The Takeaway: Without question, the most remarkable golf course I've ever encountered. The dramatic setting at Old Head has no equal with over half of the holes playing along the impressive cliff edges towering above the Atlantic Ocean. I can't even verbalize the feeling of standing on various tee boxes with waves crashing into the cliffs and views as far as the eye can see. With quality hole designs from start to finish and a setting without equal, Old Head is the course I dream about playing again more than any other. Grade A+
Designer: Ron Kirby, Paddy Merrigan, Liam Higgins, Eddie Hackett, Dr. Joe Carr, and Haulie O'Shea in 1997
Cost: €90 - €240 (€60 for a cart, €50 for a single bag caddie, €35 for a double bag caddie) Click for current rates
Phone Number: +353 21 477 8444
Course Website: Official Website - Visit Old Head Golf Links's official website by clicking on the link provided.
Directions: Get here! - Kinsale, Co. Cork, Ireland
Accolades: Ranked 14th on Golf Digest Ireland's 2016 Top 100 list. Ranked 8th on Golf magazine's Top 18 course in Ireland list. Voted the most spectacular course in the world by Links magazine in 2011.
What to Expect: Wow, I mean wow! Old Head is an incredible golf experience situated on the most spectacular location in the world for a golf course. The diamond shaped 220 acre parcel that the course sits on stands in the Atlantic Ocean and is hooked to the southern coast of Ireland by a narrow isthmus of land featuring a road barely wide enough for two small European cars to pass each other. This unfathomable property is like stepping onto a video game golf course that has suddenly come to life. But Old Head isn't just sexy, it has plenty of substance too. Prior to playing Old Head I had read about how the course had dramatic cliffside holes but lacked substance on the interior holes. That simply isn't the case. Other than a pedestrian opening hole, the course features one well designed hole after another with plenty of strategy, thought, and intriguing features going into each one. There is an impressive amount of movement on the property that helps deliver memorable holes with plenty of character. From the cliff hugging 4th hole, to the all-world par five 12th hole, to the mind-blowing tee shot on the 18th hole, Old Head is simply marvelous throughout. While there is legitimate criticism of the term "links" being used in the title of the golf course given it isn't really a true links course while being located in links golf cradle of the world, don't let that deter you from experiencing one of the truly great golf destinations on the planet. Lastly, players that don't wish to walk the course have the option of taking a cart/buggy which can be a difficult find at top tier courses in Ireland.
By the Numbers
Individual Hole Analysis
Signature Hole: 12th Hole – 564 Yard Par 5 – One of the most jaw dropping holes on the planet! From the back three tees on this hole you get a very real, and intimidating, sense of the magnitude of your surroundings as you gaze at an uphill tee shot to a fairway draped on Old Head's cliffs with ocean crashing on either side. The fairway narrows as it continues to work its way down the isthmus that connects Old Head to Ireland's southern borders with a single bunker being found on the right side of the short grass 100 yards from the green. The putting surface is perched on the left edge of the cliffside thus creating an approach shot where you beg the golf gods that your pull doesn't rear its ugly end and send your ball tumbling down to the depths of the Atlantic. It is one of the greatest par fives and holes in the world and one you'll yearn to experience again.
Best Par 3: 7th Hole – 192 Yards – Located towards the north end of Old Head's diamond shaped property, the par three 7th places due west with the waters of the Atlantic surging into the cliffs on your right. A lone bunker sits near the bottom of a chipping area that protects the front left of the putting surface and creates a challenging location to save par from with the green running away from you towards the ocean. Old Head offers four cliffside par threes and a total of five one-shotters that manage to play four different directions; an impressive variety for an often windy location.
Best Par 4: 4th Hole – 427 Yards – Appropriately named "The Razor's Edge," this hole travels south towards the lighthouse with the left side of the fairway clinging to the cliffside. Showing a remarkable combination of majestic setting and daunting architecture, the 4th hole represents one of the finest holes in Ireland and is an instant acknowledgement of how special Old Head is. A pair of fairway bunkers sit on the left side and can be actually be your friend if they save you from skipping into the Atlantic below. The nearly 50 yard deep green provides ample forgiveness with length on your approach shot but there is very little room for error on your accuracy as the 18 yard wide putting surface features the ocean on the left and a steep wall on the right.
Best Par 5: 17th Hole – 623 Yards – A 250 yard drive from the back tees is required to reach the fairway on this lengthy hole that traverses southeast along the ocean cliffs which frame the right side of this three-shotter. Players will experience a 75 foot drop from tee to green and may find their nerves becoming a factor as the fairway tightens to a mere 12 yards before feeding into the putting surface. Players taking their second shot too far left may find themselves with a blind approach over the side of the green where the lone bunker resides. This dramatic hole provides quite the setup for the climatic 18th.
Birdie Time: 15th Hole – 342 Yard Par 4 – The shortest par four on the course and a legitimate chance for long hitters to have an eagle putt. A rip down the left side of the fairway is the most direct route to the green with a 315 yard poke finding the putting surface on that line which is aided by the 35 foot drop in elevation from tee to green. The green is just 18 yards wide and is surrounded by five bunkers, but if the wind is to your back you will have a great chance of knocking your tee shot down by the putting surface and then getting up and down for a bird. Oh and by way, missing right puts you in the Atlantic which I recommend against if going under par here is on your mind.
Bogey Beware: 18th Hole – 434 Yard Par 4 – From the back tee this tee shot stands as one of the most memorable and striking golf shots in the world. Players find themselves perched out on a peninsula that jets off Old Head's furthest southerly point with the famous lighthouse to their back a forced carry over the ocean and seaside cliffs to the front. The hole doglegs left back towards the clubhouse while a stone wall frames the right boundary thus requiring players to take a line over the ocean on their way to safety. The view from the tee is ridiculously beautiful and the narrow tee box is a bit frightening to hit from which adds a layer of psychological difficulty to this amazing finisher. The fear is further compounded by the walk down the narrow pathway to the tips with a steep hillside rolling down to the ocean on one side of you and the lighthouse towering above you on the other side. Never have I felt so insignificant on a golf course then during that moment; the scale of your surroundings is simply daunting and that is why the 18th is Old Head's bogey beware hole.