Waterville Golf Links
A favourite haunt of Charlie Chaplin when on his many Kerry sojourns, Waterville is a ‘true’ links course, according to Golf Digest. Designer Tom Fazio says of the place: ‘Everything about Waterville is truly spectacular. The setting is one of the best I’ve seen for golf.’
The town of Waterville is a famous angling centre, located on a strip of land that separates the Atlantic Ocean from one of the most beautiful lakes in Ireland, Lough Currane. The name Waterville, or An CoireÁn (Little Whirlpool), is the premier coastal tourist centre of South West Kerry. Every year, Charlie Chaplin came to Waterville with his family, and they have named the annual two-day AM-AM after him. The AM-AM has been held since 1984, a two-day golfing extravaganza involving teams from all over Ireland. It also involves a certain amount of merriment!
Golf at Waterville started around 1889 with a modest 9-hole course, laid out on the eastern section of the present course. In the 1950s, the club folded until Jack Mulcahy (an Irish American) bought the links in the late 1960s. Mulcahy commissioned Claude Harmon, his friend and the 1948 Masters champion and Eddie Hackett, Ireland’s most prolific architect, to design a new course. In 1973, the “beautiful monster” course at Waterville opened for play. Tom Fazio was recently commissioned to update the course.
Waterville plays on a promontory surrounded by the sea. It’s a stunning, remote location with views to the northeast of the Macgillycuddy’s Reeks mountain range and to the southwest across the beautiful Ballinskelligs Bay and the Atlantic Ocean. The fairways are gently undulating, the front nine plays across relatively flat ground whilst the back nine weaves its way through avenues of tall dunes. The view from the elevated 17th tee, an excellent par 3 called “Mulcahy’s Peak” after the founder Jack Mulcahy, is simply breathtaking.
There are few courses that can boast such a fine collection of unique and great golf holes. Waterville has three outstanding par threes and three excellent par fives, the par fours are pretty good too. The 11th is a heavenly short par five with a rippling fairway protected on both flanks by towering dunes. The 366-yard par four 16th was once called “Round the Bend” because it follows the natural curvature of the Atlantic coastline. It was here that Liam Higgins, the local pro, had a hole-in-one on his way to setting a course record of 65. Fittingly, the hole is now called “Liam’s Ace”.
The remote location of the Waterville links has precluded it from hosting any big competitions, but many famous golfers find their way here and they all leave with the feeling that Waterville is a very special place.
Payne Stewart was due to be Honorary Captain of Waterville in 2000. Tragically, in October 1999 he died when his private jet crashed in South Dakota. A bronze statue pays tribute to him and his affiliation with Waterville.