Under the guidance of Cormac Flannery, the golf club, located along the Wild Atlantic Way on the Dingle Peninsula, is flourishing both on and off the course. There is a big push on sustainability of the links using bio organic product wherever possible and keeping everything as natural as they can.
In many ways this is exactly how golf should be.
The current links was originally built in the 1970’s and was designed by the prolific and brilliant Eddie Hackett. The course used to be just nine holes until the addition of a second nine by Christy O’Connor Junior. Reportedly Hackett did the brief for the back nine but it was O’Connor who oversaw the project and there are questions about how true to the original design he stayed.
More recently Ken Carney has made some sympathetic changes which include the opening up of some large sand scrapes, reducing the number of bunkers and chaging the remaining green-side ones to riveted faces.
Everything is laid out in front of you at Dingle and as you play here you feel to be encircled by the mountain backdrop. It truly is a glorious, scenic and natural landscape around you. There are no dunes here and it is the perfect contrast to other courses in South West Ireland such as Doonbeg, Tralee, Lahinch and Waterville. On a week long trip to South-West Ireland throwing a round in at Dingle wouldn’t be a poor decision.
That said, Dingle isn’t in the same class as the aforementioned courses but it is a very fine second tier course and if you have the time it’s a venue that will not disappoint.
In my opinion the front nine is the classier of the two loops with superior green complexes and more strategy involved. Hackett did a great job maximising the relatively flat terrain to maximise interest and natural fatures.
There is lots of short grass and run-offs to keep you on your toes and the opening four holes are absolutely delightful. A burn comes into play a couple of times early on (13 times in total during the round) whilst the fourth ‘Pipers Hollow’ is a very strategic hole with a drive down the right, close to out-of-bounds required, to open up the best angle into the green and avoid a blind approach.
Each hole has a sign on the tee explaining the meaning to the name given to it. At the fourth - “Poll an Phíobaire - Hole of the pipers” it says the fourth green, set in a dell, was a popular place of entertainment for local pipers and dancers, out of sight of a disapproving clergy.
The short 5th and long 6th are the two weakest holes on this nine but the front side closes with three very strong par fours. The 7th and 8th are elegant affairs whilst the difficult 9th – named “Hell” climbs back up to the clubhouse and is guarded by a deep bunkers and run-offs.
The back nine doesn’t quite have the refinement of the outward half and the course does lose its linksy-ness especially in the top corner of the property where we play the dog-leg 13th, a hole the club hope to sand-cap in the future. The turf is certainly not as good on the back nine but that’s not to say it is exceptional on the front half.
The 10th is a challenging par-three with a narrow entrance at the front of the green deflecting anything except the most truest of shots and is arguably the signature hole at Dingle. A three here feels like a birdie.
I felt the course lost its way a little bit until we reached 14th when things start to pick up again and the 16th is the star of the impressive closing stretch; a blind drive then bends to the right up to a magnificent green site.
The round concludes at the 18th in a similar fashion to the ninth with a tough, but very good, uphill par-five hole to the clubhouse.
At Dingle the Par is 72 and the top yardage is 6,651 from the back markers. Most people will skip Ceann Sibéal and it is hard to make a strong case that it is a ‘must visit’ but those who do will rewarded be with a fine and rhythmic links course in a beautiful setting.