Fifteen years ago, County Wicklow was a golfing wilderness and the travelling golfer would pass the county by in a rush to play Kerry's charming delights. Today, there are four outstanding golfing facilities: Rathsallagh, Druids Glen, The European Club and Powerscourt. In fact, there is enough action going on at the celebrated Powerscourt Estate to keep the golfer and the non-golfer happy for days. There's the historic Powerscourt House, the Italian and Japanese gardens, the Pepper Pot Tower - they've even got their own garden centre and waterfall, which tumbles 600 feet down the mountainside.
The original East course at Powerscourt opened for play in 1996, designed by former Walker Cup Captain Peter McEvoy. A mere two years after Powerscourt opened, Padraig Harrington won the Irish PGA Championship and in 2001, it was the venue for the AIB European Senior Tour. Needless to say, the East course is a serious test, especially from the championship tees, which stretch out beyond 7,000 yards. McEvoy has worked with the natural contours of this mature and historic landscape in an harmonious and sympathetic way. There is nothing manufactured, except perhaps for a couple of water features, and we'll forgive him for that.
The most striking features of the course, with the exception of its magnificent location beneath the Sugarloaf Mountain, are the amazing contoured greens. Their shapes are simply extraordinary and worthy of the green fee in their own right.
Powerscourt has recently added a second course to the portfolio – the West. Like the East course, the West offers a variety of challenging holes and it presents an alternative perspective on the stunning Powerscourt scenery. This parkland course has some links characteristics and David McLay Kidd designed it with top class tournaments in mind, although golfers of all abilities will enjoy it. This recent addition surely makes Powerscourt one of the most desirable golfing destinations in the east of Ireland.
In my opinion the better of the two courses at Powerscourt is the East which was designed by Peter McEvoy, however I must stress it is only considered better as it is stacked alongside the much maligned West course. The most memorable holes on this course are at the start and finish to the round, with many of the holes around the middle leaving alot to be desired. The second is an interesting dog leg right-left uphill par 5, with a huge oak tree situated in the middle of the approach to the green having to be dealt with. The 16th is a nice medium length par 3 with an interesting green played to at an angle from the tee with a lake lurking for anyone who comes up short. The 17th is the strongest hole on the course I feel. A right to left sweeping par 5, played from an elevated tee to a green guarded by water to the front and right and on the left by dense gorse. This hole possesses my favourite attribute of course design the "risk reward" factor, with the player being presented with a realistic eagle opportunity if he is aggressive and accurate with his tee shot and his approach.
As I mentioned the above three holes are far and away the best on the course, with the other 15 leaving serious question marks. I would not normally be one to make sweeping statements but Powerscourt I believe is one of the most overrated golf complexes in Europe, the two courses are extremely average and I cannot believe two such distinguished designers could not produce a better collection of holes across an almost blank canvas. The noteriety Powerscourt achieves most definitely is related to its proximity to Dublin(12 Miles) and as such it receives very undeserved praise, from people who have little or no knowledge of what constitutes a real golf course. If I had the choice I would much sooner play McEvoy's creation at Rathsallagh, it is I believe the most natural newly created parkland course I have ever seen, the course blends in with exceptionally beautiful surroundings, mature trees and stunning water features. I believe this course has un-limited potential and would stress upon anyone to play it, it would be an exceptional venue for a tour event. If I was to rank in order the Dublin suburban new parkland courses my list would appear as follows 1. K Club Palmer 2. Druids Glen 3. Rathsallagh 4. Carton House Montgomerie 5. Palmerstown House 6. The Heritage 7 Luttrelstown Castle 8 K Club Smurfit 9 Carton House O Meara 10 Castleknock Nick