Though The Kildare Hotel and Golf Club was founded only a few decades ago in 1991, the 550 acres of rolling County Kildare countryside on which it stands tell a story spanning almost 1,500 years. These acres were once the grounds of the Straffan estate and have changed hands many times since then, most notably in 1988, when the property was bought by paper and packaging magnate Michael Smurfit.
Smurfit set out to create a luxury golf resort, and thus The K Club, as it’s more commonly known, was born. The resort complex is home to a superb five-star hotel, as well as two 18-hole parkland golf courses, both designed by the King, Arnold Palmer.
The two courses at The K Club resort contrast significantly even though they share the same designer. This was a conscious move on Palmer’s part, done as a way to deter comparison. Despite this, the Palmer Course, known as the Palmer North Course, is widely regarded as the better of the two.
The Palmer Course opened for play in 1991, the same year The K Club resort was established. Many great golf events have been played there since then, but perhaps none greater than the 36th Ryder Cup in 2006. This iteration of the Ryder Cup was notable not only because it was the first time the event had taken place in Ireland, but also because of Europe’s emotionally charged victory over the Americans.
The Palmer Course is polarizing, to say the least. Golfers either love it or hate it depending on how “on” their game happens to be that day. The 16th hole, dubbed “Inis Mor,” is a particularly monstrous par five that can send less formidable golfers packing.
Measuring nearly 600 yards from the blue tees, the 16th double doglegs past a slew of hazards, including trees, water, bunkers, and rough. Just when players think they’re home free, they’re tasked with finding the green, which is protected on both sides by the River Liffey. Channel your inner Arnold Palmer, and may your ball find its way.