[Photo: the thrilling par three 12th at Waterville: 'Mass Hole']
It makes no difference where you are or who you are, you will always have opinions about why one course is better than another. The most common debates I have encountered are:
Ballybunion v. Lahinch
Royal County Down v. Royal Portrush
Portmarnock v. The Island
K Club v. Mount Juliet
But realistically, once you've played some of the greats you will find reasons to compare and contrast.
A recent thread on the golf forum of www.boards.ie pitched Waterville against Ballybunion. To my mind that is an interesting pairing because they are very different links experiences. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that there are few similarities between the two, other than the links trademarks of dunes, wind, views and sheer class.
[Photo: the dogleg par four 17th at Ballybunion. Pick your club wisely]
In fairness to the OP (that's 'Original Poster' if you're wondering... which I did for many months) he was asking which course people preferred. That's a far easier task than comparing them. The results, if you want to call them that, firmly went in Waterville's favour. Words like 'magical', 'pure' and 'true but fair' were splashed about, indicating the course's popularity. Add in some of the most beautiful views from a golf course and it is an experience anyone who calls themselves a golfer should be enthralled by. It is picture-perfect golf, utterly elegant and the course in its entirety is beautifully balanced.
I was lucky enough to play Waterville on a perfect sunny day, with great marshmallow clouds sprinkled overhead and a soft wind that did just enough. The dunes and grasses looked golden, the fairways mowed in rich green streaks and the greens offering enticing approaches. It really was a slice of heaven if links is your thing.
[Photo: the 12th at Waterville shows off the course's elegance]
If you want to check it our for yourself, then there are Open Weekends coming up in mid-June when you can play it for €50. If not, you're looking at €75 and upwards. Tel: 00353 669474102.
Ballybunion? Well, I have written plenty about Ballybunion and I love the place. The ups and downs of the dunes, the patience you need, the surprises thrown at you, the mental agility you need on every part of the course... it is a more challenging golf experience and, for me, a touch more exciting, so if I only had one round left to play, I would pick Ballybunion. Just.
Asking me to pick between the two would be like putting bowls of my mother-in-law's apple crumble and sticky toffee pudding in front of me and asking me to choose. Somehow, some way, I'd have both. So, truth be told, even if I was on my death bed, I'd make damn sure I got to play both courses... the elegance and perfection of Waterville, and the dynamism and elusiveness of Ballybunion would demand it.
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