Links land is characterized by exposed sand dunes, an absence of trees, proximity to the ocean and unpredictable weather. Historically, it was land unsuitable for farming but ideal for the genesis of golf. Of all the courses in the world fewer than 300 are genuine links and only a small fraction are of championship caliber which is what makes Waterville Golf Links in Ireland such a unique and special place.
Golf was introduced in Waterville by the Commercial Cable Company in 1884. The Waterville cable station operated 6 cables to America, 4 cables to the UK and 2 to France and the course was built as a means recreation and sport for the over 300 workers. Built in 1889 Waterville Golf Links started as a 9-hole course and in the early 1970’s construction began on the now 18-hole links course.
1973 Ireland’s foremost links architect, Eddie Hackett, completes the dream course envisioned by John A. Mulcahy and his close friend Claude Harmon, a past Masters champion and head professional at Winged Foot Golf Club. In 2004 Tom Fazio began a major renovation to the course and as a result, it is often ranked in the top 10 in Britain and Ireland. “Everything at Waterville is spectacular, the setting is one of the best that I have ever seen anywhere in golf” says Tom Fazio. Michael Murphy, the Waterville links superintendent, was recognized by the R & A for his work in sustainable links management through the promotion of the fine turf fescue grasses over poa annua.
Waterville hosts two member-guest events in June and September, as well as a father-son, father-daughter and The Kerry Cup. For each of these events people travel from all over the world to participate. Longtime member, Peter Dagher summed it up “I really love the course and the Waterville house. The course changes every day you play it because of the varying conditions. The member-guest events always highlight the uniqueness of being in Ireland and meeting a diverse international crowd. There is a physical beauty, calm pace and a sense of letting go and getting off the grid”
Gary O’Hagan, Chairman and CEO of Goan Sports, played football as an offensive lineman at Boston College and has been coming to Waterville for 35 years. He started coming when a group of Irish-American friends of his from Salomon Brothers bought the property in 1986. He has been a member for 25 years and says “In Waterville you have the ability to participate in three levels of friendship; old friends and friendships renewed, new friends and local Waterville resident friends.” Gary also adds “making friends is a fine art and those relationships are valuable in every aspect of life. This is one of the greatest facilities and places to enable people to make those friendships”. Gary’s guest for the two-day tournament, Tim O’Shea, is a former Boston College basketball player and is now the basketball coach at Bryant University in Smithfield Rhode Island. This is his second time attending the member-guest and comments “I am blown away by how beautiful it is here and right now Newport, RI where I live is very beautiful but this is unique. It is special, there is nothing like it.”
The course and area are steeped in history and one hole on the course in particular has great significance, the 12th hole a Par 3, called “The Mass Hole”. In the 18th century the celebration of Catholic mass was punishable by death in Ireland forcing the local population to use the secluded valley in front of this green to hold their services. To this day it has significant meaning and on special occasions mass is held there in the valley of the 12th hole.
The Waterville House is an 18th century Georgian Manor house that sits on a narrow isthmus facing the wild Atlantic Ocean with beautiful Lough Currane on its eastern perimeter. The Currane River bisects the 50-acre estate as it flows into Ballinskelligs Bay. The manor was built by the Butler family in 1790 and the estate was called “Waterville”. The charm of this 13-bedroom estate and the staff are as world renowned as the golf course. Guests of the Waterville House have the advantage of preferred tee times, access to fishing the famous Butler’s Pool known for its salmon and the private driving range and practice facility designed by Tom Fazio. Membership definitely has its privileges and the list of international members is growing as more people experience this extraordinary slice of heaven in Ireland.