Spectacular revamp puts a new twist on the Old Head

The scope for golfing improvements at the world-renowned Old Head links in Cork is in the realm of the subjective at this stage — but the drive to turn near perfection to peerless continues, nonetheless.

Spectacular revamp puts a new twist on the Old Head

Three years ago Links magazine in the US splashed the Old Head on its cover, declaring it the most spectacular links in the world.

“In your wildest fantasies,” it stated, “you couldn’t have imagined a golf course as striking.”

However, for the team at the world renowned 220-acre facility near Kinsale, there remained an itch to scratch, as general manager Jim O’Brien explained yesterday.

“We felt that two of the holes, No’s 6 and 13, 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.”

And so three years ago, they began a huge operation to build an entirely new cliff-edge par 3 No 13 and continued through last winter to reframe and open up the par 5 sixth hole.

The results, as our pictures demonstrate, are jaw-dropping.

LUCKY 13: The spectacular new par three 13th hole at the Old Head golf links, Kinsale, Co Cork. The 6th and 13th holes have been extensively redesigned in an operation which started three years ago.
LUCKY 13: The spectacular new par three 13th hole at the Old Head golf links, Kinsale, Co Cork. The 6th and 13th holes have been extensively redesigned in an operation which started three years ago.

Golfers have savoured the thrills and spills of the new 13th for the past two years — it follows the Old Head’s most iconic hole, the par 5 No 12 — but the fresh challenge of the new No 6 was only unveiled in the last fortnight, with the course’s reopening for the 2017 season.

The entire year through to October is already booked out.

“We had our first member-guest competition at the weekend, the weather was perfect and the reaction to the new par 5 was very gratifying,” O’Brien said yesterday.

He explained: “We have felt for some time that the 6th was not a strong enough par 5. We have now lengthened the hole uphill by around 65 yards, but that’s only length.

"The real treat is in the fact that we have opened up the hole completely, rebuilding an old dry stone wall to frame the hole and pitching the new green alongside a beacon lighthouse which dates back to 1814.”

From the vantage point of the new elevated green, players have a choice of looking east towards Sovereign Rock and Kinsale Harbour, or southwards to the vast expanse of the Atlantic Ocean.

When O’Brien suggests that the new holes offer the Old Head a “fresh impetus”, he may be understating its allure.

“There is undoubtedly a new sense of ‘wow’, which is what we have always aimed for. It is all about the experience for golfers.”

The cover of that Links magazine sits proudly in the foyer of the Old Head: “In terms of visual stimulation, drama and heart-pounding excitement, no course anywhere offers more.”

They may need to update the edition.

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