Friday, August 28, 2009

Roll out the carpet at Killeen Castle

This is my review of Killeen Castle, to go alongside the reviews in my book.

It’s impossible not to be overwhelmed by the Killeen Castle experience. It is a magnificent venue with first class service, and there’s that air of perfection everywhere. What else would you expect from a Jack Nicklaus course! Trees form a dense perimeter around this handsome and vast estate. They make the golf course feel very open, but that is only because of the huge area covered by the course itself. It’s a mesmerising place and on the opening holes you have long walks to tees that show it all off to its best advantage.

It’s so large, in fact, that you rarely see other golfers.

Not surprisingly, the castle is the centrepiece (see my Flickr photos or read my previous blog) and you come back to it on a number of occasions, notably 18 where it forms a stunning backdrop. But on this gently undulating landscape everything works, and I loved the way lush, green fairways streaked through the fields of silver and gold. The water features are so pretty they could have been painted.

What about the golf? You will learn a lot about the course from the 1st tee (where you will be accompanied by a member of the Golf Services team for your pep talk). Look down the carpet-like fairway and you will notice the bunkers. Lots and lots of them. They are big, deep and treacherous. With so much water around, I am reluctant to say they are the course’s main defence, but approaching most greens your eye will always be searching for the bunkers and they will prove magnetic. And yet it is the bunkers that push up the pristine greens to give them their beautiful shapes.

Despite the heavy bunkering there is something almost soporific about Killeen Castle. Perhaps it is the lazy flow around the state, or simply that every golf hole is easy on the eye, as fairways drift into the distance. There are few doglegs (17 and 18, along with the wet par three 16th, make for a stunning finish) so you can see what you have to do from the tee box.

Is it tough? Yes, but this is more about elegant, relaxing golf – like Mount Juliet, but more so. There’s plenty of room to err on your drives, as fairways are generous, but the approaches are far trickier because of the bunkering and water. I guess you might say that Killeen Castle gives you plenty of opportunities to revel in a beautiful golf course, while lulling you into big mistakes.

The words I would use to describe this course are ‘idyllic’ and ‘corporate’. There is a certain element of style over substance, i.e. it is not dramatic, dynamic golf, like Druid’s Glen, but it is accessible to everyone and it is an experience to be savoured. There are four tees to choose from, so choose wisely.

There’s also the impressive Dave Pelz Scoring Game School.

Favourite hole: Par five 12th 505 yards (blue tees). The dense trees run down the left and give you a great target as they then curl right, showing you the way. It is the risk v. reward on the second shot that makes the hole, as Rock River tumbles in front of the green. An enchanting setting (fairy tree and all).

Toughest hole: Par for 17th 428 yards. The lake that gives this hole its shape is as dangerous as it is beautiful. The dogleg curves around it and you get to choose how much to bite off. The green is not easy to attack either, with a small rise to the surface that may pull your ball into the water.


Course Design 18

Appeal 9

Greens/Fairways 10

Bunkers/Water 10

Location 7

Facilities 10

Value for Money 10 (€100)

Golf Experience 20

Total: 94


  1. Kevin, great stuff! Please post links to your new material on Twitter so we can know exactly when you have a new post.

    Cheers, NJ Lefty

  2. Hello Kevin,

    Hard to get a message direct to you!

    Just wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed Hooked and what a worthwhile and entertaining addition it is to Golfing writing in Ireland. I picked it up a couple of months ago and enjoy it regularly. A bit disappointed that it took me 10 years to get through 25% of the courses in Ireland, but will use it as a reference for the next 75%.

    I presume too that a companion book will be published giving details of your rounds - best score / worst score and all that. Something to keep the obsessive golfing fans content.

    Also enjoy the blog & tweets

    Well done, and I wish I had thought of it.


  3. Thanks for that Eoin, I really appreciate the feedback. Yep, I'm trying to figure out what to write next - a companion book of my travels is buzzing around my head. I doubt it will include the scores: once I've lost the first three balls I tend to lose interest in the scoring and focus more on the course.