Home & away places to play: Castlewarden is pristine, affordable and challenging
It was created to offer the ordinary player affordable golf, but as it approaches its 30th anniversary next year, it's clear that Castlewarden is far more than that.
Boasting a stunning par-72 course, a brilliantly run PGA pro-am, a state of the art practice facility and one of Irish amateur golf's up-and-coming stars in international Lauren Walsh, this Co. Kildare gem is aiming very high indeed.
The driving range is a sight to behold with robot mowers and an automatic ball collector putting it on a par with five-star clubs such as Lahinch.
The range also boasts an all-weather tee while enhancements to the course include the revamping and re-design of all the bunkers, making it playable all year round.
Courses that are relatively new can quickly become tight and claustrophobic as trees rapidly mature.
But Castlewarden has put a three-year tree maintenance programme in place to control growth and allow proper development, which is a credit to course superintendent Glen Pearson and his team.
The greens are pristine, and it's little wonder that Castlewarden has become a popular host venue for GUI and ILGU events, with the Irish Senior Close Championship set to be played there next year.
More importantly, the club continues to nurture young talent with PGA Professional Brian O'Brien helping the likes of Lauren get the very best out of her game.
Former Junior, Mark Whelan is now an established PGA professional, which would please three men who were deeply involved in the creation of Castlewarden in the early days.
Located "10 minutes from the Red Cow" just off the N7 motorway between Kill and Rathcoole, the club was founded in 1990 with professional and course designer Tommy Halpin creating the original layout before the great Laytown and Bettystown professional Bobby Browne was commissioned to re-design the course in 1993.
This design included the new second and third holes and the beginning of the transition to sand-based greens.
In 1995, the late Tom Craddock was invited to examine the course and make design recommendations that the members still enjoy today.
Castlewarden is now a pristine and challenging parkland course with more than 700 members and a driving range that would have thrilled "RJ," whose Saturday morning lessons for juniors at Laytown and Bettystown were carried out with a combination of military precision and good humour.
Castlewarden has one of the best practice facilities in the country with its 400-yard driving range the envy of many.
It comprises two practice putting greens, a pitching and chipping area and Ireland's first driving range operated totally by robotic grass cutters and ball pickers.
The range cost €80,000 to build, but it will get plenty of use as Castlewarden works to attract new members, who can also enjoy a quiet practice putting session in the Walled Garden, a former paddock now converted into an attractive, sheltered spot with its putting and chipping green.
The club is now offering a special (limited) number of new memberships. If you join now, you will pay €1,055 with the next subscription payment due in early 2021. It's certainly an offer worth considering.
It's situated on the demesne of a medieval manor but, after a 2003 redevelopment, Castlewarden House is now a comfortable, modern clubhouse which retains its old charm.
As for the course, it's flat and easy to walk, but it's a good test of your skills, measuring 6,696 yards from the tips.
Glasson professional Colm Moriarty won the Castlewarden Aviva Pro-Am for the fifth time this summer, and it's little wonder he's a big fan.
"It brings out the best in me," said the former Walker Cup and tour player. "It's a lovely club. A nice place to visit."
Society rates include special offers such as tea or coffee, scones and golf for €25 per person, golf and a breakfast bap (or soup and a sandwich) for €30 or golf and a sit-down meal for €40.
Men's Open competitions take place every Wednesday from January to October while there are Open Seniors events for men and women on the second Monday of every month from April with visitors paying €17 for both formats.
Green fees: Mon – Thursday, visitors €20, with Member €15.00; Friday & Sunday, visitors €30.00, with member €15.
Society rates: Please contact club for packages. Can include special offers on a range of food choices.
Buggy hire: Yes, €25.
Trolley hire: Yes, Electric €10, pull €4.
Club hire: Yes.
Practice balls: 16 for €2, 24 for €2.50.
Signature hole: 10th, 261 yds, index 14 off Blue Tee. A delightful par 4 with water on the left of the fairway and in front of an elevated and tiered green.
Expert tip: Professional Brian O’Brien says: “The 10th is a reachable par 4 and a potential banana skin. The aggressive play is a driver aimed at the left side of the green. A lay up short of the water requires a high accuracy and distance control 2nd shot. A real risk and reward hole that requires full commitment.”
Membership rates (exclusive of GUI / ILGU levies): Special Offer, Full membership, join now and pay €1055.00 with next subscription payment due in early 2021. This will be a limited number offer.
5 day membership €595, Lifestyle membership €695, Students (18-23 years) €300, Juniors (under 18) €145.
Nearby clubs: Killeen, Craddockstown, Newlands, Beech Park, Lucan, Naas, Newbridge.