Having been a golfer for over 35 years and had the privilege of playing some of the world’s finest courses, I rarely get too excited about a round of golf. But the opportunity to play Killarney’s revered Mahony’s Point filled me with anticipation.
One of my heroes, Christy O’Connor Snr, had been the club professional here and that fellow legend Gene Sarazen had once described the 18th as ‘one of the most memorable holes in golf.’
I set off for the first tee full of anticipation but somewhat anxious and nervous that I might not do the course or myself justice.
Compared to its better known neighbour – the recently refurbished Killeen course on this Killarney Golf and Fishing Club estate and on which Nick Faldo won successive Irish Opens, Mahony’s Point is considered more compatible to the higher handicapper with its expansive fairways and less penal rough.
But don’t be fooled into believing this beautifully appointed course is a pushover. Its bunkers are strategically placed, its routing around trees creates tricky doglegs and its greens, though slightly slower than Killeen’s, are still undulating and a stiff examination of your putting stroke.
Pat Buckley, a club member and genial host of our fourball, soon put myself and my fellow golf-writers at ease by explaining that it would be acceptable to use the ‘f-word’ during the round but that such would be the sense of fun the course would engender, he doubted it would be necessary.
Apart from the odd muttering at a miss-hit chip or a miss-timed tee shot, I heard nothing that would make even a Mother Superior blush, such was enthusiasm the course provided at every turn.
And how could any golfer curse in such surroundings? Especially when one of the local family of red deer was tempted from the undergrowth to investigate our attempts at mastering the intrigueing 246-metre par-4 15th hole.
The front nine of the Mahony’s Point encourages the visitor to open their shoulders to inject some self-confidence into their game. This is no place for pussy-footing around, playing for position.
With little rough, the opportunities are there to ‘go for it’ on the par-5 fifth and eighth holes while making your club selection optimistic on the par-3 fourth and seventh holes - both deceptively shorter than they look.
The tenth, for example, tends to encourage a rescue or fairway metal off the tee until you find that the trees straddling the fairway are well out of range, demanding a long-iron or rescue club uphill to a pulpit green.
And only two perfect shots will put the par-5 13th in range, though it looks well within most decent players’ capabilities.
Beware too the 16th, which sweeps dramatically towards the lake with its mountainous backdrop. A nasty gully will catch any miss-hit approach.
Out of bounds threatens the drive at 17 but on reaching the par-3 18th you need to catch your breath and drink in its beauty for a few seconds. It’s one of the most picturesque holes you’ll play in your lifetime and you can forgive yourself if, like me, you take bogey in negotiating its 160 spectacular metres.
I’d looked forward to playing Mahony’s Point and it didn’t disappoint. The greens, though firm and sandy, were a touch slower than I’d expected but in good company the course had a real fun factor. I hesitate to use the ‘f-word’ but golf here was…fabulous.
Useful websitesKillarney Golf and Fishing Club (000353 (0)64 31032)
Ballybunion Golf Club (00353 (0)68 27146), Ballybunion, Co Kerry, Ireland.
For further information about golf in Ireland visit www.discoverireland.com or call free on 0800 039 7000
Mahony's Point, Killarney