Waterville is one of the toughest and most scenic classic links courses. It consistently ranks as one of Ireland's top five courses.
History of Waterville Golf Course
This historic course traces its origins to 1889, when a 9-hole course was created on the scenic promontory that juts out into the Bay, about a kilometre from the centre of the village. The Waterville Athletic Club ran the club, and the sport was generally played by the skilled technicians who worked for the Commercial Cable company, who famously laid transatlantic telegraph cables between Waterville and Nova Scotia, beginning in 1884. Read more about the Commercial Cable Company and the history of Waterville. By the 1950s, as the demand for telegraphic message began to decline, so too did the Commercial Cable Company's size in Waterville, and the golf club was closed. The links remained abandoned until John A Mulcahy, a local who had emigrated in 1924, aged 18, returned in the 1960s, having worked his way up to becoming president of the Quigley copmany in New York, and a multi-millionaire in the process. Mulcahy bought the plot of land holding the course, along with Lord Butler's manor house on the bay, which he converted into a hotel. More recently, Butler's hotel has become better known for its links with Charlie Chaplin. Mulchay enlisted the help of US Masters winner Claude Harmon, along with prominent Dublin golf architect Eddie Hackett, who had already designed some of the country's best links courses. In 1973, the present 18-hole course was opened.
Waterville Golf Course's stunning and blissfully isolated location make it attractive to golfers who are seeking not only a challenging links course but also a vacation experience. Views across the Atlantic from all directions are complimented by the unique green and brown hues of the Kerry landscape, with the Macgillycuddy's Reeks providing a postcard backdrop. Waterville's most famous hole is the 16th, sometimes called Round the Bend, since it follows the shape of the promontory. On his way to setting the course record of 65, local golfer Liam Higgins holed the 16th in one, instantly giving it the new moniker Liam's Ace. The 17th is known as Mulcahy's Peak. The rags-to-riches local died in September 1994 and, as per his request, his ashes were scattered on this Par 3 hole.
Statue of Payne Stewart
If you get a chance to play at Waterville, you may notice a bronze statue of another former US Masters winner, Payne Stewart. Payne Stewart first visited Waterville when preparing for the British Open in 1998. He enjoyed the course so much that he returned the following year and became a member. In September 1999, at an informal ceremony on the eve of the Ryder Cup at Brookline near Boston, he accepted an offer to become the honorary captain of the Waterville club for the upcoming millennium year. He was presented with an engraved fishing rod. A month later, he died tragically when the private plane that was carrying him and five others crashed near South Dakota.
Watch a local golfer talk you through how to play Waterville's 16th hole -- and get a feel for the course's serenity and captivating surroundings.
Image by Dave McVicar