The only trouble with crafting a golfing nirvana is running out of things to improve.
The world-renowned Old Head links outside Kinsale in Cork reopened a week ago for another booked-out April-October season — and with another noticeable tweak to the layout.
Identifying the ‘weak’ holes on a unique layout offering jaw-dropping cliff-top challenges on 10 of the 18 holes is an exercise in pedantry, but over the past three winters those charged with continuing the legacy of the late developer John O’Connor have gone to work on enhancing the experience for the golfer.
First designers jettisoned the old par 3 13th to create a scary-spectacular new one-shotter overlooking the water before extending and opening up the straightaway 6th hole, a par five.
For that they rebuilt an old dry stone wall to frame the hole and pitched the new elevated green alongside a beacon lighthouse which dates back to 1814. From the vantage point, players can peer east towards Sovereign Rocks and Kinsale Harbour, or south to the vast expanse of the Atlantic Ocean.
This time around, they’ve tackled another of the course’s five par fives, the 8th, a gentle dogleg left that was reachable in two for the better hitters. It was one of the more mundane challenges on the front nine, but no more.
Now they’ve introduced what general manager Jim O’Brien calls “a great risk-reward element” for the golfing gambler by moving the green to the right and back a further 40 yards, making way for four new traps on approach.
The putting surface, with its infinity look, has also been raised by two metres. It won’t stop there. Already plans are afoot for further improvements in 2020, but not before they put over 20,000 rounds through the course between now and October.
Every tee-time is accounted for over the next six months, with over 100 extra full-time staff employed during the season. Nearby Kinsale likes the sound of those numbers too, with a welcome spin-off in the town through the spring and summer.
On the course improvements, O’Brien explained: “A couple of the holes were less memorable than the others. It’s not that they were bad holes, but they didn’t measure up in terms of memorability for the golfers.”