I’ve always had happy memories of the Killeen course at the Killarney Golf and Fishing Club. It was here in 1992 that I played in the Jameson’s Classic and won two giant bottles of the amber Irish whisky for a fortuitous birdie two – thanks to an undulating 40-footer – on the designated 6th hole.
With the prevailing wind from the left, it bends around the lake to the right and two bunkers on the outside of the dogleg narrow the landing area still more. We teed off as a wicked squall caught us from the nearby mountains and having found the beach with my tee shot my eventual bogey five felt almost like an eagle.
The next four holes hug the shoreline, exposing us to the elements, before turning inland to get some protection from the mature trees bordering the fairways, which are as spongy and immaculate as a Wilton carpet.
Its signature hole is the 150-metre 10th – an Irish Sawgrass - with water encroaching on almost all sides on the edge of the lake. Only those with the deftest short game will miss the green and save par.
Perhaps equally significant is the 13th – second toughest on the stroke index after the par-4 fifth. Following a long, wide-open drive to the top of the hill, the second shot demands nerve and accuracy from fairway metal or medium iron, over a deep dell to a raised green protected by deep bunkers.
Refreshment at the ‘half-way house’ (which also serves the 10th on Mahony’s Point) is compulsory to get a breather before tackling the wicked 15th. Only a long, accurate drive to the corner of the dogleg exposes the green tucked away to the right behind a stand of trees. By contrast the par-5 16th demands two long, straight shots to set up an approach over a newly-created string of threatening bunkers.
The camber of the 18th fairway draws you to a series of ponds up the left side and only a strategically-placed tee shot up the right will leave an opportunity to reach the leaf-strewn green. A great finish with the backdrop of the clubhouse and, inevitably, a gallery of critical golfers looking on.
Nick Faldo won successive Irish Opens here in 1991/92 and is still revered by the membership for the quality of his golf at its peak. Only his immaculate course management kept him ahead of a star-studded field and even with today’s improved technology few could imagine shooting successive round in the 60s.
The Killeen course, in its current peak condition is the jewel in the Killarney club’s crown and sets golfers worldwide a serious but enjoyable challenge. They remember its greens, its tees, its fairways and its setting. Add to that its renowned hospitality and the experience is unforgettable.
Useful websitesKillarney Golf and Fishing Club (000353 (0)64 31032)
Ballybunion Golf Club (00353 (0)68 27146), Ballybunion, Co Kerry, Ireland.
Killeen course at Killarney