When the teams meet at Killeen later this month for the three-day event, it will be on a Jack Nicklaus Signature Course before galleries estimated at more than 80,000 people. When the announcement was made that Killeen Castle had won the honors to host the Solheim, Nicklaus commented that he was proud to be part of the tournament: “It is phenomenal, what with the castle as a focal point. You have wonderful facilities to stage the Solheim Cup — or the Ryder Cup in the future. It is a very strong course and will be nicely matured for 2011.”
Both Jones and Nicholas have played Killeen before, and, according to Nicholas, the greens are the trickiest part of the 350-acre parkland course that Nicklaus designed on the 600-acre estate. “The fairways are fairly generous, but you have to place your ball on the right part of the green, otherwise it can be a very hard up and down,” Nicholas says. “I think the short game will play a big part. If you hit your irons well and get them on the right part of the green, then you’ll do well. The short holes are very challenging — the sixth hole, the 16th. Then, 17th and 18th are two good finishing holes.”
According to the LPGA, scoring is based on a points system, with 28 total points available over the three days of competition. One point is awarded for each match won, and half a point is given to each team for matches that end in a tie. The defending champion (USA) needs 14 points to retain the Cup, while the other team (Europe) must score 14-and-a-half points to win the event.
Eight foursomes and fourball matches are played over the first two days. The final day showcases 12 singles matches. The course, which can play as long as 7,700 yards in length, is a par 72 with four par 5s, 10 par 4s and four par 3s.
Overall, there are an estimated 400-plus golf courses in Ireland, including 30 percent of the world’s links courses. “Ireland is the perfect golf destination for both men and women who are passionate about golf and love to travel to play a variety of golf courses in its most natural form,” Jones says. “I am really excited about my 2011 Solheim Cup team playing there, because I know they will just fall in love with the charm of Ireland and the beauty of the lush fairways of Killeen Castle.”
Stay and Play In …
An ancient castle. The Leslie family purchased this estate in County Monaghan in the mid-1600s. Some 340 years later, they opened the doors (including the grounds, stables and streams) to the public as Castle Leslie Estate. The grounds are open for exploration on horseback (with advance booking). From $138, www.castleleslie.com
An even more ancient castle. The walls at Ashford Castle in County Mayo hold secrets from 1228. Since 1939, these include stories from hotel guests recounting leisure pursuits of which the ancestors would approve, such as falconry, archery, riding and fishing. From $250, www.ashford.ie
A Georgian home. In May, President and Mrs. Obama would have stayed at The Merrion Hotel Dublin had weather conditions not interfered. The hotel was created from four historic Georgian town houses; pastry chef Paul Kelly and his team prepare interpretations of the hotel’s art collection as desserts for the Merrion’s Art Tea. From $315, www.merrionhotel.com
A manor house. Circa 1897, the Park Hotel Kenmare is a Victorian landmark with very modern ideas. Its destination spa boasts a vitality pool with views of Kenmare Bay in County Kerry, and the lobby bar features more Irish whiskey labels than any other hotel in the country. From $272, www.parkkenmare.com
An estate. Mount Juliet Hotel Kilkenny is one of the finest sporting estates in all Ireland. The main house was built in the late 18th century and guest rooms overlook the Ballylinch Stud, 18 miles of bridle way, the River Nore and beyond to a Jack Nicklaus–designed golf course. From $215, www.mountjuliet.ie