We were due to have a City Life Galway board meeting a few weeks ago and as our man in Galway Pat O Dwyer had some business to attend to in Kerry we decided to see if we could arrange our board meeting at Ballybunion Golf Club with perhaps a little golf afterwards! Kindly they were able to facilitate us and as you can see from the photo taken from the committee room, where our meeting took place, it is a room with a wonderful golfing view.
The first hole as can be seen in the photo is 390 yards, a little downhill with the local graveyard on the right hand side, and yes the graveyard accepts golf balls too! It’s a nice gentle opener, not too long but with a well-guarded green.
Standing on the first tee feels good as one gets a magical feeling of being in a very special place. I got the same feeling on the first tee on my one and only visit to the Old Course at St Andrews in Scotland many years ago.
What we loved about Ballybunion on our latest trip is their strive for excellence. They are continuing to make improvements particularly in relation to the paths and surrounds between tees and fairways. If you look to the right of the photo you will see what I mean as a group of golfers walk past the graveyard on their way to the first fairway. The pathway is beautifully grassed and is probably 12 feet wide. Simply a pleasure to walk on and wide enough to take considerable traffic without damage as Ballybunion is very highly regarded by our visiting golfers particularly our American friends and as a result it is a very busy place.
You will also see the wonderful work that is ongoing with the planting of marram grass around the first tee and on the approach to the fairway. This project is continuing and will I think look very striking when finished.
I first played golf in Ballybunion as a child while on holiday almost 60 years ago. I played with my cousin from England, Dermot Staveacre whose family joined us on holiday. We played until we lost all the golf balls we had and then we had to look for a few lost ones in the rough so that we could continue to play. Back then there were very few people playing golf at Ballybunion and we had the course to ourselves in the middle of July.
It was really only when Tom Watson played and spoke so highly of Ballybunion that it became a much sought after destination for Irish and visiting golfers.
What I love about Ballybunion is that it has stood the test of time and over the years that I have been playing there, the only significant change is to what is now the 7th hole. During a bad storm many years ago the old green that was precariously perched on the top of the cliff was eroded into the sea. They then build a new green a little further away from the cliff face. Unfortunately this new green on a hole that measures 410 yards off the medal tee is a little too difficult for the length of hole, as the green only has a tiny landing area with severe fall offs on both sides.
Thankfully this green is being redesigned over the winter to make it a little fairer. Work will also take place over the winter months on the greens as the greens on the Old course have become a little compacted and are in need of a drainage overhaul. I look forward to seeing the rejuvenated course ready for next year’s visitors and I am sure that Ballybunion will be even better as they take such care of and have so much pride in their wonderful golf courses.
The work of preventing coastal erosion has to be continued and I am sure it is very expensive work as there are miles of coastline on the two courses to be protected. The Atlantic Ocean can however be a wild beast at times. Ballybunion Golf Club has done great work over the years in protecting this very important golfing tourist amenity.
They are fortunate too at Ballybunion to have a second course The Cashen Course which is probably even better situated than the Old Course as it is constructed on some spectacular sand dunes between the River Cashen and the Atlantic Ocean. It’s in a world all of its own and it’s a great golf course too! If it was anywhere else but alongside the Old Course it would probably be given a much higher rating.
Photo of My friend Bill Acton from Canada smiling and why not, as he proceeded to take some money off me on the Cashen Course last September.
Would I make any changes to the Old Course if it was my golf course? I ask myself that question whenever I play any golf course. My answer is that apart from the modification to the 7th green really very little. I might look at the length of two of the par threes the 12th which is uphill to a plateau green and measures 199 yards and the 15th which although slightly downhill is still a driver for most as it measures 206 yards. Tightly guarded greens as these are, surrounded by high seaside grasses would probably have sufficient difficulty for most, at around 150/160 yards and they would be the only minor modifications that I would suggest.
Over the years Ballybunion has become a most welcoming place and a splendid place to visit and when we make a trip we always feel that they are glad to see us again. They are also I think, very proud of the golf courses they have and how well they are presented.
This feeling of being made welcome is so important to visiting golfers.
An old friend of mine Sean Keegan used to say to me whenever I met him “Ted you are looking good…whatever you are doing …keep doing it”. I would say something similar to Ballybunion Golf Club and all the wonderful people who work there.
Ted Dwyer Family Business