The founding history of Waterville owes much to chance as it did invention, as it was the employees of the transatlantic cable network, and not the usual presence of a British army garrisons, that were the first to introduce, albeit a crude form of the game, to the town the town of Waterville in the 1880s. Like many, Waterville started as a nine-hole golf course to the east side of the existing layout, utilizing what it could of the natural terrain; it was one of the first courses in Ireland to be affiliated to the Golfing Union of Ireland (GUI). The course is located in one of the most southwesterly parts of Ireland on the tip of County Kerry looking out towards the Ballinskelligs, or Skellig rocks as the locals know them as, about an hour and a half from Killarney on the Wild Atlantic Way.
Sadly, when the development of technology put paid to the “Commercial Cable Company,” and the Athletic Club that ran the golf operations, the course lay unused and unloved until the 1950s, at which time Irish American John A. Mulcahy arrived in the town with a vision to create a world-class links golf course. Mulcahy brought with him Claude Harmon and the inimitable Eddie Hackett to help create his masterpiece, and their creation opened to wide acclaim in 1973.
Most recently, Tom Fazio was brought to Waterville to make improvements to the golf course, notably the putting surfaces, but he also focused on creating a balance in topography between the eastern and western sectors of the golf course, a task that has its roots in the early origins of the course. The east end, as mentioned, was less well-defined, flatter and less dramatic than the coastal parts, and as such Fazio harmonized this imbalance. He also took time to introduce a rough management program to make the experience of playing the course a lot less arduous for the average player.
The course is a true links test, and despite a reasonably straightforward opening hole, it starts to bite at the Par four, third hole that runs along the water with some dramatic mountainous scenery for a backdrop. The most famous hole at Waterville is the Par three, twelfth, known around the world as merely the “Mass Hole.” When Oliver Cromwell ruled Ireland, the practice of celebrating Catholic mass was enough to have you sentenced to death. The hollow in the middle of the 12th hole was where the locals met in secret to worship, and the name has stuck ever since. The golf hole is an extremely testing one, and a few prayers may not go amiss, because if the wind blows, as it regularly does, the large plateau green will seem like a tiny target indeed, and will be very difficult to hold.
The links at Waterville has found many admirers over the years, among them Tiger Woods, Mark O’Meara, Jim Furyk and before his death, Payne Stewart. Each of these world-renowned golfers became members of the Waterville golf club, and you too can become a member, at least for a day, by joining The Consummate Pro on a golf vacation in Ireland.