After a thoroughly enjoyable stint in Wicklow, I returned to the sunny southeast, specifically Faithlegg Hotel and Golf Club in Waterford.
I had heard great things about the golf course which won the Golfers Guide to Ireland Parkland award for Munster 2020 so I thought to myself, why not take a spin down the M9 and check it out.
The hotel is located just down the road from the Waterford Harbour and is steeped in history with many of the rooms portraying a story about the estate upon which it stands.
My timekeeping left a lot to be desired as I arrived with little or no time to spare before teeing off!
The Paddy Merrigan designed course is a picturesque layout with undulating greens, challenging bunkers and features plenty of water hazards. The sloping fairways make approach shots difficult especially when there is wind as you have to factor how far above or below the green you are when trying to access the pins.
Despite being relatively young at 28 years old it’s easy to see why Faithlegg has hosted two Ladies Irish Open Championships (2000, 2001) and the PGA EuroPro Tour from 2007 to 2009.
Director of Golf Karl Cullen has revolutionised the golf club and the friendly atmosphere from everyone working there is a credit to him.
I was treated to the ideal day weatherwise for the time of year with not a cloud in the sky. Despite it being a hotel golf course, it isn’t one you can overpower from the tee with strategy and shot selection the order of the day around here.
The back nine is particularly memorable with a stunning finish starting from the 13th. A reachable par-5 with a blind tee shot over a steep hill. Once you get to the top of the hill it’s time to take a breath – not just because the walk to the top will leave you winded – as the hole plays downhill towards a green that is protected by a towering oak tree and is framed by the Waterford harbour in the background.
The 14th hole gives another good birdie opportunity, the par-5 dog legs slightly to the right before opening up to a large undulating green that is protected by deep greenside bunkers that will gobble up any wayward approach shot.
The final four holes can only be described as pretty. The par-4 15th is a picturesque hole while the par-3 16th is a short hole that was framed by an array of autumn colours at the time as if the green was in the middle of someone’s back garden.
The 17th and 18th are two stout par-4s to finish with the hotel overlooking the 18th green so you can be sure of a few peeping Tom’s looking on from their bedroom windows!
With the drainage as good as Faithlegg, you won’t find many courses as dry this time of year, that’s a guarantee. Faithlegg is serious value for golfers and golf societies.
Karl was great and he went out of his way for me and then some. I was made to feel so welcome. He was there on the first tee and he was there when I came in, long after the majority of the golfers ahead of me had left.
He even brought me out a gourmet burger on the 10th hole, which could be why the standard of golf rapidly deteriorated as I fought off food coma!
Karl was generous enough to leave a couple of pints for me behind the clubhouse bar too so I couldn't have asked for anything more.
The hotel is fabulous. I felt entirely underdressed in my sweaty golf clothes and windswept hair as I walked up the steps into the lobby, but such is life.
I stayed in the New Geneva Room which tells the story of when Cornelius Bolton established a colony of emigrant Genovese artisans and intellectuals near Passage East with James Gandon tasked with building the City of New Geneva to house them. The project ultimately failed due to a lack of capital and the planned city became a military barracks during the 1798 rebellion.
But yeah, enough of that, the bed was extremely comfortable! I had one of the aforementioned views of the 18th green and I take no shame in giggling away to myself when I saw one person miss a tiddler, not that my putting was any better!
Liverpool thumping Porto away in the Champions League was the highlight of the night but that shouldn’t take away from the outrageous dinner I had.
First off, for anyone who is confused ‘light bites’ doesn’t mean a starter. I learned that the hard way. I ended up ordering an open duck sandwich and chips which was absolutely huge and with a juicy steak coming I had to be clever. It ended up being more duck on its own than a sandwich and I kept the chips for my steak.
Any Gavin and Stacey fans will be assuming I had my Smithy ‘Fish and chips… and chips moment’ I would highly recommend the steak and chips… and chips in Faithlegg’s Red Cedar Lounge.
Considering the quality of the meals and the stunning surrounding, a two-night stay with dinner included on both nights is a no brainer, giving no reason to leave this beautiful estate!
The staff make the place though, I had great craic with them even if I was jokingly served a knickerbocker glory from the kids menu.
But it was really great, so everyone’s a winner!
Ronan Mac Namara and Karl Cullen. Photo by Linton Walsh
With Waterford Castle and Tramore nearby, Faithlegg is the ideal place to set up shop for a few days if you want to explore some of Waterford’s golf courses or even venture across the River Barrow into Wexford.
Another great trip to the southeast and Faithlegg shows that Waterford isn’t just a hurling county and you don’t have to travel long distances for just a trophy links course, there’s great value in stay and play golfing getaways.