After promising myself I would do this kind of stuff all the time, and making exactly one golf trip since moving abroad almost two years ago, I jumped a flight from Amsterdam to Dublin for a weekend ball striking extravaganza at some of the best courses the east coast of Ireland has to offer for my first ever experience with Irish golf. My buddy Barry O’Hanrahan from the A Good Talk Spoiled Podcast picked me up at the airport, and we drove directly to The Island Golf Club (Check out my review of The Island Club here in Part I). After some pizza, whiskey, and a few hours sleep, we were off for more incredible golf at The K Club.
The K-Club Palmer Course
For long time readers and followers, it is no secret that one of the many jokes that I beat to death is the futility of the 2006 Ryder Cup team. The mid-2000’s were dark, dark times in American golf. The Chris Riley led 2004 team was bludgeoned 18.5-9.5 on home soil, and to avenge this loss, the U.S. sent a team that included Vaughn Taylor, Brett Wetterich, J.J. Henry, Scott Verplank, Stewart Cink, Chad Campbell, and David Toms over to the K Club to face an absolutely stacked European team. They were predictably annihilated yet again by a score of 18.5-9.5. An 8:20 tee time on the morning of June 25 and a match against a European was the moment I’ve been waiting a decade for: the chance to retaliate the Massacre at the K-Club.
Before you even reach the clubhouse, you can feel the ghost of Brett Wetterich in the cool morning breeze. The grounds of the resort are huge, with a castle like gate entrance that you pass through from the road. You pass the massive luxury hotel, the hotel parking, and the enormous practice area (a rarity in European golf) to reach the car park near the clubhouse. Inside the stunning clubhouse, dozens of pictures line the walls celebrating the 2006 European victory, and reminding you of the futility of that U.S. team. It looks like a Ryder Cup museum, and I could have easily spent an extra hour in there just looking at the artifacts and the pictures of Michael Jordan, Bill Clinton, Elin, and the all brown scripting worn by the guys whose country colors are red, white, and blue. It’s really, really well done, and helps set the scene for the championship course that you’re about to play.
You would be hard pressed to find two courses that have a more polarizing style of play than The Island Golf Club and The K-Club. The Palmer course is set inland, and consists of a layout that is much more consistent with the style of golf I am familiar with. The sea winds, rough terrain, unpredictable bounces, and challenge of the elements do not exist here, but the challenge remains.
If I were to use one word to describe the course, I would say “lush.” Ireland is infamous for their weather systems and their precipitation, and while the timing of those showers may get you wet on the course, it can also lend huge favors to the golf course itself. The first thing you notice about the course is that there is hardly a blade of grass out of place. Similar to other Arnold Palmer designs you see in the states, the fairways are wide and friendly, but you still need to find them, as the rough is thick and grabby. If you do find the fairway, it’s hard to not compress the ball purely off the perfectly manicured grass, launching a pelt in the air far enough that it deserves it’s own ProTracer.
The story gets even better once you get to the putting surface. Smooth, fast, and very readable surfaces leave you with no one to blame but yourself for any missed putts. The greens are soft and receptive, which helped a ton on pitches around the green in addition to holding a well struck iron approach in its place. While the condition of the greens certainly helps, this is not to say that the complexes are not challenging, as I can’t recall having even one dead straight putt. The combination of the purity of the roll-out and the difficulty of the slopes provides as fair of a challenge as you can hope for on the greens, and it helped a lot with my confidence standing over a 12 foot putt.
I’ve been fortunate enough to play what I consider to be a decent amount of championship golf courses, and a common feeling I get when playing these places is that everything just seems a little bit bigger. Bigger distances between holes, wider fairways, bigger bunkers, and overall sense of grandeur in the atmosphere. The K Club is no exception to this. We played the furthest back tees that were setup (white tees, 6,815 yards), and with the ball not rolling out at all, a premium was placed on getting a ball a ways down in the short grass. The wide fairways encourage you to hit driver and swing away (the polar opposite of our round on the previous day), yet at each tee box we found ourselves gazing in amazement at where the pros play some of these holes from.
I always try to never lose perspective over how good those guys are, but sometimes it takes a round at a course they actually play to give you that real life example that you need to humble yourself. Specifically, the shot that Rory hit on 16 at this year’s Dubai Duty Free Irish Open, while it was even impressive to see on TV, in person it borders on unfathomable. From 270 yards, into the wind, he knocked it on to what is basically an island green, which setup a critical birdie that helped lead to him winning his national title. The golf course itself stands on its own, but when you add in the memories of the things that have happened there, and the experience is even richer.
Obviously I couldn’t leave the grounds without trying Rory’s shot on 18 from May, which was voted as the shot of the month on the European Tour for the month.
That shot. From the air. ✈️https://t.co/qVWiivcyEH
— The European Tour (@EuropeanTour) May 23, 2016
I was planning on throwing a ball down from the general area and trying it just for fun, but ended up busting a drive into the wind that put me about 265 out, so I had a real go at it. Wind was slightly hurting, and mostly off the left, so I just let one loose. Haters will say it’s fake.
I played what was easily my best round of the trip at the K-Club. Thanks to my personal swing coach Travis Fulton, I was finding the slot with the driver, and playing from pretty much the middle of the fairway on every hole. Some horrific 7-irons and a quad kept me from posting a good score, but as it was my third round in the last ten months, I was happy to post a 77. I closed Barry out, and now I can rest peacefully knowing that the 2006 Ryder Cup has been avenged.
(And for the record, my actual shot on 18 ended up here:)
We closed the morning with the standard pint of Guinness, and grabbed some lunch in the Clubhouse before making our way back towards the sea for the afternoon round.
There have already been a few people that have reached out to me asking whether or not I think the K Club is worth a weekend visit, and the answer is a resounding yes. With prices starting from EUR 295 per person, you get bed and breakfast, a round of golf on both the Palmer Course and the Smurfit Courses, and a EUR 50 dining credit. I would think that the hotel room itself would cost that much, and when you factor in the quality of golf you get with it, as well as the food, that’s a fantastic offer that should be taken advantage of.
Here are some additional pictures from the day: