Killarney Golf and Fishing Club - An Irish Golf Adventure

By Alan B. Nichols

Killarney Golf and Fishing Club lies on the main road to Killorglin just three miles west of the town center of Killarney. As you drive west, the terrain slopes up a hillside. On the left is the flat plain beside the lake. Across the lake, the Macgillycuddy's Peaks rise 3,000 feet. To the East toward the town and further south around the lake is the magnificent Killarney National Park.

Mahony Point's 13th The scenic 13th at Killarney's Mahony's Point course. The location of the club, like the entire area around it, is heavily wooded in a landscape reminiscent of New England. On the hillside beyond view of the road is the golf club's third and newest 18. Opposite is the stone-gate entrance to the main club itself. You drive in to what looks like an estate which, in fact it was once. As you make the half mile drive to the large, splendid clubhouse on the lake, you see some of the holes of the club's two main golf courses, Killeen and Mahony's Point.

Golf started in Killarney in 1891 when a 9-hole layout was built on the estate of the Earl of Kenmare. In 1930, the earl's son and heir, Lord Castlerosse, founded Killarney Golf Club Ltd., which bought 250 acres of the 125,000 acre estate. A newspaperman and an avid golfer, Castlerosse hired Sir Guy Campbell to design an 18-hole course in 1939 with Henry Longhurst's assistance. In 1968, long after Castlerosse's death, the Irish Tourist Board purchased 500 acres, allowing the club to expand to 36 holes. With its opening in 1971, Mahony's Point, largely the product of a local named Dr. Billy O'Sullivan, joined Killeen, which Eddie Hackett designed earlier, to give the club 36 holes of championship and club level golf.

Mahony's Point is the shorter of the two courses and with more holes and vantage points on the lake is perhaps a touch more photogenic. Stretching from 4,932 meters (add 10% for the approximate yardage) to 6,164 meters, it has a multiple of short to mid-range par 4's on a course that winds around and through oaks, maples, some pines in a largely open layout. The terrain is flat; no dirt was moved to create this course which has what many consider to be one of the most picturesque par 3's in Ireland. The 18th of almost 200 yards from the back lies along the lake and plays over a marsh to a fairly large green surrounded with trees and shrubs. If a couple were to have an outdoor wedding ceremony, I couldn't think of a choicer spot than this.

Championship Tee: 4th at Killeen Championship Tee: The 4th hole at Killeen
begins on this tiny rock promontory
Killeen is the golf club's signature course and it is a fine one. It measures from 4,928 to 6,474 meters. Killeen has hosted many major and minor championships including the '96 Curtis Cup matches between women amateur teams from the U.S. and Great Britain. Understandably, Nick Faldo gives Killeen a vigorous thumbs up. He won the Irish Open on it in both '91 and '92. Were it not for your focus on golf, you could well imagine yourself to be strolling the grounds of a beautiful estate on Killeen, which features some outstanding parkland holes and a couple of postcard holes right on the water.

The opener is a 347-meter slight dogleg right that hugs the lake and tests your driving accuracy. A second of similar length and shape veers inland but the lake and a marsh again come into play on the superb 179-meter 3rd. The tee box offers a commanding view of the lake, mountains and the small island upon which a 17th Century monastery was built. Those vistas continue on the short par 4 4th that starts from a back tee box on a tiny promontory and extends over a marsh to very narrow right-hand sloping fairway smack on the lake. Woods up and down the left side of the fairway provide no relief on this 321-meter and the well trapped and treed green on the lake make this on of the most hardest holes on the course.

Payne Stewart at Killeen's 4th The late Payne Stewart at the 4th at Killeen The hardest hole on the course is the 414-meter 5th that doglegs sharply to a green virtually hidden behind a cluster of trees and guarded by a large bunker right. A creek runs along the right side of the fairway out to about 220 yards and about 270 yards out on the left side of the fairway is a large tree. If you can avoid both of these obstacles, you are still left with one of the hardest second shots I have ever faced.

On a course that is fairly open but features a lot of small stands of trees, every hole is visually and strategically distinctive. The 6th is a terrific par 3 of 146 meters, playing from a wooded tee box to a green fronted by a serpentining creek. The dogleg right reachable par 5 7th calls for a short carry over an environmental area to a tree lined landing area from where you have a choice to lay up or go for the green with your second. A small pond directly front right of the elevated green makes the decision difficult. The 8th offers one of the most scenic tee shots on the course. From the elevated tee box in the woods, your drive must split a narrow chute between trees, and the second must avoid another creek that juts out in front of the green from the left.

Arguably the best hole on Killeen is the 404-meter 13th. Thick rough lines both sides of a runway-like fairway that is flat until the terrain dips into a vale that includes yet another creek. From the creek the hole shoot back upward to an elevated green virtually surrounded by trees. The hole is visually stunning and damn hard. My favorite hole is the 353-meter 14th which starts from yet another elevated tee to a flat landing area from where the fairway begins to rise modestly to an elevated and well bunkered green. An enormous, majestic turkey oak presides over the fairway on the right about 300 yards out, helping to make this the most attractive, if not the hardest, hole on Killeen.

Killeen's straight 411-meter finishing hole is where Faldo did a fabulous imitation of Houdini to escape disaster and tie for the lead after 72 holes and win the '92 Irish Open in a playoff. From an elevated tee box the hole sweeps down over an environmental area to a wide fairway with thick trees, shrubs and a creek/lake on the left and bunkers right. Another lake guards the left side of an elevated well bunkered green. The hole is panoramic offering a terrific view of the greater landscape and the spacious clubhouse under the trees.

The clubhouse has a large 19th hole with a wraparound bar and plenty of small tables for hoisting an Irish favorite. It also includes a fine restaurant. The club has a modest number of local members. It is one of the most genuinely friendly clubs I experienced in all of Ireland. Your warm reception and the high quality of golf are two excellent reasons why you will want to put Killarney Golf & Fishing Club on your "too visit" list.

Ross Castle in Killarney town Tourists can enjoy a horse-drawn cart ride to view
Ross Castle and other points of interest in Killarney town
The third reason is because Killarney itself is an extremely attractive town. Nestled on the east side of the lower lake, Killarney has a bustling commercial district with quaint shops along High Street that draw tourists worldwide. Within walking distance is Killarney National Park featuring some of the most diverse forested ecology in the country. The park has waterfalls and enough biking and hiking trails to satisfy most nature enthusiasts. There is also Ross Castle, the last Irish stronghold against Cromwell that was built in the 14th Century and has been beautifully restored. The island of Innisfallen includes the ruins of a 7th century abbey and a Franciscan monastery. And Muckross Gardens is 50 acres of native and exotic plants, shrubs and trees including yew trees and pines in a sylvan setting.

Rest assured, if you get enough golf at the golf club, Killarney town and the area are packed with other outstanding amusements and activities that make it well worth while to book a visit there on your next trip to Ireland. *

An Irish Golf Adventure

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