Founded in 1888 and redesigned in 1927 by Alister Mackenzie, this championship parkland course is as graceful and mature as its age would suggest. Scenically situated in Cork Harbour, the club has played host to major Amateur and Professional Championships over the years, including the Irish Open, Irish Professional Championships, Irish Close Championships and the National Finals.
The one major problem with Little Island, as Cork Golf Club is known, is that after playing it you will need rose-tinted spectacles to go anywhere else. Permanent migration could be a serious consideration. For the club golfer, Little Island comes as close to perfection as makes no difference. It has beauty, variety and challenge in equally generous scoops.
The course that bred famous Irish amateur Jimmy Bruen opens with several holes of classic parkland, broad rolling acres of emerald turf studded with stands of ancient trees, rising gently to an escarpment overlooking the River Lee. From there comes an easy descent to two holes hugging the river bank over country rich in gorse and with a distinct touch of heathland.
They lead to a series of holes played through and around an ancient quarry. Here lies the 6th hole, its tee near the river, its fairway rising slowly to a plateau to give sight of the green, no more than a short iron away, tucked into a corner of the quarry wall. Your first thought will be of a secret garden. The green at the short 7th, too, is isolated, serene and totally alluring. It’s awfully difficult to concentrate on the task at hand.
If there’s more idyllic golf, even in a land so rich with it, then it’s being kept secret. What’s more, its pedigree matches the setting. In such a rolling landscape more than a few of the greens are elevated or domed – the trio of par-3s are memorable – and all but two are cunningly bunkered.
Accuracy off the tee is vital, and imagination and precision with the irons equally crucial.