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Feature Review Fota Island Golf Club

By: Kevin Markham | Thu 22 May 2014

Fota Island ResortFota Island Golf Club could easily be described as an oasis of calm… if it wasn’t for the monkeys. They make an awful racket at feeding time. This small island, a few miles from Cork’s city centre, is home to the Fota Island Resort and the Fota Island Wildlife Park. No guesses for which one the monkeys live in, although they live behind the trees next to the 4th green and they have been known to escape from time to time. Rumour has it that they sell recovered golf balls on the 5th tee.

Resort courses are designed to appeal to golfers of all abilities. They tend to be big, elegant and not too tough. Holes are attractive, greens are inviting, water features charming and the scenery calming. The Fota Island Resort boasts 27 holes, and while the new nine are still maturing the original Deerpark championship course ticks all of the boxes above. The Deerpark hosted the Irish Open in 2001 and 2002, and does so again in 2014 (June 19-22). It is misjudged to say that any golf course is generous, but the winning scores were -18 (Montgomerie, 2001) and -14 (Soren Hansen, 2002). It emphasises that amateur golfers aren’t going to get a whipping and that playing golf here is all about enjoyment and relaxation.

That the resort is hosting the Irish Open again is testament to the investment by new owners and the success of the previous two events. The course is in magnificent condition and it will certainly look picturesque on the TV screen. The 18th is as dramatic a finishing hole as you could ask for. It is a short par five with the green almost entirely surrounded by water. It promises a nail-biting finish if it comes down to the wire… as happened with Hansen who needed an eagle to make a four-way play-off in 2002.

The Golf Course

Fota Island was upgraded to European Tour Standards by Jeff Howes in 1998/99, which directly resulted in the awarding of the Irish Open. Holes are laid out over a stunning 780 acre estate with woodlands providing scale and maturity, and ponds and wildlife adding that extra colour. This is an old estate so there are also stone walls dating back to previous centuries, including a Ha Ha wall. On the par five 5th – after you’ve bought used balls from the noisy locals – you have to drive over this wall 150 or so yards from the tee. It looks easy; it isn’t.

The Deer Park is a par 71, measuring 6,488 yards from the White tees. The landscape has significant changes in elevation, yet there are no real climbs. It gives the course an easy, relaxing rhythm. Driving is always good. The main threats are from the fairway bunkering and the trees, although the latter infringe only on a few holes. The water, which appears on eight holes, is not there for show and the Course Guide will prove invaluable.

The clubhouse is exceptional, with comfort the key ingredient. This stretches from the bar area to the Pro shop to the showers. It is a stunning sight as you come over the crest on 18.

Fota Island Golf Club - 18th and Clubhouse

Signature Holes

Par 4 6th

It may be short (357 yards) but the flow of the hole, the back drop of stark pine trunks and the shape of the green complex all combine to make this a sweet hole. A new Pro tee sits on the other side of the 5th green, requiring a drive over water, but the higher tee box makes the old version a more attractive proposition.

Fota Island 6th

Par 5 10th

The hole sweeps down a chute, between the trees, heading for ponds that surround the green. Despite measuring only 487 yards, the second shot has to be played sensibly as the green is unlikely to be accessible – a tree steps in from the left. You are forced towards the water, which surrounds the green on three sides.

Par 5 18th

As for the 10th, the drive has to dissect a narrow channel between huge trees. At just 479 yards there will be plenty who fancy their chances of reaching the green, but you may be hitting a blind shot as the flat fairway drops sharply after 260 or so yards. And that means your accuracy has to be precise as water awaits left and right of the green… and behind it.

Fota Island has all the big parkland credentials you could ask for and is a very laid back round of golf. It is rated highly among Irish parklands and is also part of the impressive 5 star Fota Island Resort, which includes over 100 rooms, penthouse suites, a spa and private lodges. It is a two minute walk from the clubhouse. What more could you ask for!

For more information: www.fotaisland.ie

Kevin Markham is an Irish golf writer, blogger and photographer who writes for a number of Irish and UK golf websites & magazines. His book 'Hooked: An Amateur's Guide to the Golf Courses of Ireland' was published in 2011 and reviews all 350 golf courses which he played whilst travelling round Ireland in a campervan - which is told in his new 2014 book 'Driving the Green - An Irish Golfing Adventure'.

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