More course casualties as Waterrock permanently closes its gates

Niall O'Shea

Waterrock Golf Club - Image by Kevin Markham

Niall O'Shea

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There was disappointing news for a large number of Cork golfers yesterday when it was confirmed that Waterrock Golf Course would not reopen after the current restrictions are lifted.

Both the men’s and ladies’ clubs were notified by management that the course would not be reopening now or in the future. Waterrock becomes the fourth course to close following Kerry’s Castleisland and Killorglin, and Offaly’s Castle Barna. The news is particularly unfortunate as it comes on the back of the revised guidelines allowing courses to reopen from May 18.

While it had relatively low membership numbers, Waterrock was particularly popular for green fees, fundraising classics and societies, and was an important outlet for non handicap holders. Originally a pay as you play course, Waterrock developed to become a home for both ladies’ and gents’ clubs in the last decade.

When the Healy family looked to build Waterrock on their farm in the early 1990’s, Paddy Merrigan was commissioned. Merrigan was a prolific course designer at the time and was involved in Slieve Russell in Co Cavan; Tullamore; Faithlegg House in Co Waterford; Tulfarris; Greystones and Delgany in his native Wicklow. He was also part of the design team for the Old Head in Kinsale where he was based for many years.

The East Cork farmland proved to be an ideal setting for the parkland course. Using the natural changes in elevation and the quick draining ground, designer Merrigan sculpted a very playable 18 hole layout. As a result, the course quickly became a venue of choice for many golfers.

As the game flourished locally, the new pay as you play concept was a real hit allowing non-club members play affordable weekday golf and access key weekend tee times.  Waterrock was a staple on every golf society calendar, its popularity with all levels of golfer making it a good choice for organisers. An impressive clubhouse was added in 2004, providing golfers with excellent hospitality before and after golf.

Waterrock’s offering developed in the past ten years as the game changed. In 2009 following the closure of their own course, Harbour Point Ladies moved to Waterrock, maintaining their name and growing their membership. In 2015, the club affiliated to the GUI and opened for male members. Again Waterrock management were innovative, offering a low cost membership option with additional pay as you play opportunities.

The annual sub set at an affordable rate of €350 with members paying €12.50 per round after that. This proved to be a very popular option for beginners and for those who wanted to retain a handicap but didn’t want to pay high membership fees.

Measuring almost 6,300 from the back tees, the course was suitable for all levels. Easily playable from the forward tees, the course turned into a serious challenge once you moved to the back pegs.

The signature hole of the Merrigan design was the 240 yard par three 12th hole, known locally as “Swan Lake”. This was truly a magnificent par three providing the brave golfer with the intimidating prospect of a 200 yard carry over water from the back tee and had once been included as one of the best 50 holes in Europe.

While the front nine was considered very playable, the back nine was testing with water and elevation changes facing golfers over the closing holes. The course hosted a GUI area final in 2015 and the track proved to be a great setting for matchplay golf.

Members will be offered refunds for any membership fee paid, and the only positive is that most local golf clubs will welcome Waterrock members with open arms.


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