Skellig Bay Golf Club Waterville, County Kerry
The tiny coastal village of Waterville has a magnificent links course (see "Wind and Waterville," March/April 2006), and now it also has an assault course. Skellig Bay in the wind may be to golf what the North Face of the Eiger is to climbers. Haulie O'Shea (who runs everything in town from the hotel to the butcher's shop) and architect Ron Kirby have taken rolling, cliff-edge farmland on the outskirts of the village and created the kind of course no one builds anymore. Kirby and O'Shea met when both were part of the large design team that built Old Head Golf Links in Kinsale. Their collaboration at Skellig Bay has produced a rugged and staggeringly beautiful golf course. There are awe-inspiring ocean views from holes that weave their way up and down the headland and more than two miles of ancient stone walls. There's even a protected "fairie fort" near the sixth tee (locals say you should never step into it) and a grass island with three standing stones from Ireland's megalithic period in the middle of a large fairway bunker. Plans for a clubhouse are in motion; in the interim, players are being bused in from the nearby Waterville Lakes hotel.
Greens Fee: $72. Reservations: 011-353/669-474-133 or visit skelligbay.com.
Dooks Golf Links Glenbeigh, County Kerry
The former European Tour player Ronan Rafferty once referred to Dooks Golf Links, at the head of Dingle Bay, as "the best kept secret in Irish golf." So it was no small decision by the members in 2002 to bring in the architect Martin Hawtree and extensively redesign what many thought was already a well-polished gem. The last four holes will be completed this summer. The course has been extended from a 6,010-yard par seventy to approximately 6,600 yards with a par of seventy-one, but according to Hawtree associate Marc Westenborg, "It was never the intention to simply make the course longer, though I suppose it helps." Instead, holes have been rerouted, some greens built up and others lowered, and entry areas to greens have been reshaped to improve playability. The end result feels natural, and is in keeping with an old club that felt it needed to catch up with the modern game without sacrificing the heritage of a classic. There was one thing, of course, that Hawtree had no need to tinker with—the views and sheer beauty of the place. They remain among the best in Ireland.
Greens Fee: $85. Tee Times: 011-353/669-768-205 or visit dooks.com.
The Lodge at Doonbeg County Clare
A magnificent granite lodge has been created to offer luxury accommodation—and a new clubhouse—at Doonbeg, one of Ireland's premier golf locations. With ocean, river and courtyard views, the Lodge's forty-seven suites have one- to four-bedroom units, each with its own private living space and kitchen area. The decor is an American take on the Irish country house, with the private Cassique club on Kiawah Island setting the standard of relaxed luxury that the owners want to achieve here. There is also a spa with steam rooms, sauna, whirlpool and a fitness area.
Rates: One-bedroom suites from $593; multiple-bedroom suites from $1,173. Call 011-353/659-055-600 or visit doonbeggolfclub.com.