It’s early on a crisp spring morning and I’m sweeping my eyes across Mount Juliet golf course taking it all in – it’s hard to imagine a more tranquil, elegant place to spend time.
From the moment you drive through the gates of this sprawling estate, there is a sense of idyllic seclusion from the outside world. We wind our way past the 2nd tee, the 9th green, the 1st tee and then the final green on our way to the opulent Hunter’s Yard, which is our base for the next few days.
Mount Juliet is, of course, home to one of Ireland’s premier golf courses. It was designed by Jack Nicklaus around five shimmering lakes, which bring water into play on six of the 18 holes. Nicklaus opened Mount Juliet Golf Course in 1991 and it is rumoured he has told friends he thinks this is the best course he has designed anywhere. When you consider he has designed almost 300 that’s quite the compliment.
The wondrous woodlands, towering trees and miles of rolling river give Mount Juliet golf course a feeling of maturity beyond its years. The world’s best golfers have walked these fairways with Tiger Woods, Ernie Els, Nick Faldo and Bernhard Langer among those who have won here. It has hosted the Irish Open on multiple occasions and will do so again in June 2022.
It doesn’t take us long to understand why so many of the top players speak so highly of this place – Mount Juliet golf course really does have it all. And although it was built to test the game’s biggest names, it offers challenge and enjoyment to all levels thanks to the multiple teeing grounds on offer on each hole. We check-in to Hunter’s Yard, which sits within yards of the clubhouse, driving range and practice putting green – it’s a golfer’s paradise. The hotel is stunning; beautifully designed and decorated rooms, with sumptuous fabrics and furnishings throughout. The whole place drips with class but is refreshingly devoid of any stuffiness.
The estate dates back to 1757 when Somerset Hamilton Butler, the first Earl of Carrick, embarked on a labour of love to build a working estate on the beautiful banks of the River Nore. That air of romance even led him to name his estate after his new bride. The Manor House, which is now a sumptuous hotel complete with Michelin star restaurant, was built soon after and he connected the land on either side of the river by building a stone bridge which still stands to this day.
Our round is early the next day so having walked the estate and taken a peak at some of the holes that await us, it’s time to grab a drink in the Saddle Bar before dinner in the wonderfully relaxed Hound Restaurant. Everything is beautifully adjacent.
And so to the next morning and the challenge of following in the footsteps of golf’s great names. A hearty breakfast, a bucket of TaylorMade balls on the practice ground, a good warm-up on the practice putting green and then a gentle walk to the 1st tee means we are flat out of excuses not to play well here.
The starter tells us the tee of the day – from the tips this golf course plays more than 7,200 yards. Even from our tees, Mount Juliet golf course is still a demanding test at more than 6,500 yards. You may find the starter guides you as he did us, but if not put your ego to one side and choose the tees that will allow you to really enjoy Mount Juliet. Trying to hit fairway woods into every par-4 isn’t much fun. You’ve been warned.
Mist was rising from the ground as we began, our putts left dew trails on the first few greens as the sun slowly burnt away the dawn. At one point we stopped to take it all in; the verdant green swathes, the stillness of the lakes, the pheasants scuttling along, the majesty of the towering oak trees, with the thriving bird and animal life providing the soundtrack. As mindful minutes go, it’s hard to beat.
The 1st is a deliberately gentle introduction to what is to come, don’t be fooled. This course moves through the gears quickly and the 3rd is one of Mount Juliet’s most photographed holes and with good reason. As you drop down from the back of the 2nd green and turn the corner, the majesty of this hole gradually reveals itself to you. It’s a stunning par-3 which demands a carry over water to a flag which agonisingly positioned just over the hazard. Too close for one of our group, whose ball found a watery grave! From the back tees this is a 180-yard carry.
The narrow 4th is another highlight of the front 9 with water down the right and another challenging carry required to find the putting surface. The bunkering is unquestionably challenging, particularly around the greens and often from the tee. In parts, Mount Juliet golf course feels distinctly American, in others very Irish but throughout it is immaculately presented. The back nine begins wonderfully with the strategic par-5 10th, while the par-3 11th and par-4th 13th are two of the most memorable holes on the course and make up a really strong stretch. The 17th and 18th are great finishing holes with water, once again, in play on both tee shots.
Playing Mount Juliet golf course is an experience that should be savoured from the moment your day begins, not just from tee to green. It’s about far more than simply the challenge of each hole you’ll play, it’s about drinking in the surroundings, the tranquillity of this estate and the sense of seclusion, as you play them. That in itself would be an experience to re-invigorate and re-energise your mind, body and soul. But Mount Juliet just keeps giving long after the final putt drops.
This is a beautiful parkland golf course that combines challenge, adventure and unforgettable beauty. It’s immediately eye-catching and endlessly enjoyable. Off the course, the facilities are world-class. From your accommodation at Hunter’s Yard, to the bars and restaurants, to the practice areas – every little detail has been considered and it all adds up to an experience you’ll never forget.