Opened in 1998, Ring of Kerry, which plays to 6,923 yards from the tips, is in the hamlet of Templenoe, six miles west of Kenmare, overlooking beautiful Kenmare Bay that is bordered on the south by the Caha Mountains of the Beara Peninsula.
Ring of Kerry Clubhouse
The moment you step on the course you are aware of the quality of maintenance. The day I played it, the Providence Bent grass greens putted so true that even the Tour players would have been happy with them, and the rest of the layout is groomed to the last detail. European PGA Tour officials have looked at the possibility of staging a senior tour event here. Lakes and streams are plentiful on this "modern" parkland-by-the-sea design.
The course's dramatic elevation changes offered Irish course designer Eddie Hackett ample opportunities to create interesting holes, some of which are a bit quirky. Among a string of fine holes, the best is No. 14, a slightly uphill, dogleg left 433-yarder from a recessed tee box to a right-to-left sloping tree-lined fairway. The green is framed magnificently by trees in one of the most photogenic scenes on a parkland golf course I have ever seen. Severely downhill, the 383-yard dogleg right 6th requires a precise iron off the tee to avoid a lake and stream right and another stream left.
The rest of the layout includes an interesting mix of short and long holes including two beautiful par 3's over lakes. As with many of today's designs, there is even a short par 4, the 307-yard 9th, that tempts you to go for it. A large lake runs along the fairway to the green and a shot left leaves you in impossibly high grass.
Hole No. 2 at Ring of Kerry
The 619-yard 11th needs to be redone. It is as scenically intriguing as it is long, requiring a draw off the tee over the crest of a hill that falls sharply downhill. It is bordered on the left by a steep ravine with thick gnarly rough. The design flaw is that the tee shot is blind, a fact that puts too much emphasis on luck. And even if you can thread the narrow drop of fairway (as I did) you are left still left with a blind shot to the green.
Until recently, the green was so steeply pitched that it would reject even the most precise shots. The green has been moved forward some 70 yards and leveled. Six other greens, which also came under criticism for the severity of their slopes, are being redone as well.
Ring of Kerry Golf Club is owned by Tom McNicholas, CEO of McNicholas Construction Co. in London. Eager to have his club join the elite of Ireland's golfing destinations, McNicholas is building guest cottages as part of a long-range plan that could include a full-scale resort complex. In the meantime, he has agreements with several of the area's top hotels including the beautiful Park Hotel Kenmare.
This is a fascinating golf course and it will be all you can handle. Get plenty of rest before tackling this one, as its elevations will have you panting for breath.
An Irish Golf Adventure