Old Head Golf Links Course Review

In places, this unique track, mixing cliff-top with links, defies belief with its incredible setting and series of spectacular holes

Old Head Golf Links
The 4th hole (Photo: Kevin Murray)

In places, this unique track, mixing cliff-top with links, defies belief with its incredible setting and series of spectacular holes

Old Head Golf Links Course Review

Top 100 Ranking 2021/22 - 33

Previous Rankings 2019/20 - 31 2017/18 - 35 2015/16 - 39 2013/14 - 33 2011/12 - 31 2009/10 - 22

Summer Green Fees

Round: €375

Visitor Times: Guests are invited throughout the week subject to availability, but Old Head is very much a private members’ course with limited outside play. Prior booking is essential

Medal Tee: Par 72 – 6,588 Yards

Website: www.oldhead.com (opens in new tab)

Changes since previous ranking

The green on the par-5 8th (God’s Acre) was relocated in 2019 to add elevation and lengthen the hole by 40 yards. Similar changes to the par-5 10th (Dun Cearmna) last year have also increased its length by 40 yards.

Off course, Old Head has spent €10 million redeveloping the clubhouse and its 20 executive suites.

Old Head Golf Links Course Review

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 our Top 100.

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.

Old Head Golf Links

That's the 12th hole down there on the headland's slender neck!
(Image credit: Laurence Lambrecht)

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.

Old Head Golf Links

Don't miss left on the short but nerve-wracking 13th (Photo: Kevin Murray)
(Image credit: Kevin Murray)

Related: Golf Monthly UK&I Top 100 Courses

Maximising the drama

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.

The recent changes 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.

Old Head Golf Links

The dramatic setting of the 17th hole (Photo: Kevin Murray)

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!

Assessor Feedback

The views available from the cliff-top holes starting at the 2nd are simply unlike any you will have had the opportunity to savour before. On a good day, the Old Head experience is among the best that one can have playing golf.

Given its location and design, on a summer’s day it can be epoch-making!

GM Verdict

In places, this unique track, mixing cliff-top with links, defies belief with its incredible setting and series of spectacular holes.


Jeremy Ellwood
Contributing Editor

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 across the whole spectrum from courses and Rules to equipment and instruction. He also edits The Golf Club Secretary Newsletter, a highly regarded trade publication for golf club secretaries and managers, and has authored or co-authored three books and written for a number of national papers including The Telegraph and The Independent. 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 well over 950 golf courses worldwide in 35 countries, right across the spectrum from the humblest of nine-holers in the Scottish Highlands to the very grandest of international golf resorts, but 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