Hogs Head Golf Club
Waterville Co. Kerry Ireland
Tasked with creating a new course in golf-rich Ireland, RTJ, Jr. and his team weren’t likely to hold anything back. And given a magnificent piece of property along the cliff-borne shoreline of southwestern County Kerry, they matched the surroundings by forging something bold and boisterous, combining the finest traditions of Irish links with a healthy dash of modern individuality.
Hogs Head Golf Club—opened in mid-2017 and RTJ II’s first design in the Emerald Isle—is built on headlands surrounded by farmland, with glorious views of both the Atlantic Ocean and the tallest mountains in the country (Macgillicuddy’s Reeks), while also incorporating Finglas River, famous for salmon and trout. As part of the transformation of the landscape (including a small piece of an existing golf course), soil and rocks were relocated, the surface capped with sand, and three types of indigenous fescue grass planted. Like all classic links, Hogs Head plays fast and firm.
But given the vagaries of Irish weather, the course also must be accommodating, accepting shots that come down from high as well as those that run in fast and low. With the wind ever present and the sea so close, the fairways are cut wide and the greens large, although both feature ample undulations. In fact, the greens at Hogs Head were given special attention, with hole xxx boasting a Biarritz-style putting surface, holes 11 and 14 sharing a huge double green in the spirit of St. Andrews, and number 13 employing two greens for use on different days.
Moving through a variety of terrains, Hogs Head begins and ends along the river, while the middle features a long stretch along 100-foot-tall coastal bluffs. There are five par-threes, varying in length and strategy and bringing alternately the river, the cliffs, and the sea into play. And there’s always the weather, which can change in an instant and demands constant attention if one is to choose the right club and strike the proper shot.
Beauty and challenge, challenge and beauty. Hogs Head brings golf’s most endearing traits together in one place. And like the game itself, it never disappoints.