Faithlegg Championship Golf Course Wateford
Editoral by Brian Keogh
An agricultural science graduate who became a lecturer in soil science, Paddy worked with Eddie Hackett to create the links at Waterville and then embarked on his own career as an architect in the late 1980’s, creating more than 20 courses.
It is a testament to his formidable skills that his creations remain much-loved members of the Irish golfing family while his remodelling work at places like Woodenbridge, Royal Curragh, Elm Park, Delgany and Sutton has earned much praise,
His collaboration with Joe Carr at the Old Head of Kinsale and his designs at Slieve Russell, Tulfarris and Faithlegg are a great testament to his memory and Waterford is blessed with Faithlegg House Hotel and Golf Resort, located on a 200-acre site on the River Suir estuary, six miles east of Waterford City.
Now a thriving resort that's popular with golfers and families alike, it seems incredible to think that 23 years have passed since it opened in 1993, going on to host the Ladies Irish Open Championship in 2000 and 2001 and the PGA Europro Tour from 2007 to 2009.
This season, it will host the Munster Boys Amateur Open from July 5-7, something that would have pleased the designer, who was one of numerous brothers from a family of 10 children.
Faithlegg offered Merrigan a perfect canvas to display his artistry and he did it justice, seamlessly working the holes into a wonderful, rolling landscape and allowing the great, mature trees of the historic estate to frame his creations.
With a championship yardage of 6,674 yards, it ensures that all level of golfers are tested while at the same time enjoy the challenge.
In this game, Merrigan’s trademark undulating greens and cleverly placed water hazards add to the difficulty of holes that often offer the inexpert player an easy option from the tee before presenting him with a tougher question on the approach.
The course layout is exemplified by its memorable finishing holes with the 16th, 17th and 18th providing an exhilarating end to a golfing that is proving increasingly attractive to groups from all over Ireland.
"What's so attractive about the golf course is that the three or four handicapper is going to enjoy it as much as the 18 handicapper, which makes it perfect for societies," says Director of Golf, Karl Cullen. "The course is also very forgiving in parts, which means most golfer can get around.
"We have had a lot more interest from groups from Dublin in recent years with plenty of nightlife in Waterford city and other golf courses around. So groups find they can come and stay two nights and play two or three top quality courses in the area, including ourselves.”
Part of the FBD Group of hotels and resorts that also includes Castleknock Hotel and Country Club, La Cala Resort and Sunset Beach Club on the Costa del Sol, Faithlegg House Hotel is an 18th-century mansion which has been beautifully restored to form the centrepiece of a superb four-star hotel and golf resort.
Facilities include 66 hotel bedrooms and two spacious suites in the new wing; 14 master bedrooms in the original house; three versatile wedding venues or conference suites, a fully-equipped leisure centre with swimming pool, health and beauty salon; an award winning restaurant, comfortable bar and lounge areas and a range of self catering holiday homes with 65 houses.
Hugely popular as a wedding venue, golfers tend to include Faithlegg as part of a two-night stay and use Waterford city, just 15 minutes away, as a base.
"The societies and groups like to come on Friday, play golf, stay in Waterford for the nightlife, and then play another of the quality courses in the area the following day," adds Karl.
"The course is always in magnificent condition. Our greenkeeper, Michel Coleman, has been with us for more than 15 years and it is immaculate.
“The greens are always in excellent condition but they are also very fast and undulating, so if your putting game is not quite up to scratch, it will be a challenge."
Golf societies looking for a quality venue for 2017 should act fast to reserve a venue that was chosen as the “Best Golf Resort in Munster” by the prestigious ‘Golfers Guide to Ireland’ in 2016.
Measuring 6,674 yards from the championship tees and just 6,284 from the whites, strategy rather than distance is the biggest challenge.
The last three holes are truly memorable — a pretty par-3 followed by two stout par-4s — and while the contoured greens can be a challenge, they are smooth and true all year round, adding to the enjoyment.
Long meandering putts are part of the test but even if you fail to hole your share, you’ll love the clubhouse, situated in the tastefully remodelled coach house at the stately 18th century Faithlegg House.
The clubhouse provides fine food and wine and enjoys uninterrupted views of the charming course. If you have worked up an appetite after your 18 holes, The Red Cedar Lounge is a must.
"Whatever about their golf, most people who come here seem to really enjoy the Red Cedar Lounge and the views of the course after their round," adds Karl. "It's a lovely golfing experience but even the people who don't play golf love to look out on the amazing views.
“We also have a full spa and leisure centre, so it's perfect if you want to come down with the family and just have a swim and go for walks in the grounds.
"We also have holiday homes you can book through the hotel if you fancy a week-long stay and there's plenty to do with walking trails and crazy golf and the tennis courts. We can even organise falconry."
A sumptuous afternoon tea is now becoming a popular ritual, breathing new life into an area of Waterford that was part of a 7,000-acre parcel handed to Aylward family of Bristol by Henry II in 1177.
According to Joe Falvey in the Munster Express, it remained in the family for 500 years, until the armies of Oliver Cromwell dispossessed them during the invasions of 1654.
The present house was built by Cornelius Bolton, who had inherited the Faithlegg Estate from his father, in 1783.
Financial difficulties followed and in 1819, the Bolton Family sold the house to the Powers, a wealthy merchant family from Waterford City who adorned the estate with the stags head and cross, which was the Power family crest and it remains the emblem of Faithlegg to this day.
While the estate ended up in the hands of the De La Salle order of teaching Christian Brothers and then became a novitiate until the 1980’s, its history is retained in the names of its rooms.
One of them, the John Roberts, is named after a revered Waterford architect who designed the city’s two cathedrals, city hall, chamber of commerce and infirmary.
He is also believed to have built Faithlegg House and while much has happened in the intervening 233 years, it remains one of the jewels of Co Waterford and a little oasis of pleasure for golfers from all over Ireland and beyond.
Home to the Ladies Irish Open 2000 & 2001
Home to the PGA Euro Pro Tour 2007, 2008 & 2009