A high-profile victim of the recession in Ireland, Skellig Bay is back and has been transformed with a new name, designer and a spectacular layout.
It takes a lot for Tiger Woods to be impressed, but even he uttered the words “wow” when the fog began to clear over County Kerry in Ireland. He was playingWaterville Golf Links (where he’s a member) at the time, but it was the neighbouring course – the former home of Skellig Bay – which had caught his eye.
Now renamed Hogs Head, the par-72 course is under new ownership and is set to reopen next month after being transformed by Robert Trent Jones II.
The 8,000 metre-long stone borders that once defined the old 200-acre site have gone, and been replaced by 100,000 tons of sand to create fast and firm running fairways. The linksy feel is enhanced by the exposed coastal surroundings and stunning views of Macgillycuddy’s Reeks – Ireland’s tallest mountains.
The Finglas River, a salmon-running stream, snakes through the inland section of the front nine, which features a biarritz green on the second of five par-5s and a tiny punchbowl at the end of the par-4 9th. By then, the layout begins to hug the edge of 100-foot cliffs and presents the most dramatic of tee shots. The best can be found on the par-3 13th, which is played to one of two greens separated by 30 yards and framed by the Atlantic Ocean.
A nod to St Andrews arrives on the final hole – a downhill par 5 – where tee shots are played over a stream and stone bridge with the Waterville village peeking over the clubhouse in the distance.
It costs €250 per person to play, but you can make a weekend of it and stay in one of 48 luxury lodges or five cottages on site.