Play the full green, as seen in Exec Digital's July issue!
Written by Scott Kramer
Travel 35 minutes west from Dublin, Ireland and you arrive in County Kildare, home to many equestrian riding trails and races. But also in town is the world-renowned, first-class Kildare Hotel and Country Club, more commonly known as The K Club. Gracing the resort’s lush 550 acres are a hotel, spa and two Arnold Palmer-designed golf courses. While this acclaimed destination is in vogue for all the right reasons, make no mistake that golf is its main lure.
The Palmer Smurfit Course, which opened in 1995, is an inland links-style layout with dune mounding throughout. It’s a very popular course thats become known for its steep bunkers, meticulously contoured greens and relentless, honey-colored rough that was recently cut back significantly to ease play. Still, golfers must keep the ball straight, in order to score well.
While the Smurfit Course’s reputation is great all on its own, it takes a backseat to that of its sister course, the Palmer Ryder Cup Course, which is located just across the River Liffey. Touted as Ireland’s finest parkland course, the Ryder Cup Course has been around since 1991 and has hosted the prestigious European Open 13 times between 1991 and 2007, as well as the Ryder Cup in 2006 - the showcase event’s first-ever on Irish soil. The 7350-yard course is currently all the talk of Europe, heralded regularly to be among Europe’s best. A challenge ensues at every turn; towering trees dot the fairways and occasionally catch stray shots. Numerous water hazards and beach-like bunkers blanket the land. Tougher yet, the greens are lightning fast: putts struck too firmly often drop in surrounding water.
A challenging and gorgeous layout lulls golfers into their round for the first few holes. But those caught with their guard down by the time they reach the par-5 No. 7, which runs more than 600 yards from the back tees, will undoubtedly find trouble. The double dogleg features water to the right and left, an oak wood in the left side of the tee-shot landing area, and a long carry over water to a well-sloped green. The course doesn’t back down from there - sporting water hazards, towering tree lines and notable elevation changes all over the back nine; there are even ruins of an ancient church to be found. The closing stretch is one of golf’s best.
The par-4 No. 16 -- rated as the course’s most-difficult hole – is all risk-reward. Accurate tee shots need to be followed by a precise approach over water to a 49-yard-long island green that severely slopes. As if that weren’t difficult enough, the par-5 No. 18 is the course’s best-known hole and possibly even tougher than No. 16. Golfers set up on this sharp left-to-right dogleg, invited to cut the corner by hitting their drive over a bunker-strewn hill. If they can accomplish that, then they’re tempted to pinpoint their second shot essentially straight at the flag, which resides on the course’s largest green. Some can do it, many cannot.
Professional golfers are not the only celebrities who have graced The K Club’s courses. The likes of Sylvester Stallone, Jack Nicholson, Liam Neeson, Presidents George Bush, Sr. and Bill Clinton, plus a large array of famous British actors and sports stars, have come to conquer the layouts over time. The K Club has also hosted the PGA Cup matches twice, the Junior Ryder Cup matches, and is currently hosting the filming of The Golf Channel’s Big Break series. No doubt, this is a first-class facility where guests are well-treated.
But pampering isn’t restricted to the golf courses at The K Club. In fact, officials assert that the resort’s claim-to-fame is its consistent world-class quality of golf and hotel service. The luxe five-star hotel – coined the Straffan House – opened in 1832 as the original home of classic Irish hospitality. It was Ireland’s first AA Five Red Star Property; but the 69-room hotel is anything but antiquated. This year, it was awarded the prestigious AA Hotel of the Year and is a testament to the management’s perpetual commitment to delivering the highest-possible standards. Even if you don’t stay there, it’s an ideal oasis to hang out at after golf, if for no other reason than to just to sip cocktails.
Another way to relax on the grounds is by getting a massage at the K Spa. Guests are treated like royalty, leaving afterwards all rested and refreshed. It’s the perfect ending to a great day of golf.