Ireland Golf Trip – Day 2: Dooks Golf Club

The Royal Horse Artillery gets credit for the original 9 at Dooks Golf Club and that layout stood for 80 years before Eddie Hackett directed the membership’s development of a second 9. The full 18 didn’t come to be until 1970 but the course feels as if it was uncovered as a single track back in 1889. It’s as natural of layout as you’ll see anywhere and takes full advantage of the magical bay and mountain views. 

Surrounded by water on three sides, the piece of land is miraculous. It sounds crazy but the coastline views in this part of County Kerry are somewhat reminiscent of Hawaii, although the water is nowhere close to the same color of blue. The course is fantastic and a true Irish links layout, but it is often overlooked because it happens to share coastline with Waterville to the south, and Tralee, Ballybunion, Doonbeg, and Lahinch to the north – all five in Golf Magazine’s Top 100 Courses in the UK & Ireland. Is Dooks as good as those courses? No, but it’s close and #6 for Southwest Ireland is like the 6th best course at Bandon or on the Monterey Peninsula. 

If it was in the U.S., Dooks would have a lodge with $1,500/night suites, a whiskey bar, and the notoriety of Kiawah or Hilton Head. To emphasize the point, if we’re comparing well-regarded, ocean-front golf courses, Torrey Pines doesn’t even come close to Dooks Golf Club. I would say the same thing about Kapalua. Different golf courses, sure, but you get the point.

All this is to say Dooks is well worth the stop if you’re headed from Waterville to any of the other four or vice versa. The views alone are worth the trip. Same with the pro shop. It’s small compared to Lahinch or Ballybunion, but where else can you get a visor with a natterjack toad on it? 

Now for the golf. I played Dooks after Lahinch but before Ballybunion. It was a 2-hour drive on Ireland’s national golf cart path network (aka single-lane country roads) that involved a ferry crossing, an angry swan, and playing chicken around dozens of blind corners at 80 kph. I arrived an hour early and the pro asked if I wanted to tee off in 5. I bought the requisite swag, met my caddie, and hustled to the 1st tee only to find my new playing partners were a no-show. From what I could gather from the starter, this seemed to happen quite a bit here so a lot of players are missing out on a great round of golf. I then heard what no one on the first tee ever wants to hear. “There’s a senior tournament in front of you. It’s 10 foursomes, but they only play the first 13 holes.” Ugh. So much for a quick run around the links. I waited for the fairway to clear and teed up my Titleist for No. 1. 

I gained an audience of three foursomes from the U.S. that also heard the news and saw the “Cocoon” sequel happening on the 1st green. Frowns all around, but hey, let’s see what this solo player can do with his tee ball. Well, I did something pretty spectacular. A low, violent hook hard off the toe that looked destined for a clubhouse window. Miraculously, my ball cleared the clubhouse, but like a Judge Smails putter throw, it landed on a small patch of grass next to the pub where a local couple was enjoying a pint with lunch. I excused the intrusion and proceeded to skull my second shot from the pub patio. Advance 20 yards and collect your ball in the gorse. 

At this point, my caddie is wishing he was looping in the senior tourney up ahead and not wanting to play Find the Ball for the next 17 holes. I made it worse by hurrying and topping my third. I pulled a wedge to the left apron for my fourth and two-putted for the ugliest double bogey of my life. I started to worry about keeping up with the four 80 years olds on the next tee. 

Dooks Golf Links 4th Hole from tee box
The par-3 4th at Dooks Golf Club and the only golf cart I saw in all of Ireland.

My caddie’s concerns continued until I asked to play through on No. 5 where I split the fairway with a driving iron rolling to 240. Ahh, a golf shot. Finally. Don’t worry though, I chunked an 8 iron short of the green and three-putted to put me 11 over after five holes. Then I took a breath, looked around to enjoy the view of Dingle Bay, and started playing the reliably inconsistent game I’m used to. Great drive, bad approach, good lag, missed 3-footer. Tap-in bogey. And so it went for the next few holes except for the fact that we were waiting around like a muni course on a Saturday morning. (Or an Open Championship at St. Andrew’s.) I played through a few more groups and settled into my groove of playing a 2-man Alternate Shot all by myself. 

The 6th green and ocean view at Dooks.
The approach from the fairway to the 9th green – a 503-yard, par-5 from the blues.
The 12th green at Dooks Golf Links.
The approach from the fairway at the 361-yard, par-4 12th.

At No. 13, the tournament trailed into the pub and I had the back 9 to myself. Literally not another person besides my very confused caddie. It was lights out from there on in with a string of fairways hit and greens in regulation. Not a pub patio or 3-putt in sight. I also played the last five holes in 40 minutes, or about the time it took to play the first two holes. 

Dooks Golf Club 14th Hole
The 14th hole at Dooks – one of my favorite holes in Ireland.

The routing is something special at Dooks and is seamless between the original British cavalry soldiers, Eddie Hackett, and Martin Hawtree in 2003. There are elevation changes, but it only comes noticeably into play on two holes. There are maybe five holes where you can’t see the water. There are a couple of forgettable holes on the back 9, but 15 of 18 holes were interesting because of the views, greens, strategy, and general intrigue. 

The Dooks website quotes Tom Coyne, author of A Course Called Ireland, “I love this place…water on 3 sides, it’s a blast. Don’t drive by this gem.” I couldn’t agree more.

Chris Austin — Founder, Editor, Writer, Average Golfer