Maurice Fitzgerald and his descendants, the Earls of Kildare, would probably approve of the modern-day incarnation of the Carton Estate. The family owned the 1,100-acre property for 750 years, beginning in 1170 when FitzGerald, who played an active role in the capture of Dublin by the Normans, was named Lord of Maytooth charged with governing Carton and its environs.
Today, the sprawling estate is home to the Carton House Hotel, a luxury hotel and golf resort. Built in 1739, the Carton House overlooks one of Ireland’s most impressive country estates. Its rolling landscape encompasses open fields, natural woodlands and meandering streams. In addition to its gorgeous setting and historic significance — Queen Victoria slept here — the Carton House boasts a brand-new spa where an expert staff offers a full range of treatments inspired by the seasons.
I visited Carton House with golf on my mind. The resort is home to two world-renowned courses — the Montgomerie Course and the O’Meara Course. I played the Mongomerie Course, which opened to much acclaim in July 2003. Designed by Colin Montgomerie, in association with Stan Eby of European Golf Design, the links course was the 2004 winner of Golf World’s “Best New Design of the Year.” The course challenges the golfer with high-pot bunkers and narrow fairways. With the Irish landscape surrounding the fast-running green, players take a visual journey that holds fast to the traditions of the game.
The vigorous O’Meara Course is situated across the River Rye. Opened in July 2002, it’s a demure course designed to complement the rolling landscape. The prospect of playing this course is a major draw for a return visit.
Hole 1 (456 yards, par 4)
Teeing off in Co. Mead and playing in Co. Kildare makes this a great opener to the Montgomerie Course. Aim center for your drive, as the rough is high on the left. Watch the pond on the right for your approach shot to the green. Due to prevailing winds, many players use extra club to hit the green.
Hole 3 (605 yards, par 5)
Aim for the lone tree to the right to find “position A” for your second shot on this monster. Beware of the traps dotting the left side and the lone trap on the right. A player in my group caught one of these and was cursed the rest of the hole. If you drive the ball well off the tee, the second shot might be reachable — especially from the closer tee boxes. It’s better to lay up and avoid the six bunkers that surround the green. The approach shot can be a simple clean pitch to an undulating green that is flat in the center, so knowing daily placement is essential.
Hole 5 (474 yards, par 4)
There are 12 traps on this hole! Four are clustered on the right side of the fairway to catch shorter drives; one lone trap stands about 50 yards further on the right waiting for longer drives; and there are two on the left. The narrow landing strip requires an accurately trained driver to land safely. On the day we played, a two-club wind made reaching the green difficult. The green slopes up and then down in the back.
Hole 8 (552 yards, par 5)
This long par 5 — even from the white tees it’s 514 yards — seems longer due to the wind. Your tee shot is to a relatively open landing area with an undulating fairway. The fear is landing far afield in the rough that lines both sides of the fairway. Quadruple bunkers — two in the center, and one each flanking the left and the right — await those who do not clear them on their second shot. The green is raised in the back, so overshoot the false front to be in good putting position.
Hole 11 (477 yards, par 4)
This hole has a slight double dogleg. Drive your tee shot straight, “threading the needle” between the five bunkers peppering the right side and the lone bunker on the left. The right bunker is 304 yards from the blue tees, so it is a good directional device. From here, a mid-iron should bring you home to the green which is protect ed by two front bunkers on the left and one on the right.
Hole 12 (210 yards, par 3)
This is another hole where wind can hamper your score. The day I played, some in my group had difficulty reaching the green. Avoid the deep bunkers on the left. It’s almost comical to watch if someone (else) in your foursome hits a ball that catches one of them.
Hole 13 (338 yards, par 4)
Stay clear of the trio of traps on the left side. It is nearly impossible to reach the green in regulation if you land in them. If you hit a decent drive and find your self free of the bunkers, your next shot is about 80 yards from the green. Two bunkers lie diagonal to one another on opposite sides. The green slopes up in front and flattens out in the back toward the center.
Hole 17 (176 yards, par 3)
This is a tough little hole. You can easily misjudge the distance. High rough lines both sides. The hole plays a little longer than you might think. The green slopes up to the back.
Co. Kildare, Ireland
tel 353 1 505 2000
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