Waterville Golf Links
Designers: Eddie Hackett & Tom Fazio
When John Mulcahy, an Irish-born American, returned to the Emerald Isle to build his dream golf course, he found it on an old abandoned links in the town of Waterville. The original 9-hole course was built in the late 19th century for workers on the transatlantic cable station located nearby. After the cable station closed, that early links was abandoned in the 1950’s, but not before laying the foundation for what would become one of the most celebrated courses in Ireland.
After Mulcahy fell in love with the Waterville property – a peninsula bordered on 3 sides by the Atlantic and Inny River estuary – he commissioned Eddie Hackett, the lion of golf in Ireland, to resurrect the old links. What emerged was quickly recognized as a marvelous test of golf, as well as perhaps the longest course in all of Europe.
The club recently brought in Tom Fazio to implement a multi-year plan which called for a number of enhancements to the course. The combination of a natural seaside links with Fazio – a man who has moved more earth than the Caterpillar corporation – might seem like a dubious pairing, yet the two have gotten along beautifully. Several holes on the front-9, long held as the weaker of the two sides, were either tweaked or redesigned altogether to incorporate more of the dunes and add some much needed balance between the pair of nines.
As it always has, however, the inward side provides many of the highlights at Waterville. They begin at the famous par-3 12th, known as the “Mass Hole,” where Catholics would secretly gather in the hollow short of the green at a time when the practice was outlawed in Ireland. Ahead on the 16th, we find a cracking par-4 called “Liam’s Ace,” in honor of the hole-in-one carded by the club’s longtime head professional, Liam Higgins.
The great Bernard Darwin once said “It is the duty of every golf course to have a good 17th hole.” Waterville’s penultimate test doesn’t just meet this expectation, it exceeds being merely “good” in every way. The challenging par-3 is a daunting hurdle for those hoping to close out a match, but it’s the view from the tee at “Mulcahy’s Peak” that will linger in our memory for years to come.
Waterville may lack the pomp and circumstance of the older links courses around Ireland and beyond, but it has developed a loyal group of devotees in its relatively short history. One of which was Payne Stewart, an adopted son of Waterville and honorary club captain, whose statue stands near the 18th green. Another was the incomparable Sam Snead, who perfectly summed up Waterville in just a single sentence…
“This beautiful monster is one of the wonders of the golfing world.”
Major Basil Haversham, OBE
More on Waterville
Independent travellers: The club is sign-posted from the N70 before you enter Waterville driving from Killarney. Report to the Secretary’s Office on the ground floor of the clubhouse. Two side dishes are essential to a truly complete day on the Waterville links: a seafood meal at the Smuggler’s Inn across the road and a hot toddy from the bar on the upper floor of the clubhouse.