Naas Golf Club is the perfect example of a strong Irish parkland that stays below the radar across much of the country but is highly regarded in its catchment area. More people should know about it and head to play it and, in June, that’s what I did when I brought three first-time visitors to experience the course – Shane Mahon, Carlow GC, 10.1 / Kevin Hughes, Edenderry GC, 4 / David Ryan, Corballis, 18.1
After the round I did a Q&A to get their feedback.
Q- Before you played here, what had you heard about the course on the grapevine?
SM: Almost Nothing
KH: Heard some very good things about the course. Naas has an excellent reputation for producing very good golfers.
One of the most surprising things I’ve found with Irish parkland courses is how often we are surprised by the golf courses we play. There is such a rich selection of courses in that bracket that sits behind our ‘big’ parklands… and too often they do not get the credit they deserve. Naas is in that bracket and it definitely doesn’t get the credit it deserves.
Q – In a couple of sentences: What are your overall impressions of the course?
SM: Really nice, well maintained and excellent bunkers. Front nine slightly weaker than the back nine. The par-3s are really good and had nice variety.
KH: The course is excellent. A very good test that examines every part of the game. Greens very good and some lovely elevation changes.
DR: Great bunkers, very well-kept edges. Very fair course.
Q – What do you consider to be the course’s best features? What really stood out for you?
SM: Bunkers were excellent, greens were also really good while providing plenty of challenge.
KH: Lovely elevation changes from hole 11 onward. The back nine is absolutely super.
DR: The overall condition. Elevated tee boxes provide great views. Bunkers 10/10.
It’s worth noting that the bunkers here are bountiful – there are 56 in all – and you’d have one very impressive day if you successfully plot your way around here without finding the sand.
Bearing that in mind, the area covered by bunkers has actually halved since the renovations to the course (2015-2017). The original bunkering covered over 6,000 square metres but today it is less than half that.
Play the 15th and you might wonder where more bunkers could have been placed on a hole awash with 10 bunkers. Play the par-3 3rd and pick your landing spot between the bunkers with great care. It’s just 137 yards (white tees) but only the purest ball strike will leave you sure that your next shot won’t require a sand wedge.
The remodelling of the bunkers on the opening 10 holes may have reduced the size of the bunkers but there are now revetted faces in abundance and a few approach ‘pot hole’ status. No doubt the members have got used to the ‘new’ challenge but visitors will learn fast to avoid them.
Q – What are your thoughts on the greens?
SM: Excellent overall, par-3 3rd is particularly unique. Good variety as well with some providing very tricky putts.
KH: The greens were super. Lovely slopes to them and an excellent speed. Ball goes where you hit it which is all you want.
DR: Very good. Some pin positions make big greens seem very small. A little slower than they look.
So many clubs boast about the quality of their greens – with good reason – and you can add Naas to the list. Surfaces are beautifully maintained. There aren’t too many dramatic slopes and their subtle shapes require guile… much like the rest of the course.
Dave makes a good point about greens appearing small and that deception is empowered by both their shapes and the bunkering… as mentioned by Shane, regarding the 3rd.
Q – What did you think of the condition/maintenance of Naas GC?
SM: Fairways, bunkers and greens are really good. Bunkers in particular are excellent.
KH: The course was in excellent condition during the round. Could not fault it in any way.
DR: Excellent condition, especially considering the amount of bunkers.
There are so many courses where the greens staff work tirelessly to deliver the best conditioned course possible… and that is certainly the case at Naas. Be sure to thank them for their efforts if you get the chance.
Q- Off your handicap, how easy/challenging did you find the course? If it was challenging, what was the toughest aspect of the course?
SM: It was moderately difficult overall. Some tee shots were particularly tight and a misplaced shot can be blocked out. You’re rewarded for hitting the correct side of the fairway.
KH: The course was a very fair test. Very strategic bunkers which were hard to miss and lovely changes in direction of some holes.
DR: I think if the weather had not been so good it would have been a lot tougher. We got lucky and I think this made it play a bit easier.
My goal when selecting the three golfers to play Naas was to get a good mix of handicaps. There was a 4, a 10 and an 18. This is not a long course (par-71, 6,190 yards off the whites; par-72, 5,479 yards off the reds) but it is smartly defended and the shapes of the doglegs (there are seven) compound the challenges.
It was interesting to watch how the guys tackled the course. In places it is tight off the tee and knowing how and where to favour one side of the fairway can be essential to optimising your chances. That is particularly true on the 381-yard 5th (Index 3), which isn’t even a dogleg, where trees choke the fairway at around the 240-yard mark, but the doglegs in particular demand smart strategy.
Q – How did you find the shot-making – did you find the shots you were playing interesting? Did you have to think about them? Highly varied, or were only a few clubs used all the time?
SM: Good mix of shots, short and medium length par-4s with varying doglegs provided plenty to think about. Lots of deception off the tee and also as you walk up the fairway and the hole reveals itself.
KH: Due to some slopes on fairways and doglegs you were interested at all times. I found most clubs were hit in the bag during my round.
DR: Very tough on some holes for anyone playing a fade but this was evened out fairly on other holes. Some of the doglegs required a very specific shot.
Q – What is your favourite hole and why?
SM: Par-4 11th (394 yards, Index 4) – deceptive off the tee with a lovely approach shot to a difficult green.
KH: Par-3 17th (178 yards, Index 6) was the highlight for me. All carry over water – a super hole.
DR: 11th. Hole is framed beautifully.
The 11th, which sits immediately behind the 1st green, is a downhill dogleg right. It’s too easy to try to cut the corner over the trees and there is more space to the left than appears from the tee. Your approach will typically have to carry the pond tight against the green. You may also be playing your approach from a downhill lie!
No one mentioned the par-4 12th which returns uphill to the clubhouse. I love the hole with the fairway bunkers so intimidating off the tee and the green embraced by high banks at the back. It is 359 yards and another example of the course offering you the option to play for position with a safe tee shot.
The par-3s deserve a special mention, too. There are five of them, measuring 129, 137, 175, 178 and 178 yards, and while the two on the front nine are the charmers (the two shortest) the three on the back nine require considerable care.
Kevin picked the 17th and it combines charm and challenge, with the attractive pond wreaking havoc on anything short and bunkers taking care of anything else offline.
Q – If you were coming back in a month’s time, what’s the one thing you’d need to remember to score/play well?
SM: There’s more space than appears on lots of holes.
KH: Knowing where to go off the tee next time would be a big help. Knowing the ‘safe’ miss would help improve your score.
DR: Stay out of the bunkers. Greens are bigger than you think.
This is a quality course with some clever challenges, and I have no doubt that if you played it two days in a row, you would approach the second round in a very different manner. Naas tempts you to use your driver time and again but it is not always necessary and if you play the game strategically (there is out-of-bounds on a few holes – the par-5 15th most provocatively) you will think hard about which club to pull from the bag. And that only adds to the design pedigree.
Q – Finally, are there any negatives – either on or off the course?
SM: Some of the front nine is a bit too tight with fairways side-by-side. Not a massive issue though.
KH: No negatives jump out at me as such, I found the course excellent and a treat to play.
DR: Internal out of bounds (only because it cost me).
We definitely felt that holes 4, 5 and 6 had some proximity issues. As we played them there were shouts of ‘Fore’ and balls ended up on incorrect fairways. The trees are big enough to limit the damage and perhaps the fourballs either side of us were of the wayward persuasion but it’s something to remember as a visitor. No doubt this is compounded by the challenges of the holes: they are Index 1, 3 and 9 respectively.
Q – Your rating out of 10? (10 being ‘Best’)
Q – Value for Money (currently €35 per person) out of 10?
KH: 10/10 – fantastic value for €35.
DR: 10/10. Especially when compared to others around the area.
Green fee rates are hotly debated subjects… but €35 for midweek golf (€40 at weekends, subject to availability) so close to Dublin and on a quality, interesting course of strong variety is the kind of value for money experience we crave. Get yourself to Naas.
The facilities at Naas include an impressive (and popular) short game area between the 12th and 16th holes, and there’s the Naas driving range across the road and next to the visitors’ car park. Professional Bernard Quigley also has a TrackMan and fitting studio beside the Pro shop.