. It does not offer a view of a pretty bay, a lovely beach with palm trees, a village, or beautiful blue water. Yet it offers terrific views of a lighthouse, cliffs some 300 feet high, and sea caves. As to the golf course, the cliff side holes are the stars and they are also dramatic which leaves me thinking the interior holes are inferior. But are they? Am I so taken with the cliff side holes that the interior holes could not possibly be good in comparison? In assessing the entire course, it is difficult to divorce the views, the terror, and the overall quality of the cliff side holes from the routing that seems to diminish the quality of the interior holes.
When golfers talk about golf courses with the best par 3’s, Old Head certainly deserves to be in the discussion. Four of five are cliffside and they are spectacular. The one “inland” hole is also pretty good.
The interior holes are well bunkered, well defended, move in all directions which is important given the likelihood of wind affecting one’s play, and the course is well maintained. The interior holes vary in length. Yet I find myself wishing I felt differently about the interior holes, as if something is missing from them.
I studied the routing of Old Head after playing it. Every now and then I find myself going back on google maps to look at it to see whether they were other options for the architects. This is partly because I do not like the walk from the first green to the second tee, nor the walk from the twelfth green to the thirteenth tee. I constantly wonder whether the routing could have been better. One option would have been to make the front nine basically all of the interior holes and the back nine all along the coastline. If that had been the routing, then players would likely reflect negatively on the front nine similar to the sometimes criticism of the back nine at Royal Aberdeen. Should the routing have ended on two, three, four and then eighteen with the thirteenth and seven combined leading into the second and a replacement par 3 been added elsewhere? Are four par 3’s on the cliffs one too many? Could the green complexes be a bit more interesting?
With regard to the routing, there are two cliffside holes mentioned that I actually wish were “better.” Those are the twelfth and the seventeenth, the two par 5’s on the back nine. They are good holes; I just think they could be fabulous. In the absence of any wind, I do not find the tee shot at the twelfth very daunting, but then I rarely try to play for the heroic carry. I also think the twelfth green is a bit skinny and the hill to the right of it protects too much against a bad shot. I sometimes wish the seventeenth played uphill, even if it means a shorter hole of less than 600 yards, as I think that perhaps that would have been more challenging while maintaining the drama of the hole. But on the other hand, the architects probably wanted the average right-handed player who tends to fade the ball to have the cliff to their right. The architects also found a nice spot for their punchbowl green. I do not like how the seventeenth fairway runs out about halfway down and becomes rough for a bit. To be fair, whenever I see that on most holes I do not like it, so it is only a personal bias; others likely appreciate it.
The first hole is nicely bunkered and defended with the bushes right and left. It is a mid-length par 4 and a nice starting hole.
As mentioned, I do not like the walk to the second tee, passing by the sixth green. Of the cliffside holes, my third favorite is the second requiring a tee shot to this sharp dogleg left. From the tee the fairway looks as thin as a ribbon and the green is perched at the “end of the world.” Three bunkers are on the turn of the dogleg and at the front of the green which slopes sharply right to left. This is a great example of the architects fitting a hole perfectly to the land and not making it so difficult with additional length that it becomes unplayable for the average player.
The par 3 third follows, now hitting off a tee at the edge of the world. When I think of cliffside holes, this is about as good as it gets. There is bailout short of the green but then you have to navigate the false front. Two grass bunkers are on the left side of this tiered green. This is an exceptional par 3.
For me, the best hole at Old Head is the fourth, a par 4 that mirrors the second except it adds another 25 yards and the dogleg is not as severe. The green is elevated and sits next to the wall of the driveway for the lighthouse. It has two fairway bunkers left and two fronting the green. There is bailout to the right side of the fairway which will bring one’s ball back to the middle. While you don’t quite feel like you are hitting towards the end of the world such as at the second, it is a more beautiful hole due to looking right at that wonderful lighthouse. The lighthouse is not quite as good as at Turmp Turnberry but it is certainly the equal to the one at Cape Wickham.
The fifth run’s parallel to the entrance road and the first hole, with a wall down the left side of the fairway as out of bounds. Once on the green, I think this is one of the more interesting greens due to slope and undulations. It has fall-offs on many sides. I thought, however, it could have used two more bunkers around the green for more defense.
The sixth runs in the same direction and is a dogleg right off the tee. The tee aims you at the entrance wall to the left so it requires a well-shaped shot to stay safe. There is a bunker on the right side of the fairway for those trying to play their tee shot too safe. The green is well defended and the view of the historic structure at the left side of the green is really cool.
The seventh hole is a longer par 3 and it is possibly better than the third hole. This hole is the first time you are playing in a northly direction. It plays more difficult due to the wind seemingly always blowing left to right to push a ball over the cliff. There is a bunker front and a mound of grass to catch the shot struck too weakly. Bailing out to the left of the green leaves a very difficult shot as the green is tilted towards the cliff. This hole wrecks my score card but it is not unfair.
Nine well placed bunkers await you on the eighth hole, a par five playing the same direction as the seventh. But I seem to find the fairway a little too generous on the left side. It has a good green complex. It is a nice break from the cliffside holes.
The front nine finishes on a long par 4 moving south. This is a difficult driving hole due to the bunkers left and a bunker right. The green sits slightly uphill. I thought this is one of the easier greens which makes sense given the difficulty of getting on it. It is a fine ending hole to a memorable front nine.
The back nine kicks off with a shorter par 5 that is the easiest hole on the golf course, a dogleg right that has an interesting low rock wall and bushes near the green.
While the eleventh hole is the only par 3 that is not placed near a cliff, it is a tricky hole given its length and the uphill shot adding perhaps an extra club. The green is very well defended with a bunker in front and one to the rear. This could be the best par 3 on other courses.
The twelfth hole added 65 yards to the back tee from the first time I played it. It was once a pushover hole but no longer is due to the additional length. The mounding on the right side as you near the green creates a half “punchbowl” effect to the long and skinny green. It is a dramatic hole as the view on the tee is quite spectacular and the walk down the fairway equally so. I very much appreciate how the fairway narrows as you get closer to the green. This is the ultimate risk-reward hole for players unlike me, as I generally play the safer route.
The thirteenth hole, a par 3 plays back towards the seventh green, so now the cliffside is to the left. One hopes the wind direction has not changed unless it is to your benefit. Like the twelfth, this hole changed from the first time I played it, being reduced by nearly 60 yards. When it was 222 from the back tees, it was an unfair hole, but at 168/145 it is fine. It has the best green on the golf course but not the most interesting green complex.
Fourteen has cross bunkers in the landing area for one’s drive as well as a crowned green. This hole gives me fits due to its length and defenses. It is a good golf hole.
The fifteenth returns you to the cliffs for the rest of the round, a short par 4 that is driveable but one has to take account of the five bunkers surrounding the green as well as the mounding near it. This downhill tee shot is likely tempting to the big hitter, but as a more conservative player I think the views are more interesting than the hole as you look once again towards the lighthouse and the cliffs.
The final par 3 comes next and it is the most beautiful on the golf course. This longish par 3 plays downhill and wind is nearly always a factor here. You simply cannot miss right as there is no bail out there. If you miss left of the bunkers, you will have a difficult pitch back at the cliff. Six large bunkers surround the green. It is a spectacular golf hole and likely everyone’s favorite par 3.
I previously mentioned seventeen although I should add the view is outstanding as you look at the cliff, the rock outcropping that has the lighthouse on it. A stunning par 5.
The eighteenth turns you back towards the clubhouse to this dogleg left. The tee shot is dramatic as you walk back to a different cliff and hit over the water. The green sits up a lot so one or even two extra clubs might be necessary. The green is raised with a nice tier in the middle with lovely fall offs behind it and to the sides. It is a nice finish to a very good golf course.
Old Head is a must play. It is too bad that there are no other golf courses near it that one should try to play. So for the area of Ireland, it stands alone. But one should make the trip because it truly is the only course of its kind in the world as far as I know. Its uniqueness is incredible. I will forever wonder about the routing and whether the architects got it right. Perhaps in my heart given how amazing the land is, I wanted this to be the best course in the world. Instead it is merely one of the top sixty golf courses in the UK and Ireland. I think that is a too low.
Pebble beach on steroids! I know people that have played Pebble and say Old head is far superior. I just can't get enough of the spectacular views. The golf course is challenging but fair, in lush condition always and fun always. Whether its in Wind or sunshine, Old head is an experience you will want again and again. I play the top courses in Europe and Old head is one I go back to twice a year at least.
I know it's not a clubhouse review, but the service, food and general atmosphere around the club is top notch. Maybe because it's owned by a family, but you are treated as a member for the day and made to feel special.
I read a lot of the reviews of this course and having just spent the weekend playing it i felt indignant enough about some of them to join top 100 and write this. Firstly as you arrive and take your first look over the course from the clubhouse patio your breath is taken away. Wow was my utterance. i drove over from Cork and was lucky enough to have a beautiful sunny day with little wind. From the moment i arrived the service was friendly and helpful.
Excellent practice facilities too.
The course itself has only just re-opened for the season but was in fabulous condition. The greens weren't as slick as they would like but still very good, the fairways firm but not fast after flooding a week ago. Yes the first is a gentle par 4 with no wind - still drive and 5 wood though. From there a succession of memorable holes, 2 a cliff top drive with stunning views. 3 (a near hole in one!) 4th a cliff top green and so on ...the so called 'weak' holes were still very enjoyable and pretty as well as some challenging too. 2 have been extended i believe. i finished my round and could recall every hole in the bar after - not something i can do often on a first playing of a course. All i can say is i have played some of the worlds great courses, kingsbarns, Barnbougle, Punta Escada, Loch Lomond, Sunningdale and many more. Old Head ranks right alongside them. i was so glad i had booked 2 rounds because i would have been heartbroken not to have another go. 6 over my 16 Handicap in perfect conditions on day 1 - 6 under in mist and wind day 2! Make sense of that! Maybe the many photos and staggering views were at fault. By the way the course was just as impressive in the mist and wind and oddly i was happy to play the course more how it was meant to play. The drives from the back of 18 and 12 will not be forgotten. This course should be an absolute must for golfers of all standards and sexes. Truly memorable and already planning a return.
As an aside - food in Kinsale was fabulous and make sure you get Flash to drive your taxi if you require one. Truly fun.
An outstanding course. it`s a very special one. all the holes along the cliffs (2,3,4,12,13,15,16,17,18) are really spectacular. we played old head in the mid of october and the course was is excellent condition. great experience
We played Old Head in the Cyder Cup about 4 years ago in biblically bad weather with a force 7 gale and horizontal rain for much of the round. It took 6 hours to get round and was nearly dark on the last hole.
I am still haunted by playing such a stunning course in such terrible conditions, because it is an absolute cracker. We started on the first hole in sunshine and it starts with a fairly gentle par 4 which had a slight dogleg to the right as it meandered up to the elevated green. Then the rain and wind came in. After the innocuous opening hole, the 2nd takes you straight onto the coast and a knee trembling tee shot with the sea all the way down on your left hand side.
I could proceed to describe the following 16 holes but no one wants that. The 12th for me was the signature hole which I was lucky enough to birdie: a blind tee shot aiming at a big stone with the Atlantic majestically crashing into the coast on the left. Once you've made it onto the fairway, you have a view of an ever diminishingly wide fairway as it snakes downward to the green, with the sea all the way down the hole on your left. On some parts, the fairway literally falls away onto the cliffs and into the sea which makes for a stunning hole which you walk with trepidation.
The course was in immaculate condition and you are provided with Clicgear trolleys. It's a testing walk though with some long and steep walks between holes.
I don't really understand the negative comments about this course. I played the course in horrendous conditions and would love to play it again in different climes. It is the type of course that you have to experience at least once.
I'm conflicted regarding Old Head. On one hand, this is the closest one will probably ever get to playing a golf course that actually resembles The World's Most Difficult Holes calendar (you know, that fun parody calendar that comes out every year?) -- almost half of the holes are absolutely spellbinding and breathtaking, unlike what you might see and play anywhere else in the world. On the other hand, half of the holes that are not on the ocean are somewhat pedestrian, if not out of character from what one might expect for a links-like experience in Ireland -- but that's simply due to the average, if not benign aspects of the inland parts of the peninsula (at some point, without moving tons of earth, one can only play the hand that one is dealt). I played Old Head about ten years ago, then returned in August of this year, to caddy for my wife. Did I miss not playing it again? Not really. I was more than satisfied to simply to walk the course and taste the "eye candy" for free (as the round is very expensive, if not prohibitively so). In summary, Old Head supports the old adage "it's wonderful place to visit" (for that memorable and unique "once-in-a-lifetime" experience) -- "but I wouldn't want to live there" (and play the course everyday, the layout too contrasting, the round overpriced, "one-and-done" is just fine). Don D
Just back from a trip to Irleand and my third journey to Old ?Head following my inaguarl trip 20 yrs ago when the club house was a trailer and some of the tees still dirt waiting for turfing, followed by a return trip in 2003. Overall, Old Head is an interestiung piece of land but a poor golf course. Significant changesd have been made but in my view none for the better.
If you love flash and an Americanized course and experience you'll probably like Old Head, but in terms of pure good..the course is a stinker... a half dozen good holes surrounded by 12 mediocre holes at best.. The 12 is all world but beyond that the course doesn't rate..over priced, over hyped and not worth the journey nor the greens fee...save your money and go play the Island or Dooks if a true, Irish golf experience is what you're looking for.
Not worth the journey but you've been 3 times ? How is Old Head Americanised ? The architect has utilized almost every piece of land next to the cliffs and to that end he has achieved the most important imperative. There is very little spare land so what else could the architect do ? It is not a true Irish golf experience and does not purport to be. OH is not an essay on course design it is way more than that - it is a sublime experience that every golf lover should experience if they can. I notice that you rated Portrush as a 4 ball course - which says it all. I am sure everyone is breathing a sigh of relief that the Open organisers did not take into account your rating when they chose to put Portrush back on the rota.
So this course is one of the hardest in the world to review. The place is virtually unrivalled in terms of location, the views are amazing, the wind always blows, its virtually without peer. (I would guess Kidnappers in NZ is similar, but I bet not as stunning). Staying there is a lovely experience and the restaurant serves wonderful food. (Its not up in the Loch Lomond category, but lovely)
Which leads to the golf course. There are some truely amazing holes, honestly better than on nearly any course I've played(certainly more and better than Pebble beach for example). Some of the tees are amazing, the spots of certain greens on the cliffs are unlike anywhere else. In the US you would never be allowed to stand 2 ft from a cliff, putting...its an experience like no other..the par 3s are all great!
But, there are some really weak holes......the comparison with Peeble is not specious, GREAT holes combined with very weak ones.....
Does this make a great course? I don't know, but its a wonderful experience..if you get the chance to go, grab it with both hands, you will leave having had a great time, played some world class holes, but sadly not a great course
Old Head is without question one of the most scenic locations for golf on earth. The issue is whether the golf is as good as the scenery? To borrow a Texas expression -- Old Head is "all hat and no cattle" -- which equates to a course centered on the appearance than the actual substance.
When you first arrive at Old Head the views are nothing short of intoxicating -- most especially when the clouds have lifted and the sun glistens off the Atlantic Ocean.
The peninsula which Old Head is situated rests on 220 acres of land that juts out over two miles into the Atlantic with majestic views featuring unrelenting waves crashing against the rocks far below.
One of the misconceptions concerning Old Head is the usage of the word "Links" in its official title. Nothing could be further from the truth. In comparable ways -- Old Head is akin to how Pebble Beach describes itself -- a "Links." That doesn't mean to say the course doesn't play firm but it's not as firm as what you will find on a legitimate links course. The layout provides for five par-3 and par-5 holes respectively. The remaining eight holes are par-4's.
Unlike Pebble Beach - Old Head possesses too many holes defined as pedestrian. In straightforward terms -- they don't add to the totality of the site - just vanilla in terms of strategic elements. Those holes represent one-third of the course and includes such holes as the 1st, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th and 13th holes.
Just beyond the aforementioned holes are those I rate above average -- having elements of quality but not enough to be defined as especially memorable. Those include the 3rd, 9th, 10th, 11th, 14th and 15th holes.
The visit to Old Head centers on the remaining holes. They border the edge of the property and each is well done. The 2nd hole livens the proceedings considerably after a dull opener. The par-4 dog-leg left provides for both a heroic line of play over the protecting bunkers on the left side and there's a bailout area provided for the meek of heart. At the 4th the intensity of the setting ramps up considerably. Appropriately named "Razor's Edge," the 4th requires two consecutive top tier shots to execute. The green is also well-placed -- literally hanging on the side of the plunging cliffs -- the slightest pulled approach means certain death for one's golf ball. The backdrop is also inspiring -- with the famed Lighthouse standing guard.
The return nine is the better of the two sides and it's helped with the likes of the 12th, 16th, 17th and 18th holes. The 12th is a daring risk/reward par-5. The tee shot must be played over a part of the edge of the property - those who opt to cut off the corner had best deliver a first rate effort. The green is reachable for the strongest players but the green is pushed ever so close to the edge where any missed shot is forever doomed.
The 16th is a quality par-3 although a bit over shaped. The penultimate hole -- is a rollicking dynamic par-5 hole with a serpentine fairway. The ending hole -- called Sanctuary -- needs to be seen by any player from the extreme championship tee which sits at the base of the impressive Lighthouse. The hole turns left in the drive zone and concludes immediately near the clubhouse.
The sad thing is that there was the possibility for a truly stellar golf course. Old Head is the blessed with a jaw-dropping outward appearance, but when forced to show the inner workings, the design itself, with few exceptions, is more about the view than what's contained within its boundaries. A real pity.
by M. James Ward
There are some contradictions within this piece and a general lack of pragmatism. For example, the last paragraph suggests there only "few exceptions" whereas the author endorses 12 holes as being at least above average. That represents a comfortable majority of holes !
Even many of the feted courses of the world do not have 18 great holes; there is always a compromise. There are at least 6 holes at Old Head that live long in the memory.
The author compares OH with Pebble Beach, a place I love. PB could be challenged in that considering the land available and the money available, it should be better. On this note and a glance at the overhead shots of the land shows that there is very little spare land on the peninsula. As such, some sympathy is required: the obvious question is "what else could the architect have achieved".
Very little coast line is not utilized and those holes which enjoy that topography are truly staggering. Old Head is not an essay on course design it is a monument to the land it resides on and to this end it is sublime.
It would be a shame if potential visitors to OH were it some way deterred to make the pilgrimage on the basis of this, in some respects, ill conceived review. A trip to Old Head should be any golfers "bucket list".
Old Head is an experience that I’ll never forget, despite the shortcomings of some interior holes. I’d return in a heartbeat.
It’s easy to fall into the location seduction trap and boy is this location stunning, but the original reviewer has a valid point about the “links” moniker which is unnecessary and misleading. “Old Head Cliffs” would be a more representative title.
I like the course but feel much more could have been done with the interior holes, especially the bunkering which is rather tame.