Friday, December 2, 2011

€99 for 3 of Kerry's under-appreciated courses

[Photo: Dooks par three 4th. It doesn't get more stunning than this]

If you're after a rather delicious golfing Christmas present, or you're simply planning your golfing adventures for next year, you'll do well to beat the Peninsula Pass, in Co. Kerry.

Let's start with the location... Co. Kerry is magnificent, beautiful, friendly and fun. It also has - by county - the best golf courses in the country.

[Photo: Ring of Kerry's par three 18th]

What about value for money... €99 for three courses which fall neatly into links (Dooks), seaside/parkland (Skellig Bay) and parkland (Ring of Kerry). €33 is a steal when you consider you can play them during peak season.

[Photo: Skellig Bay views, from green to tee on the par three 2nd]

Are the views worthwhile... Dooks has the best views of any golf course on the island (and it's up against stiff competition). Stand on the second green and take a nice and slow 360 degree spin. Mountains, sea, valleys. It's breathtaking. Ring of Kerry is on a hillside and overlooks the Greenane Islands in Kenmare Bay, while Skellig Bay is tucked under mountains and drifts above Skellig Bay itself (with Waterville in the distance)... alongside traditional dry-stone walls.

[Photo: Dooks - the 2nd green]

Quality Golf... Dooks, for me, remains one of the under-appreciated links in Ireland (hence the value). It's not big-dune country but it has great links tradition and challenges, a fabulous mix of holes and flora and fauna that makes it almost worthwhile to hit shots into the rough.

Skellig Bay has plenty of glorious holes (designed by Ron Kirby) and while the ones overlooking the ocean may be the most dramatic, the ones up against the mountain and along Fionnglassa River are the most stunning.

[Photo: Ring of Kerry's par three 14th and the views]

Ring of Kerry is a good course, but it wouldn't be up to the thrills of the other two - not in my book anyway. It has great flourishes, several dramatic holes (especially the par threes), good water features and some great challenges - it will certainly keep you entertained... as well as tiring you out that bit more.

Where to stay... if you have the cash, stay at Parknasilla, my favourite hotel on the planet! Otherwise you can choose between various hotels in Kenmare or Killarney... or find something in between. There are also hotels in Skellig Bay (try the Butler Arms), but wherever you stay you need to be aware of two things: you're on the Ring of Kerry, and the roads are not good. Drive too fast and you'll be rattled from your teeth to your testicles; and, if you plan your trip for summer, the traffic will get crazy busy, so remember that coaches travel around the Ring in an anti-clockwise direction.

Anything else to do... this is Co. Kerry - there's tons to do, from walking in the MacGillycuddy's Reeks, strolling around lakes, driving up Moll's Gap, visiting Muckross House, checking out Kenmare (a very pretty town) and Killarney or just driving around to soak up the scenery. If you're into landscape photography, I highly recommend the Skyline Gallery in Kenmare.

[Photo: Skellig Bay's par three 14th]

Other golf courses... perhaps you fancy playing more golf. If so, you are spoiled for choice. Here's a brief list of three of the world's best courses you'll find nearby: Ballybunion, Tralee and Waterville. There are also the three courses at Killarney Golf and Fishing Club, where the Irish Open has been held for the last two years. Other courses include Castleisland, Kenmare, Killorglin and Ceann Sibeal out on the Dingle Peninsula.

How to get it... Passes must be purchased in advance and can be prepaid in full by contacting the central reservations office on Tel: 00353 (0)64 6642000 or Email: Passes may also be purchased in person at the participating Golf Clubs.

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