Mount Juliet - A Golfing Love Affair

Mount Juliet - A Golfing Love Affair

Falling in love with Mount Juliet is easy, you just have to catch your first glimpse of Mount Juliet House, built by Somerset Hamilton the first Earl of Carick on the banks of the Nore and you are captivated, even before you hit a shot.

And really it should be no surprise, after all Jack Nicklaus laid out the par 72 gem on 1,500 acres of glorioius Irish countryside, just nine miles from Kilkenny City.

Tim "Toyota" O'Mahoney dreamed his dream and the greatest golfer the World has ever seen made it a reality, playing Christy O'Connor in a special exhibition to mark the opening in July l99l, two superstars leading a parade of the greats who were to have a crack at the Murphy's Irish Open over its testing, water-splashed 7,101 yards.

Bernhard Langer, Nick Faldo, Ernie Els, John Daly have all taken on this Thomastown gem with varying degress of success. And Faldo, three times Irish Champions liked it so much that he came back on holiday.

"Mount Juliet is certainly among my favourites, it's a beautiful complex and the course is perfectly presented, it's the best we see on the European Tour," said Faldo.

"Other promoters and golf course managers should come here to see just how good a course can be," he added. Praise indeed from a perfectionst.

But you don't have to be a Champion to enjoy the easy elegance of the course, owner Mahony, himself an eighteen handicapper saw to that.

Off the back stakes it's a testing seven thousand plus yards but from the medal tees it's 664l and the ladies course measures 5473 yards par 73.

Big John Daly failed to win here, but I4 he produced a brilliant finishing 65 to take a share of second place.

"I felt so relaxed here and the course looked so good that I just had to play well," he smiled. It's that sort of place, a course where you can be pampered and tested at the same time.

And after the golf the accommodation and the food match the surroundings, lavish without being over the top in the 32 bedroom Mount Juliet House, the l6 bed Hunters Yard and twenty apartments.

"The greatest tournament victory of my career on a super course," beamed Sam Torrance after he had won a spectacular three-way play-off for the Murphy's Irish Open in 1995.

Faldo, Torrance and Langer won Irish Open titles at Mount Juliet in l993, '94 and '95 and none was more emotional than that by Torrance in a play off with Stuart Cage and Howard Clarke in the last Open held there.

Hit a good drive down the 5l5 yards par 5 seventeenth and the nearest yellow yardage marker reads - for mister average- "dream on." But there was no stopping Slammin Sam.

He smashed a glorious three wood off a tight lie, around the obstructing branches of a tree to within nine feet for a winning eagle. Torrance left quality players like Craig Stadler, Colin Montgomerie and Greg Norman behind him on that unforgettable afternoon.

And every golfer who takes on this Nicklaus delight will leave with happy memories of some great holes, some delightful countryside and perhaps even a glimpse of the wandering pheasants.

The 2nd, 3rd, 5th, 8th, l0th, llth, l3th, l4th and l8th have been singled out as a perfect fantasy nine in the distinguished Following the Fairways Annual. And it would be hard to argue with those choices, particularly the par three third, a scary carry over the water and the llth another par three of l68 yards again over water.

The l4th is another watery one shotter of about l97 yards where you have to be brave and accurate. And of course there are few more testing finishing holes than the daunting 474 yards l8th with water all the way down the left.

But like so many more of the great new golf complexes, Mount Juliet provides more than a fine course anestate which was once the home of the McCalmont family and of the Ballylinch stud which produced many a champion.

So it's not surprising that there is an equestrian centre, trout and salmon fishing and facilities for tennis and shooting. What more could a man ask for in such tranquil, yet understated elegance?

Mount Juliet, just 75 miles from Dublin on the N 7/N 9 may become the ultimate golf oasis, a monument to Jack Nicklaus and capable of standing comparision with the very best. Good enough, some feel, to host the Ryder Cup.

But you and I, dear reader, need not concern ourselves with the Ryder Cup, ours will be simpler pleasures on a course designed by a master to test, tease and please.

Bernhard Langer who won an Irish Open there in l994 said of the course;"we always play good courses in the Irish Open and Mount Juliet is no exception, it's the kind of place which could stage the Ryder Cup, the course is spectacular and perfectly manicured."

Shakespeare may have created the greatest love story when he penned Romeo and Juliet but Jack Nicklaus signed a masterpiece when he finished Mount Juliet, a course so easy to love.