Old Head combines history with modern opulence for a remarkable golf experience.

It’s hard to imagine a time when old head golf links wasn’t considered Ireland’s premier golfing experience. With unmatched views of the Atlantic Ocean and a spectacular design, the golf course in County Cork on the southwest coast of Ireland has been one of the world’s most talked-about greens since its opening in 1997.

“It’s not just one thing; it’s the sum of many parts,” says Jim O’Brien, general manager. “It’s the dramatic cliff-top location, the 360-degree vistas, the ancient ruins and castles.”

Indeed, Old Head Golf Links offers all of those elements—and does so with a sense of heritage that belies the youth of the spectacular course. It embraces the rich history surrounding it and has proven to be the missing piece that the resort town of Kinsale didn’t even know it needed. As one of the oldest and most fashionable resort towns in Ireland, Kinsale is considered the gourmet capital of Ireland, and its world-famous food festival each October is a highlight of its busy tourist season.

Tucked between the hills and the shoreline, the city is known for its quaint shops, incredible food, pubs and wine bars, art galleries and not one, but three, busy yacht marinas. Old Head has been the perfect addition to this bustling, yet relaxing scene—giving visitors grounds to return—and offering 18 very challenging, but rewarding reasons not to leave.

Spectacular seaside golf near Kinsale, Ireland

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Spectacular seaside golf near Kinsale, Ireland

History Loves Company

While the golf course is relatively new, the landscape is millions of years in the making. The sandstone rock of Old Head was formed more than 350 million years ago, but has gradually been changed by shifts in the landmass, ice ages, volcanic activity and erosion. All these natural forces have carved a unique, beautiful piece of property that juts out into the Atlantic; today, it boasts more than a half-million shrubs, plants and bushes. The land is home to Europe’s only mixed seabird colony accessible by foot; all other comparable colonies are located on islands.

Although it’s an extension of the mainland, Old Head maintains its island-like environs. The 180-acre course is bordered by cliffs towering as high as 300 feet above the Atlantic’s restless waves. Even in a country known for its breathtaking golf experiences—Ireland is home to more than one-third of the world’s links courses—this par-72 green dazzles. In 2012, LINKS magazine called it “the most spectacular golf course on the planet”—high praise from a publication that has seen its share of courses, but not surprising, once you’ve personally seen what the course has to offer.

Designed to work with the natural rugged terrain, the course offers challenges that most simply cannot.

“The most unique [hole] is the 12th, which is built on the land bridge that connects the course to the mainland,” O’Brien says. “You walk on top of five sea caves, and the birds and ocean are beneath your feet as you play.”

Experiences like this are why O’Brien says they encourage visitors to forego the golf cart and walk the course to experience the full effects of this remarkable place. However, O’Brien advises, “Take a caddy.” A professional caddy who knows the course will be as valuable as a GPS in its intentionally rugged landscape. Nine of the holes sit atop cliffs, and all 18 holes feature ocean views. A warm-up range and short game practice area with a fully trained outside-services staff prepare you for the game.

Many golfers choose the heli-golf option, which takes golfers from one course to another, or from the hotel to the course, in private charters. In addition to saving time shuttling between destinations, it also gives players a unique opportunity to see the beauty of the Emerald Isle from the air.

“Many of the great Irish courses are located all along our coastline, and the best way to reach them is by helicopter,” O’Brien says.

Unwinding After 18

At the end of the course is the elegant Clubhouse, from which players can take in views of the Old Head Lighthouse, a historic signal tower built in the 17th century and one of the area’s best-known monuments. The de Courcey Dining Room, an à la carte five-star restaurant, is open for breakfast, brunch and dinner; for a more casual experience, the Lusitania Bar serves up food and drink beginning at breakfast.

For those who want to “full” Old Head experience, the Clubhouse also is home to 15 spacious, well-appointed suites, including one Presidential Suite with a marble bathroom and a separate living room, dining room and master bedroom.

The Old Head Spa offers treatments to restore the body and relax the mind. From massage and body treatments, to the Thermal Spa with its steam room, sauna, footbaths and heated relaxation lounger, it’s the perfect rejuvenation spot after a day on the links—or for unwinding during a day off the course.

To learn more about Old Head, visit oldhead.com.

Photos courtesy Old Head Golf Links