Killarney (Killeen)

Killarney (Killeen)

Killarney, the gateway to beautiful Co Kerry, offers 54 holes of delightful parkland golf and the best of it is played alongside Lough Leane, the largest of the area's lakes. In the background on the far side of the water are the MacGillycuddy's Reeks and on a sunny day this really is a very special place to be. A nine-holer first opened in Killarney back in 1891, then in 1939, on the present site, a full-size course was designed.

But as far as what is seen today goes, we have to look at the work of Fred Hawtree in the late 1960s, when that original 18 was supplemented by 18 new holes and the two layouts were intermingled to create the Killeen and Mahony's Point layouts.

There was concern at the time that in the process one good course would be compromised but the locals need not have worried: what resulted was two excellent layouts. In the last 10 years a third 18-holer, the Lackabane, designed by none other than Donald Steel, has been added.

This means that Killarney can now claim, uniquely in Ireland, to have three full-size courses on offer. Of the three layouts, it is the Killeen that is regarded as the jewel in the crown. The venue for the Irish Open twice in the early 1990s (Nick Faldo was the champion on both occasions) and in 2010 and 2011 as well as the 1996 Curtis Cup, it stretches to well over 7,000 yards from the tips.

Of the three layouts, it is the Killeen that is regarded as the jewel in the crown, having hosted the Irish Open in 1991, 1992, 2010 and 2011.

Yet from the forward tees it is the perfect place for a relaxing afternoon – or at least it is once the opening few holes have been negotiated. It begins with a tempting yet dangerous opening hole where the green can be seen away to the right across a finger of the lough.

Of relatively modest length, it should be comfortably negotiated with a fairway wood and a mid iron but first-tee nerves doubtless mean that many play safe to the left and therefore have a much longer shot in. By anyone's standards the 3rd is a stern test, measuring around 200 yards and most of it being carry over water.

The 5th can be a brute at almost par-five distance and in the same direction and the 6th is another par three with water threatening.  Thereafter the holes move mercifully away from the water's edge – with the exception of the spectacular 10th, pictured here.

If the back nine is less spectacular, it is probably an even better test and the final two holes are both excellent. The 17th is played to an awkward raised green while the last is long and unforgiving. They offer a fitting conclusion to a course that is rightly regarded as a classic of its type.