Ballybunion – Old Course

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  • Architects:
  • Holes of Merit:
    1, 2, 3, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 13, 15, 16, 17
  • NCG Rank:
    20/100 in GB&I
  • Golf.com Rank:
    20/100 in the World

At A Glance

  • The routing uses the dunes-land to create triangles and variable wind conditions.
  • Wider fairways would seem to favour a longer hitter but greens need to be respected and played to the right side in order to score.
  • Greenside touch can level the playing field.
  • Variety of the greens! They vary in size, shape and preferred style of approach.

Tom Doak recommends golf architecture students pay special attention to the green contouring and routing. Only The Old Course and Royal Dornoch notch up more 10's than Ballybunion Old!

Further Viewing

No Laying Up visited and the video can be seen here


Full Course Review

Ballybunion Old Course had its beginning in 1893 when it was described as a 'rabbit warren below the village.' It was revived in 1906 by Lionel Hewson who then laid out 9 holes and extended to 18 holes in 1926. The present-day iteration of the Ballybunion Old Course is the handiwork of none other than Tom Simpson and Molly Gourlay from 1937. The course existed before they arrived but they made it what it is today.

Much of the routing was done by Fred Smith of Sutton's Seed Company in the 1920's. Tom Simpson's contributions are as follows:

  • Hole 1 Fairway Bunkers
  • 2nd Green
  • 4th Green
  • Hole 6
  • 7th Green
  • 8th Green
  • Hole 9
  • 13th Green
  • Hole 16
  • Hole 17

It wasn't until the late 1960's did it start to gain acclaim. Then, in the early 1980's, Tom Watson made visits while transversing the Atlantic for the Open which put it on the golfing world's radar. When the Cashen Course was added in 1982, the hole numbering was changed to its current order.


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The Essentials

Everything you need to know before you go!


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Everything you need to know before you go!