Waterville - Kerry - Ireland

Waterville Golf Links,
Waterville,
County Kerry,
Ireland


  • +353 66 947 4102

  • Noel Cronin

  • Claude Harmon, Eddie Hackett, Tom Fazio

  • Jay Connolly


Visit Golfbreaks.com for a golf holiday at Waterville

The town of Waterville is a famous angling centre, located on a strip of land that separates the Atlantic Ocean from one of the most beautiful lakes in Ireland, Lough Currane. The name Waterville, or An CoireÁn (Little Whirlpool), is the premier coastal tourist centre of South West Kerry. Every year, Charlie Chaplin came to Waterville with his family, and they have named the annual two-day AM-AM after him. The AM-AM has been held since 1984, a two-day golfing extravaganza involving teams from all over Ireland. It also involves a certain amount of merriment!

Golf at Waterville started around 1889 with a modest 9-hole course, laid out on the eastern section of the present course. In the 1950s, the club folded until Jack Mulcahy (an Irish American) bought the links in the late 1960s. Mulcahy commissioned Claude Harmon, his friend and the 1948 Masters champion and Eddie Hackett, Ireland’s most prolific architect, to design a new course. In 1973, the “beautiful monster” course at Waterville opened for play. Tom Fazio was subsequently commissioned to update the course.

Waterville plays on a promontory surrounded by the sea. It’s a stunning, remote location with views to the northeast of the Macgillycuddy’s Reeks mountain range and to the southwest across the beautiful Ballinskelligs Bay and the Atlantic Ocean. The fairways are gently undulating, the front nine plays across relatively flat ground whilst the back nine weaves its way through avenues of tall dunes. The view from the elevated 17th tee, an excellent par 3 called “Mulcahy’s Peak” after the founder Jack Mulcahy, is simply breathtaking.

There are few courses that can boast such a fine collection of unique and great golf holes. Waterville has three outstanding par threes and three excellent par fives, the par fours are pretty good too. The 11th is a heavenly short par five with a rippling fairway protected on both flanks by towering dunes. The 366-yard par four 16th was once called “Round the Bend” because it follows the natural curvature of the Atlantic coastline. It was here that Liam Higgins, the local pro, had a hole-in-one on his way to setting a course record of 65. Fittingly, the hole is now called “Liam’s Ace”.

The remote location of the Waterville links has precluded it from hosting any big competitions, but many famous golfers find their way here and they all leave with the feeling that Waterville is a very special place.

Payne Stewart was due to be Honorary Captain of Waterville in 2000. Tragically, in October 1999 he died when his private jet crashed in South Dakota. A bronze statue pays tribute to him and his affiliation with Waterville.

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Reviews for Waterville

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Description: Waterville Golf Links plays on a promontory surrounded by the sea. It’s a stunning, remote location... Rating: 5.2 out of 6 Reviews: 35

No one misses the Ring of Kerry and neither did we. Although the Ring of Beara (hidden gem – the Uragh stone circle!) and the Ring of Dingle are every bit as nice, but Killarney certainly is the tourist centre of the region with services for every budget. And from there a leisurely and scenic two-hour drive will take you to Waterville. Click the link to read more… Ireland – any decent golf on the West Coast?

6 / 6
Waterville
October 12, 2016


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Waterville is a special place. Out on the west end of the Ring of Kerry. It is an adventure to make. The course is pure strong links golf. They could stretch this course to 8000 yards if they wanted to. The conditioning is great. The changes made to 16 Liam’s Hole are grand. They opened up the best views on the course which use to be hidden by these very high plants. I usually play here and feel I have played well and yet the card says….No. Ha. We played in the afternoon and I was puzzled as to why the bunkers hadn’t been raked for the day. My first venture into a bunker was in a half footprint…And the sand was so hard….This is a very nice course and a must play in SW Ireland. I’d personally put Tralee just a nudge ahead of it though.
5 / 6
Waterville
October 09, 2015


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I played Dooks (along with Tralee, Waterville and Ballybunnion) in mid April this year. It was a fantastic trip, but sadly Waterville is the only course of the three that I have no urge to make the effort to visit again. Yes, it's a good course. Yes it's a tough course and yes it has the finest finishing stretch (16-18) that I've ever played. But somehow it all seems a little underwhelming. In my opinion go if you're taken, but don't work too hard to get there - it's a long way from anywhere and isn't cheap.
4 / 6
Waterville
May 14, 2015


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6 handicap golfer - played April 2013.Course was very quiet when I played but we were greeted upon arrival and the clubhouse was open for food. The course is superb with a number of great holes. It would seem that fortunately the greens were fine and the ball ran smoothly. I have to say that the first 4 holes are good, but I felt that it became truly outstanding from 5 onwards. For a course that I had been looking forward to for many years it was slightly underwhelming in terms of the overall experience but there is no doubting the quality of the design.
5 / 6
Waterville
June 26, 2013


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EPIC FAIL. Where do I start?Welcome: PoorWe arrived to a luke warm greeting and someone (who turned out to be the starter) pointing outside and said you can tee off when you're ready. No souvenier or guidance on the course provided. When asked if we could have balls for the range we were told it was closed.Course: DisgracefulAfter practicing on what can only be described as average winter greens, we headed out onto the course. The greens had been treated, full of sand and cored. Putting was a lottery. The fairways were average at best and some of the bunkers completely neglected.Changing Facilities: Health and Safery hazard.We decided to show after the round and the changing facilities are appauling. The showers make a loud thundering noise when on and the toilets had not been cleaned. The whole place smelt like the toilets in Trainspotting looked!Food: I can honestly say I have not been served a worse burger. It was clearly microwaved and the bun was soggy. Thankfully the chips were edible and a generous portionCustomer Service: Non-exsitentWhen we asked why there was no mention of the treated greens we were offered this.. "I am not aware of any problems with the greens. Only last week a nice American praised the condition of the course"American Owners Greed:After speaking to members we discovered that the course and facilities have been neglected for years. The American shareholders have recently almost doubled members fees to try and squeeze them out. The case is in the high court.Golf Magazine Shame:The golf magazines should hang their heads in shame. No sum of money or bribe should justify the rating Waterville is given. The American owners have taken a beautiful course and ruined it!
2 / 6
Waterville
August 21, 2012


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Pat Ruddy
August 22, 2012
Waterville is golfing heaven. Has been that for decades. A great links and a great manager, one of the best in the world, in Noel Cronin and a marvellous professional in Liam Higgins. A two ball rating is impossible to understand. This is a place and a game to die for and it is always a thrill to play there.
Kevin Beattie
August 23, 2012
Pat, Noel may well be a "great" manager but we lodged a polite complaint about the greens last week and have heard nothing back. Noel wasn't on site in the height of summer (we were there two days) and there was no one to represent him. If Noel or yourself would like to speak with one our team to discuss please give me a call on +44 (0)7900 211620.
John
August 23, 2012
Dear Pat, I am not sure if you have played Waterville recently but I assure you that the condition of the course when we played it was far from heaven. I have photos of every green which resemble a field that's just been ploughed. Happy to send these to you, I am currently trying to upload them to the site. I think the remaining negativity from the two other recent comments are as much directed at the treatment we received from the staff and ambiance. For example, it would be deemed courteous to alert us to the state of the greens, whilst potentially nececessary short term, prior to arrival; this didn't happen. Upon alerting the staff (reception) to the state of the greens we were aggressively dismissed and management over the two days were nowhere to be found. We have subsequently tried to get in touch for three days now and have not been received or replied to. Therefore I can not share your faith in the customer service adopted at this course. I do however think two ball is a little low, the course is simply in disrepair. If you want links, go to Aberdeen and play Trump for less money. Thanks Three ball rating reviewer
John Dwyer
August 24, 2012
EPIC FAIL REVIEW. Where do I start? As it is mostly a customer service review, it is impossible to comment on, especially as we say in the business "the customer is always right". The only item really missing here is factual context. Waterville has been one of the most heavily invested golf properties in Ireland in the last 10 years, but the owners chose to invest in the golfing asset first. To that end they retained Tom Fazio for a renovation of the links, and I can say I have never seen him do bad work. I know the members at Augusta National are very happy with him. I agree Waterville does not have an opulent, uncommercial trophy asset for a clubhouse, but I bet most golf facilities now finding themselves in negative equity wish they did not have them either.In relation to course conditioning I can only assume it was one of those "perfect storms" of coincidence. Waterville has been performing one of the most technical long term migrations back to real links turf that I am aware of, and over-seeding is part of that, and yes in the interim there can be less than perfect conditioning, but not at the level inferred in the review, and perhaps the fact that the course is referenced for 2.5 lines of the 17.5 line review is indicative of its credibility. Additionally the quip about owners greed is a disingenuous comment and totally untrue, Opex for the golf industry has increased on average 35% in the last 5 years, and fees\dues have not increased in proportion to this, that is ignoring the considerable Capex of in excess of €7m that the "greedy owners" committed to.
Nick Park
August 24, 2012
The latest reviews have very helpfully flagged up an issue which is of great concern to golfing consumers: how does one assess, in truly objective fashion, the playing quality of greens? Not just for one day, but across a whole year? Apologies now for a long reply.

This is a problem which has vexed me for years; I first wrote about it in Golf Monthly in 1984.It is, of course,completely dependant on the type(s) of grass found in the sward. In essence, there are three parameters of " ball behaviour " to track : speed, firmness and trueness. Speed is hugely overrated as a measure of quality, and recent research has also shown that the Stimpmeter is simply not fit for purpose. However, speed is still a useful number to monitor regularly, and a new ( reliable )tool will soon be available. Firmness is related to moisture, but crucial in determining the effects of spin on the green. It is measured at least quarterly by a Clegg meter. Which leaves us with the real bugbear : trueness.

Now, I must declare an interest as a member of The R&A Golf Course Committee which has worked to solve this problem. The first step was to build a machine which measures trueness(lateral deviation) and smoothness(vertical deviation). This was developed by the STRI and is regularly used by them ( and by The R&A during The Open). But it does not solve the monitoring issue for the wider game. It is too expensive for most clubs to consider. So we have developed a simple tool which allows replicated putts to be made from distances up to about 12 feet. We have also developed a protocol which is based on replicating 10 successive putts from ( usually ) 6 feet. 10/10 is a perfect score for "reliability" and any club wants to see that 365 days a year. Not always possible, but if the sward itself is of high enough quality, then the test rarely fails. Remedial work on such surfaces e.g. overseeding or aeration may look unsightly on a good fescue/bent sward - but it still passes the test. I have plenty of film to prove it! On bad swards ( usually meadow-grass dominated ) we have often found scores of only 6/10 from 6feet. For 8 months of the year!Imagine playing your golf regularly on such surfaces: 4/10 of your perfectly-hit putts will miss from 6 feet because of defects with the surface. This tool is currently on test in various countries/climates and (subject to results ) The R&A expect both the tool and the protocol to be widely promoted to greenkeepers and clubs early next year.

Now: this is not an attempt to blind with science.I have every sympathy with customers who feel they have not received value for money at a golfing venue. But, as consumers, we are all much better at judging the quality of the chips or the temperature of the beer. What golfers have lacked - for far too long - is a way of judging if they are getting value for money from the putting surface. The reverse of the coin is that club/course managers need to know that they are actually delivering such quality. Subjective comments from golfers who have an off day are about as unhelpful as the guy who wins the monthly medal on greens which are like pegboards. He says the course is wonderful - but we all know it was just his turn to fluke a lot of putts. The only way forward is objective and regular testing of surfaces, with results ( or even film ) which clubs can publish if golfers want to see the evidence... continued below. 
Nick Park
August 24, 2012

Now,finally to Waterville.I did a piece on the course for The R&A website a couple of years ago. I stand by my views at that time. The process of fescue reclamation goes on - and is being done as skilfully as you will find anywhere in GB&I. It is very far from an easy process,but the results over 365 days a year are tremendous. I would agree that visually the overseeding can be an issue at times - but it is not affecting the trueness of the surface from 6 feet. And that is the length of putt which The R&A believes is a fair test of reliability for a green surface. As it happens, this test was first carried out - for the first time anywhere - on 28th March 2011 - at Waterville. And much of the development work has been done there, because the surfaces are so good throughout the whole year. One final point if I may. In my opinion, the owners of the club have done a wonderful job in bringing the course up to where it is now. And it will continue to improve, and it will continue to justify a very high rating. Messrs. Hackett and Mulcahy would be well pleased. Happy to answer any queries from the above, if I can. I don't know who " Epic Fail " is but I'm sure he has done a great service by giving us a chance to open up ( in my opinion )the really crucial issue : the quality of the golf and the golf course. Better understanding of all the issues involved can only help clubs to consistently deliver value for money.

Keith Baxter
August 24, 2012
Having communicated directly with a few of the golfers in the visiting group who were unhappy with the condition of the greens and also to Noel Cronin, the General Manager of Waterville, the matter is now closed. I am now drawing a line under this particular issue, even though it has raised many interesting points. Due to the wettest summer on record, the greens at Waterville were recently aerated and sanded, which was the main point of concern. This process happens at every club at various times of the year and is a necessary agronomy procedure. The visual impact of aeration or scarification can be quite startling and the effect of sand and the aeration scars will challenge even the best putters. I believe it would be helpful if clubs advised visitors, as well as the members, that this essential maintenance is taking place so that golfers can choose in advance whether or not to play during such works. Thanks to everyone for their posts both negative, positive and technical. As always, it’s your views that make this website live. Keith Baxter – Editor-in-Chief
I see most of the positive comments to be >12 months ago... things have changed. Would agree with pretty much everything said in one of the recent posts having played two rounds last weekend. Course: enjoyable, tough but fair with a couple of really testing holes mixed in with scoring ones. However, greens were a disgrace; looked like a poor fairway having been heavily raked i.e. bobbling puts...sometimes amusing (i.e. going wide to jump an inch into the centre), others not so amusing (i.e. going in to jump wide). This FACT was completely denied by the secretay and management were strangely absent (as was everyone the whole time: no welcome, no send off). Clubhouse: nothing short of embarrassing and a relic. The carpets were old, faded and held a musty smell. The changing facilities were that of a cheap public swimming pool minus any lockers for guests. The shower room would have been more personal had it been we been asked to hose ourselves down outside. The food was that of a cheap cafe, lesson leart: order a panini and chips but nothing more "exotic". The staff: bar and restaurant staff very pleasant, the starter was non existent (or rather didnt leave his box, merely shouted and pointed to the first tee. Funny to read about the driving range... similar experience given they were "not sure if it was open" though four people were sitting in the starters box. Extras: Golf carts are €50 and the come with nothing more than a "its over there"; would have been looking for a complimentary set of tees perhaps or a course guide (extra €5). Oh and if you want to take a towel with you onto the course when wet... get your change out: €2. To sum up, its not so spectacular to go out of your way and the overall experience left you wondering why you had just handed over €200+. If you're pushed for time, play Lahinch and TraLee.
3 / 6
Waterville
August 21, 2012


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John
August 23, 2012

While it is undoubtedly a fine test of links golf (Holes 3,11,12,16-18 being the highlight) located on a beautiful and remote stretch of land the whole experience left me underwhelmed. The course condition was extremely poor. The Greens had recently been cored and sanded which strikes me as strange given we were in the middle of summer/high season. They were at times un-puttable. The fairways/tee boxes were also in poor condition in comparison to other SW Ireland courses we played. It is entirely what you would NOT expect from a Top50 worldwide golf course. Having been a golfer for many years I understand the need for greens to be cored/sanded however It was the Staff’s response which was extremely disappointing. Both the duty manager and pro-shop staff denied there was any issue with the greens. The starter just ignored us when we asked about the quality of greens. Typically a club reliant on its reputation to bring in international visitors at expensive rates would go out of its way to remedy the situation – an apology, reduced green fees, free course guides etc. None of this was forthcoming – only a dismissive attitude from all the staff we attempted to approach.

It is laughable Waterville is marketing itself as a golf “resort” – the changing facilities/showers are without doubt the worst I’ve ever encountered. The food was of a very low quality. The members we spoke to were extremely disappointed. There was no welcome, course introduction, course memento - all of which is strange given management has recently doubled members fees and placed a restriction on numbers in what I can only interpret as a move to “welcome” more high paying international visitors. By all means go and play if you want to tick off another top100 course (various lists are everywhere in the clubhouse) if that’s your aim but prepare to be underwhelmed by the most overrated course on the list. 

Andy Hopkins
September 22, 2012
I have to say I find these comments shocking....I played this course some 5 /6 years ago and thought I'd found Links golfing heaven. How times change although I cannot believe such a fantastic plot of land and such a great layout can stay in the doldrums. I will keep my eye on this site as this has long been one of the courses I had on my "must-play-again"list
neil
November 10, 2012
having played it recently, i would agree to an extent re the course condition for its green fee price. but, the conditions of the greens were ok, not terrible i.e. slow , with a good tight cut they would be good. the fairways ok. all in all the course seems to be 3 to 4 days without an overall cut. though again for its green fee price you would expect a daily cut! and re the facilities, not great that is true.
It is a very good course, but I have to say that I was expecting more given the plaudits it has received. To its credit it was less corporate than Ballybunion but I just kept waiting to be blown away which didnt really happen until 16-18. Having said that thought 2nd / 3rd and the first short hole were all excellent. I actually preferred Dooks to Waterville
5 / 6
Waterville
August 03, 2011


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Played Waterville in very unlikely April Irish conditions - bright sunshine and a very light breeze and its was a fitting culmination to our 3 day trip to SW Ireland. A truely magnificent track that is hard but fair at all times. The place is a pig to get to but once there you really never want to leave as the staff are very friendly, the scenery breathtaking and the course as close to perfect as its been my pleasure to play. I've played 15 of the BI's top 20 and this place is up there with Turnberry and RCD at the very pinnacle.
6 / 6
Waterville
May 01, 2011


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Played 36 holes on June 15, 2010. The course is outstanding from start to finish and the staff is cordial and helpful. The greens were not at their best, probably as a result of the harsh winter. Otherwise, I would rank Waterville just behind Ballybunion.
6 / 6
Waterville
June 29, 2010


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Played Waterville in 2008 with a group and can say that after hearing rave reviews, we were disappointed. First off, the service was downright awful (Nobody greeted our group in the clubhouse or at the 1st tee - we actually felt ignored). We were given our caddies which ended up being kids between the ages of 12 and 15 (who had no clue). There was no effort at all from anyone at the club. As far as the course is concerned, it was extremely tight and had the thickest rough that I've ever played. If your tee ball rolled a foot off the fairway, the longest iron that you could hit was a PW and you were lucky to advance the ball 75 yards. A positive was the fact that the fairways were as fast as lightning. A # of us were hitting 3 irons 280 yards (200 yard carries with 80 yards of roll). Greens were excellent. #18 is a monster of a par 5. I'm probably not being fair to the course, but the experience was not the best.
3 / 6
Waterville
January 23, 2010


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Cedric
January 23, 2010
Definitely not fair to the course, you got that dead right!!! Bad day from the staff maybe? Been there a couple of times and service was always superb...