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Waterford Castle Golf Club,
Designer: Des Smyth
Championship Length: 6,814 yards
SSS (Course Rating): 73
Situated on a beautiful 310 acre island in the estuary of the River Suir, Waterford Castle Golf & Country Club lies just downstream from Waterford City. The island itself boasts a long and colourful history and was a monastic settlement from the 6th to 8th centuries. During the Norman invasion of 1160, the island came under the ownership of Maurice Fitzgerald, a cousin of Strongbow and it remained the property of the Fitzgerald family until 1958. The original castle was enlarged in the 19th century and today stands as a world class hotel, while the championship golf course was opened for play in September 1992.
Being an island course, Waterford Castle is certainly unique and the course is laid out on gently undulating land and offers stunning views from all parts of the course. Over 200 acres of the former Fitzgerald estate were set aside for the course development, which began in 1990, while many of the old plantations were retained and thousands of new trees were planted. Upon first observing the site in 1988, course designer Des Smyth commented: "The Island has a natural undulating landscape with mature forestation and beautiful views of the river. To develop a golf course on the Island would have been a natural decision for anyone with a keen love of the game".
The quality of the finished product was immediately evident and the course has received favourable reviews from all quarters. The layout is excellent and requires a wide variety of shots over the course of eighteen holes. Each hole offers a different challenge, while club selection is an important issue at all times. Like most golf courses, straight hitters with reasonable length have little to fear but be assured that an abundance of hazards wait to punish any wayward strokes.
Some of the outstanding holes on the front nine include the 3rd and 9th holes. The 3rd is a par four of 409 yards, which requires an accurately struck shot from the tee carrying 170 yards over a lake. Your approach is to a sloping green with a second lake to the right and a bunker on each side. The doglegging par four 9th, rated the most difficult at Waterford Castle, requires a well placed tee shot in order to tackle the green in two, while an uphill approach requires a long iron to a well protected green. The homeward journey is equally challenging with the par five 13th, offering beautiful river views and par three 16th being particularly interesting. The 16th at 205 yards is not a hole for the fainthearted and apart from the lake, which runs along the right side of the hole, the green is surrounded left and right by strategic bunkering.