With the Knockmealdown Mountains on one side and the Comeraghs on the other, there’s a wonderful symmetry to West Waterford Golf Club, an oasis of tranquility and good golf, less than 10 minutes from the bustling centre of Dungarvan in Co Waterford.
Its 400 members hail from all points of the compass from the Dungarvan and its environs to tight knit village communities such as Aglish, home of Walker Cup player Gary Hurley, and Tooraneena, where PGA Tour player Seamus Power grew up playing in goal for Slieve gCua - St Mary’s.
Both Power and Hurley learned the game in the parkland splendour of West Waterford and given their achievements, it seems incredible to think that this hugely family friendly club only came into existence 23 years ago.
“It was a farm but it grew and grew,” said club stalwart Pat Murphy of the course designed by Eddie Hackett and created by Pat Spratt and now run by his family. “This golf course was built on good will. Eddie Hackett was the creator but it was done by the local people. This place was built with a pick and shovel and it is a sensational course now.”
Nobody would disagree with Mr Murphy or his assessment of West Waterford but the club would not exist were it not for the foresight of Pat Spratt and his family, who run the club today.
Not a man to blow his own trumpet, Pat is justifiably proud that he was able to provide the land for a club that is now such a vibrant part of the community and the home of two young professionals looking set to make a major mark on the game.
“There were only nine holes in Dungarvan and you could hardly get a game of golf,” Pat says of those early days when he looked to golf as a big part of the future. “So we sat down and had a look at what we might be able to do and the rest, as they say, is history.”
The arrival of the great golf course architect Eddie Hackett, renowned for his generosity and assistance in helping dozens of small parishes around Ireland create their own courses, proved crucial and the layout eventually opened for play in 1993.
“We were very fortunate that we had Eddie Hackett as our architect,” Pat explains. “We built the tees and greens and shifted no land. It was all natural. Eddie Hackett wouldn’t even have a pencil or paper with him and wouldn’t do his work until he was going back in the train in the evening.
“But he was a wonderful course designer — I believe his first one was Waterville — and in my opinion there is no one worthy to walk in his shoes these days. He was unique.”
Hackett is believed to have been paid no more than IR£10,000 to do the design, walking the land several times before coming up with a design that thrilled Pat Spratt and his wife Nora with its simplicity, its toughess and its beauty.
In a twist of fate, it turned out to be Hackett’s 100th creation and it was fitting for what is a truly family oriented club that it was the first he was honoured to officially open in person.
From a standing start, West Waterford Golf Club quickly developed a strong and viable membership with particular emphasis on Junior Golf.
It wasn't long before the fruits of their endeavours would become apparent, winning All Ireland Junior Foursomes title in 2005, 2007 and 2008.
The nucleus of this team took them to victory in the Munster Senior Cup Final in 2009 though they missed out on All Ireland glory when Power was forced to return to college at East Tennessee State University.
Today, 23 years after it first opened, the golf course has developed into one of the finest tests of golf in the country.
And as Power and Hurley seek to make their way in the professional game on the PGA Tour and the European Challenge Tour, West Waterford continues to exploit new and innovate ways to further improve the course and associated facilities.
With the River Brickey coming into play on four holes on the back nine, it is a course where long accurate driving is rewarded and as many have observed, those who like to open their shoulders will enjoy this test and the wonderful views of the Comeragh Mountains.
With dog legs moving in both directions — the second goes right to left while the third moves left to right, it’s little wonder that Hurley and Power quickly learnt to move the ball both ways.
Accuracy is key but there’s also room to open up and length is an advantage on holes such as the 17th and the 18th.
The par-five 12th, while it measures just 464 yards, is the first where the Brickey comes into play and it’s a true gem with two ditches lurking dangerously. Two good shots will set up a birdie chance but disaster awaits the wild.
While it measures just 6,500 yards, it plays longer than it looks and you will need your wits about you to finish well with the 455 yard 18th a major challenge with its sloping fairway and fiendishly trapped green.
Thankfully, the welcome in the clubhouse is arguably the warmest in all Ireland with the estimable Austin and Bridget Spratt ever ready to assist visitors.
As former club captain and president Bertie Hallahan remarked during the recent homecoming for Olympic hero Power: “It is a real family club — a country club — and everyone is treated equally here. Everyone is welcome.”
West Waterford Golf Club
- Address: Coolcormack, Dungarvan, Co Waterford
- Email: email@example.com
- Tel: 058 43216
- Green Fees: €25 midweek, €30 Weekends
- Societies: From €23pp
- Buggy Hire: Yes €20
- Club Hire: Yes €10
- Electric trollies: No
- Range Balls: No
Signature Hole: Par 4 14th, Index 1, 422 yards. A left to right dogleg played from an elevated tee through a corridor of mature trees, this tough holes requires an excellent approach across a stream to the smallest green on the course. Pro Tip — The tee shot must find the fairway to leave the perfect angle to the green. The name of the game is accuracy off the tee and equally on the approach. With the Brickey River threatening the left side it’s not for the faint-hearted.
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