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Ballybunion Golf Club,
Designer: Mother Nature, Tom Watson
Championship Length: 6,638 yards
SSS (Course Rating): 73
The very name Ballybunion Golf Club, strikes a chord with golfing enthusiasts around the globe. Rated one of the ten best golf courses in the world, standing on the first tee at Ballybunion is every bit as awe inspiring as one could imagine in many respects, it's like standing on the first at the Old Course in St. Andrews. This is an experience long since yearned for don't duff it, don't slice it, don't hook it and whatever you do, don't put it into the graveyard!
On August 19th 1893, both the Limerick Chronicle and Kerry Sentinel (in it's gossip column of all places) carried news of the opening meeting of Ballybunion Golf Club. The club though was not yet financially equipped to survive and there followed an eight year period of golfing oblivion, which lasted until the formation of the present Ballybunion Golf Club in 1906. As time assed, the reputation of Ballybunion as a golf course grew steadily and it hosted many major domestic championships.
The year 1971 triggered the start of a new era for the club when acclaimed golf writer Herbert Warren Wind wrote an article ranking Ballybunion as one of the best ten courses in the world. Things were never quite the same again as visiting golfers came in their hordes to experience the magnificent Kerry links. Among the many visitors was Tom Watson, Ballybunion's favourite adopted son, while over the years the many who have made the pilgrimage include Byron Nelson, Lee Trevino, Jack Nicklaus, Peter Alliss, Ken Venturi and one Bill Clinton, to name but a few.
The Old Course at Ballybunion is a true seaside links, virtually treeless with a distinct lack of man made influences. There is certainly a wild look to the course, making it appear intimidating, yet the truth is that the course is eminently fair. The contours on the fairways and greens are what make Ballybunion a great golf course. The golfer is required to play accurate approach shots to the greens, usually to a small target with not a lot of space to miss left or right.
Considering the profound influence that Ballybunion has made on Tom Watson, it is perhaps fitting to end with his thoughts "It's a course you will always enjoy and never tire of playing...In short, Ballybunion is a course on which many golf architects should live and play before they build a golf course. I consider it a true test of golf."