That doesn’t necessarily make it one of my personal favourites – give me a quirky links or a firm and fast heathland any day – but there is a lot to admire about this Kyle Philips designed layout which opened for play in 2003.
What separates The Grove, host of the WGC AMEX Championship in 2006, from other newer courses is primarily the contouring around the greens.
There is great interest added by the many slopes, run-offs and raised putting surfaces that merge nicely into the rolling landscape. Some of the best green complexes can be found at the fifth, seventh, 12th and 17th. You could drop a dozen balls and spend several hours just chipping and putting to these holes and never get bored.
The green contouring effects play on your approach shots unlike I have seen on other similar courses and should you miss the green your imagination and creativity will be called upon in spades. You are usually left with a number of options as to how to play your pitch or chip and this is something I find particularly appealing on any type of golf course.
The pronounced fairway contours are also a welcome change from many other courses of this genre. It is bold and free-flowing as Philips has tried to imitate the undulating linksland that he has done so well at the manufactured Kingsbarns Links in Scotland. It works well at The Grove, however, no matter how well this attempted reproduction is done it’s impossible to create the natural humps and bumps that Mother Nature has harvested at seaside courses.
Conditioning of the course in March was exceptional, particularly the putting surfaces. Running at over 10 on the stimpmeter they were firm, quick, true and downhill putts especially had to be given the utmost respect. At this speed it was perhaps a good thing that there isn’t as much movement in the greens as one may initially suspect by looking at them from a distance. I found myself over-borrowing a number of times when keeping it inside the hole would have seen more putts holed.
The short holes certainly stand out at The Grove. The fourth has a cunningly angled stream, which would be even better if played from a slightly higher tee, the 7th is only short but the green is much wider than it is deep, the 13th has a pleasant falling tee shot whilst the 16th may be the pick of the bunch with nothing for finding the hollow to the left and even less for drifting right.
The three-shotters go about their business quietly but effectively. The drives offer little in the way of excitement but the interest builds considerably as you approach the greens. Indeed this theme is something that is shared on the par fours; plenty of width is provided on the tee-shots where the bunkering is more peripheral than heroic but the course comes alive once you start playing to the greens. Tee-shots at the first, eighth, 10th and 15th are the four that standout in my mind as having a bit more going for them and ask a few questions rather than allowing golfers to freely smash the ball away.
The Grove ticks all the boxes but doesn’t give a ‘wow factor’ per se (although maybe the green fee will) but there is a lot of good stuff going on and plenty to hold the interest. There is also a lot more than just a golf course at this luxury country retreat.
Waterville provides a fantastic mix of championship golf & more quirky duney fun.
Dingle Golf Links, sometimes referred to as Ceann Sibéal Golf Club, is one that is trending in the right direction.