The Staffran Estate in County Kildare had a history dating back almost
1,500 years prior to paper and packaging magnate Dr Michael Smurfit
purchasing it in 1988 with a view to creating a luxury golf and hotel
destination. Located less than twenty miles from the center of Dublin,
the Kildare Hotel and Country Club, or ‘K Club’, was opened in 1991 and
is now home to a superb five-star hotel and two contrasting, but
distinctly American style, resort courses built on either side of the
famous Liffey River.
The Smurfit Course was opened in 2003 and is almost a design contradiction, with fearsome looking holes that are actually quite wide and generous. The greens are a little less forgiving, the targets large in size but often playing quite shallow.
More open and rolling than the Palmer Course, Smurfit features the usual assortment of ponds, sprawling bunker shapes, white powdery sand and split tees along with a gigantic fake rock wall that separates the property's higher shelf and houses a substantial waterfall. The holes don't really reach any great heights here, the most penal and difficult are probably the most interesting along with the shortish dogleg 4th.
Palmer's design team moved an extraordinary amount of dirt to build this course and the associated water hazards, and all things considered they did a pretty decent job. The shaping doesn't look natural, and the rock wall is more amusing than impressive, but this is a pleasant place to golf and resort-course fans will no doubt find much to love about both tracks at The K Club.
The Arnold Palmer-designed Palmer Course was the venue for the 2006 Ryder Cup, the first ever Ryder Cup staged in Ireland and won by a strong European Team. The course also hosted the European Open several times between 1995 and 2005, with the Smurfit Course hosting the event in 2004, 2006 and 2007.