Old Head Golf Links is a golf destination rivaled by few courses anywhere in the world. Situated in County Cork along Ireland’s stunning southern coast, Old Head is a 220-acre picturesque piece of land that juts perfectly into the Atlantic Ocean. To call it visually spectacular still may not do Old Head Golf Links justice as it is simply that breathtaking. From the time you put your tee in the ground on the 1st hole until your final putt on the 18th, the property begs you to forget about golf and just look around.
Designed by architect Ron Kirby (a disciple of Gary Player’s and Jack Nicklaus’ design teams) with the assistance of Irish golf legends Eddie Hackett, Dr. Joe Carr, Paddy Merrigan, Liam Higgins and Haulie O’Shea, Old Head Golf Links ranked 85th on Golf Digest’s 2022 World’s 100 Greatest Courses List. Old Head opened for play in 1996 as a nine-hole course that ran along cliffs some 300 feet above where the rocky beach meets the Atlantic. Kirby returned a year later to complete the second nine holes.
Old Head Golf Links: The Course
From the tips, the par 72 Old Head measures 7,200 yards in length and features five Par 5s, five Par 3s, and eight Par 4s. The layout offers five sets of tees with slope ratings from 129 up to 142. When not soaking in the beauty of their surroundings, players are tested with steep hills, daunting water hazards, and tricky fairways. And if the terrain isn’t enough of a challenge, Old Head’s peninsula shape leaves it exposed to strong winds blowing in off the Atlantic Ocean. Depending on the wind, Old Head can range from manageable to nearly unplayable.
Old Head: A Course 400 Years in The Making
The land that Old Head occupies offers visitors a rich history. Per Links Magazine, the dramatic piece of land is recognized as an Irish national monument and believed to be an ancient royal site, “the earliest settlers pre-date Christ and were known as the Erainn Celtic tribe. Ruins of their early forts remain today, along with stone walls that were part of the ancient castles. Today, the most visible symbol of Old Head is its “modern” lighthouse, completed in 1853. Dozens of shipwrecks occurred off the Old Head coast, but the most infamous was hardly the fault of nature. In 1915 a German U-boat sank the Lusitania.”
The land was purchased in the 1970s by brothers John and Patrick O’Connor with the vision of creating a world class golf destination. While it took the better part of two decades for their vision to become reality, the end result is nothing short of a masterpiece.
Old Head’s Most Remarkable Holes
Hole #2 – Par 4
There’s nothing particularly challenging about this 400-yard par 4 but it’s your first of many opportunities to play along the cliffs and send a fresh-from-the-sleeve Pro V1 down to a rocky, wet grave hundreds of feet below. Don’t worry, you won’t be the only one.
Hole #4 – Par 4
This 427-yard par 4 is aptly named “Razor’s Edge” as the entire left side of the hole nudges along the rocky oceanside cliffs. The Old Head of Kinsale Lighthouse offers players a stunning backdrop just before the property falls off into the ocean.
Hole #12 – Par 5
Known as the “Coursean Stage” and measuring 564 yards from the tips, the 12th hole is considered one of the most dangerous holes in all of golf. Squeezed by the cliff’s edge on both sides, the fairway gets increasingly narrow as players approach the green.
Hole #17 – Par 5
The 623-yard (yes, 623 yards) par 5 17th hole yet against tests players’ fear of heights with a layout right along the steep cliffs. The lighthouse once again provides jaw-dropping background scenery but don’t let that distract you from the exacting focus needed to score well on this monster of a par 5.
Old Head Golf Links: Rates & Fees
This won’t come as a surprise but Old Head Golf Links doesn’t come cheap. As of April 2023, greens fee rates at Old Head range from €225 in the low seasons (the 2nd half of April and the 2nd half of October) up to €395 for the high season which runs from late April to the middle of October. Caddies and golf carts are available upon request at an additional fee as are rental clubs.
Old Head Golf Links: More Than Golf
Besides offering some of the most scenic, world-class golf you can find, Old Head Golf Links shines at more than just golf. The property also boasts a collection of 21 highly appointed suites for overnight stays, a variety of dining options ranging from a five-star restaurant (De Courcey) to the more relaxed Lusitania Bar, and a state-of-the-art spa where guests can enjoy a variety of massages and body treatments.
Old Head’s array of amenities is unquestionable first class and is sure to leave a mark on first-time visitors that will have them ready to book their next visit upon check out.
Visitors of Old Head Golf Links can also book guided tours of the course and the surrounding areas. Tours provide an in-depth look at the history and design of the course and offer a deeper understanding of this incredible piece of property.
Just off the property, the town of Kinsale is worth a visit as well. A tour of the town is time well spent and of course a delicious pint of Guinness at any one of the town pubs can be hard to refuse. Beyond touring, visitors to Kinsale can book any number of non-golf excursions. Water activities like deep sea fishing and sailing are available as is ClayBird shooting and other adventurous activities.
Getting to Old Head Golf Links
The closest major airport is just 22 miles away in the town of Cork. And if Old Head is part of a larger Ireland itinerary, it’s just a three-hour drive from Dublin. For hard chargers ready to spend the extra dough, Old Head participates in a heli-golf program where, with a fleet of helicopters and an onsite helipad, players are whisked course to course throughout Ireland while bypassing time-consuming road travel and traffic.
Old Head Golf: Your First Visit Won’t Be Your Last
Ask anyone that’s been to Old Head Golf Links and they might tell you the experience has a spiritual quality to it. The scenery, the history, and the surroundings awaken the senses and bring about a renewed appreciation for Mother Nature’s awesomeness.
If Old Head Golf Links seems like a place you might want to visit (and honestly, how could it not) run, don’t walk to your computer. The latest booking information we could access had the property mostly full for 2023 so looking out to 2024 might be your best option.