Old Head Golf Links Key Information
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|Kinsale, County Cork P17 CX88, Ireland.
|+353 (0)21 477 8444
|€395 per round high-season; €225 brief shoulder seasons
|No stated restrictions. Course closed from November to mid-April.
|72 black, blue, white, yellow, red
|142 black, 139 blue, 136 white, 131 yellow, 129 red
|Ron Kirby, Eddie Hackett, Joe Carr, Paddy Merrigan, Liam Higgins
Golf Monthly Verdict
Laid out over a vertiginous headland in County Cork, Old Head enjoys a setting that’s hard to beat. The owners have constantly strived to take as much of the action as possible to the cliff edge to up the drama. Many holes are simply breath-taking, but the 12th and 13th, near the headland’s slender neck, sum up the experience.
The 12th tee is cut into the towering cliffs and you play up to a hidden fairway, then along to a precariously narrow target. The relatively new par-3 13th is then a short but dramatic cliff-hugger.
REASONS TO PLAY OLD HEAD
- A growing sense of anticipation and excitement as you drive down through the course to the clubhouse
- Probably the most stunning canvas and backdrop for a golf course in the UK&I
- The course is ever improving, with holes relocated to extended to maximise the views
UK & Ireland Top 100 Golf Courses 2023/24 - 32
This spectacular track, laid out on a towering headland jutting into the Atlantic near Kinsale in County Cork, boasts elements of links and cliff-top golf… and arguably the most dramatic setting of any course in the Golf Monthly UK&I Top 100 Courses rankings.
Many of the holes are stunning, but the 12th and 13th, near the headland’s slender neck and perilously close to sheer vertical drops, sum up the Old Head experience.
The 12th tee is cut into the towering cliffs and the drive must be played uphill towards a hidden fairway. Golfers have apparently had to be escorted away from this tee with vertigo-induced symptoms! The ribbon-like approach then leads to a precarious green perched some 150 feet above the Atlantic.
The par-3 13th is then a short but dramatic cliff-hugger that relocated to the other side of the entrance road right by the edge a few years ago. Missing left is not a good idea here.
Despite Old Head’s dramatic setting and big reputation, the owners have never shied away from course changes in the eternal quest to further improve the layout, which ranks as one of the best golf courses in Ireland.
Chief designer, Ron Kirby, has referred to a constant drive to take as much of the course as close to the cliff edges as possible to eke out every last ounce of visual drama from the available land.
Changes in recent years to the 8th and 10th are prime examples – neither par 5 lies right on the very edge, but extending both holes has also added elevation that enhances the visuals from their greens.
A similar strategy a few years ago saw the 6th extended and its green relocated closer to the remains of one of the headland’s early lighthouses. The beauty of this move is that it now affords the golfer a 360-degree view over the Atlantic, with the hole’s new name of ‘All Points’ entirely fitting.
You could run out of adjectives describing Old Head, but jaw-dropping pretty much sums it up!
What The Top 100 Panel Said
This most unusual piece of land lends itself to the creation of a most dramatic layout with some truly intimidating and challenging holes. It is almost fantasy golf. There are a few holes elsewhere that compare - the 17th on the Castle course at St Andrews or the holes on the peninsula at Nefyn - but bringing such exceptional geography and golfing vision together is very rare. A day of fantasy golf and total indulgence - what a day!
All serious golf enthusiasts should make the journey at least once in a lifetime as there is simply nothing comparable. I never thought the day would come when I wished for slow play but I could stand out on this course for endless hours and soak in the view. Thrill-seeking, adrenalin-junkie golf, not for the faint-hearted or vertigo sufferers.
Old Head Golf Links location
Old Head Golf Links Green Fees
|High season - 2023
|27th April to 15th Oct
|Low season - spring 2023
|13th to 26th April
|Low season - autumn 2023
|16th to 30th October
Old Head Golf Links scorecard
Best Courses Near Old Head
The Irish Open visited here in 2001, 2002 and 2014. A further nine holes arrived 15 years ago, now played in three different configurations – Deerpark, Belvelly and Barryscourt. Deerpark starts out gently over lush, tree-lined fairways, before water first makes its presence felt on the semi-island green 3rd. The par-5 18th is then a real test of nerve thanks to the tightest drive on the course, then a virtual island green set into the lake beside the clubhouse.
Alister MacKenzie seems to go hand in golf glove with attractive courses, and Cork is no exception with its parkland design running down to and alongside Lough Mahon. Once there, the 4th and 5th flank the water before the next few holes play in and out of an old quarry. The MacKenzie greens - large, undulating - are a particular strength and mean that every part of your game is tested.
Best Places To Stay Near Old Head
Old Head Golf Links - Book now at Old Head Golf Links
Old Head boasts its own accommodation and The Suites at Old Head Golf Links complement the magnificent beauty and setting of the site, with each one offering incredible views across the golf course from your own private terrace to the Old Head lighthouse and Atlantic ocean beyond.
The White Lady Hotel, Kinsale - Book now at Booking.com
The White Lady is a boutique hotel located in Kinsale 20 minutes from Old Head and 200 yards from the River Bandon. It offers elegant rooms with free WiFi, an award-winning restaurant and a night club. Rooms are decorated in warm colours and have large bay windows. They include TVs, hair dryers and free toiletries.
Old Head Gallery
OLD HEAD GOLF LINKS HISTORICAL TOP 100 RANKING UK&I
- 2023/24 - 32
- 2021/22 - 33
- 2019/20 - 31
- 2017/18 - 35
- 2015/16 - 39
- 2013/14 - 33
- 2011/12 - 31
- 2009/10 - 22
Frequently Asked Questions
Is it expensive to play Old Head Golf Links?
There's no getting away from the fact that many of the courses in the Golf Monthly UK&I Top 100 are expensive to play. Old Head is certainly one of the most expensive at €395 per round with caddie fees on top in the high season (late April to mid-October). However, there is a brief two-week window either side of the main season in mid-April and late October when the green fee is €225 per round.
How many holes play along the cliff edge at Old Head?
The club's website says that nine holes play along the clifftops around the extremities of the headland at up to 300ft above the Atlantic below. Work in recent years has enhanced the views from other holes, too, that aren't on the very edge.
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Jeremy Ellwood has worked in the golf industry since 1993 and for Golf Monthly since 2002 when he started out as equipment editor. He is now a freelance journalist writing mainly for Golf Monthly. He is an expert on the Rules of Golf having qualified through an R&A course to become a golf referee. He is a senior panelist for Golf Monthly's Top 100 UK & Ireland Course Rankings and has played all of the Top 100 plus 91 of the Next 100, making him well-qualified when it comes to assessing and comparing our premier golf courses. He has now played 1,000 golf courses worldwide in 35 countries, from the humblest of nine-holers in the Scottish Highlands to the very grandest of international golf resorts. He reached the 1,000 mark on his 60th birthday in October 2023 on Vale do Lobo's Ocean course. Put him on a links course anywhere and he will be blissfully content.
Jezz can be contacted via Twitter - @JezzEllwoodGolf
Jeremy is currently playing...
Driver: Ping G425 LST 10.5˚ (draw setting), Mitsubishi Tensei AV Orange 55 S shaft
3 wood: Ping G425 Max 15˚ (set to flat +1), Mitsubishi Tensei AV Orange 65 S shaft
Hybrid: Ping G425 17˚, Mitsubishi Tensei CK Pro Orange 80 S shaft
Irons 3-PW: Ping i525, True Temper Dynamic Gold 105 R300 shafts
Wedges: Ping Glide 4.0 50˚ and 54˚, 12˚ bounce, True Temper Dynamic Gold 105 R300 shafts
Putter: Ping Fetch 2021 model, 33in shaft (set flat 2)
Ball: Varies but mostly now TaylorMade Tour Response
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