David Brice, CEO of Golf International, reviews destinations on PGATOUR.COM that can be experienced by purchasing a package with Golf international, a leading provider of high-end international golf travel. For more information about this trip or any other of Golf International's destination trips, click here.
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Ireland's K-Club held its grand opening in 1991 -- a luxury hotel and golf course located a brief 18 miles from the center of Dublin. At the time, there were many who thought it may have been a mistake in Ireland's aggressive golf development program -- why would anyone want to stay out in the country to play a single course, when they could stay in the heart of Europe's liveliest city and take a half hour drive to play it? Criticism was also generously laid on the golf course for being too American in style and lacking Irish character.
Time is a wonderful healer and 20 years on, those early critics ate their words long ago. The hotel is now considered one of the leading luxury properties in all Ireland and was the very first Irish hotel ever to receive a 5 star rating from the highly regarded Automobile Association, and there's more. The first layout now has a younger brother, The Smurfitt Course, opened in 2003, a tough and exciting layout, but with a different kind of challenge to the original Palmer Course, which received the ultimate accolade when it was announced as venue for the 2006 Ryder Cup Matches.
The K-Club has arrived -- a pair of true championship courses, both ranked among Ireland's best; one of the most elegant, luxury hotels in the country, all set in the beautiful countryside of County Kildare, with the excitement of Dublin only about a half hour's drive away - success is sweet indeed.
Both courses come from the drawing board of Arnold Palmer, who has demonstrated his talents as a thoughtful and creative architect. He has also done a masterful job of designing a pair of layouts where each offers a totally different challenge to the other. It's impossible to objectively say one is better -- neither is a walk in the park and each has its own distinctive character. Personal preferences will determine which you prefer, so play them both and come to your own decision.
As a Ryder Cup venue, The Palmer Course inevitably receives closer scrutiny and it is the tougher of the two, which translates into, very tough. Even from the forward tees, The Palmer is uncompromising and likely to discourage most who insist on keeping track of their score. Ryder Cup layouts are required to be unsympathetic and impassionate and this one is exactly that. It's a track filled with outstanding holes with at least a half dozen standing out as nothing less than superb.
The dramatic, 606-yard seventh demands accuracy off the tee with a drive that must thread its way around and over a series of perfectly placed fairway bunkers. Successfully achieved, the second shot requires equal accuracy with a long iron, to land short of the River Liffey, which jealously guards the front of the green. Adding to the frustration is a lake to the right and heavy woodland to the left - there is no margin for error. Average golfers take heart; the big hitters will have to decide whether or not they can attempt the green in two, with miserable results all but guaranteed should they fail.
There's another thriller waiting at the eighth, a 424-yard par 4. The river runs from tee to green, clinging to the left hand edge of the fairway and comes into play again on the pitch to the green, which cold-heartedly slopes seriously toward the water.
The closing two holes are the stuff golf theater is made of and ideally suited for the drama expected of a Ryder Cup. The seventeenth is a short, 173-yarder, practically surrounded by water. No matter what your instincts tell you, favor the left hand side of the green -- there are cruel, left to right contours serving only one purpose -- to take every little white ball coming within grasp, to a watery grave.
The eighteenth is a closer with style, aided by an abundance of water to add to the thrills of spectators and the heart beat of players. This 537-yard par 5 is reachable in 2 by the long hitters, providing their strength is accompanied by accuracy. The green is protected by a mammoth lake to the front and left and the temptation to go for an eagle, or at least a birdie, too much for most to resist. This is the way every closing hole should be -- death or glory all the way.
The Ryder Cup selected a magnificent venue for their 2006 event, perhaps one of the best for sometime. But for all of the early accusations of this being a course that was too American in style, and would inevitably favor Team USA, such was not the case. The Americans were royally trounced, losing to the Europeans by a record 9 ½ to18 ½.
Today, The Palmer Course is ranked among Ireland's top ten and should be on every visiting golfers, must play list. It may be the links courses that attracted you to the Emerald Isle, but these are only a part of Ireland's diverse inventory of world-class courses. Get your fill of Dublin's windblown, seaside links layouts first, then experience The K-Club of Ryder Cup fame, and why not the sparkling new Killeen Castle Course which hosts The Solheim Cup in September?? Both reveal a different side of Irish golf and neither will disappoint.
For a few ideas on how to include the K-Club on your golf trip to Ireland, contact the Ireland experts at Golf International by calling toll-free 1 (800) 833-1389, or click here.
©2011 David Brice / Golf International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Golf International -- Providers of quality golf travel arrangements since 1988.