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June 20, 2014

Reading The Greens golf column: Beverly's Kirby returns to his greatest creation: Old Head Golf Links

Following a soft landing at Shannon Airport after the obligatory, irritating overnight flight from Logan, 81-year-old Ron Kirby, Beverly’s gift to the exclusive world of golf course design, guided your loyal agent to his favorite car rental firm, Dooley’s.

Once we were loaded into our compact four-door auto, Kirby — appearing as fresh faced as if he’d slept in his own bed back in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. — hopped into the driver’s seat and headed to the southernmost tip of Ireland golf and his greatest creation – Old Head Golf Links in Kinsale.

It took nearly four hours to get there, driving on two-lane highways and narrow countryside roads surrounded by cow and sheep farms, endless stone walls and six-foot high hedges for which the Emerald Isle is known. Finally we drove through the Rockport-esque, seaside village of Kinsale.

“Beautiful,” Kirby cracked. “But not as beautiful as Old Head.”

He was right. I’ve played Augusta National and Pine Valley, as well as the best that this region has to offer (Salem, Myopia, The Country Club, Eastward Ho, Wentworth By-the-Sea). All beautiful in their own way.

But none of them, and nothing else America, Scotland or Ireland can offer, can match the surrounding ocean splendor and accompanying breathtaking golf holes that Old Head provides.

“We had to plan for 18 holes, but within that plan we wanted to plan for as many holes along the cliffs (which drop 200 feet to rocks and Atlantic Ocean below) as we could,” Kirby explained as we passed through the security-guarded entry gate to the property.

A quick glance at the back of the scorecard says it all: ‘Players, caddies and spectators are warned not to attempt to retrieve balls from the hazards (read: cliffsides) at holes 2, 3, 4, 7, 12, 13, 15, 16, 17, and 18. It is positively dangerous to do so and the club will NOT accept liability for any injuries (“or deaths” should have been included) caused by such pursuits. Caution must be taken when playing from cliff-edge tees,’ of which there are many. Miraculously, neither one of us hit a single Titleist into the Atlantic during two rounds of informal play.

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