When it comes to transforming raw, tumbling coastland into world-class, seaside links golf, Mike Keiser has limitless energy. The man behind Bandon Dunes now has his sights set on Ireland. Speaking exclusively to Golf.com, Keiser said he’s close to inking a deal for a new course on Ireland’s southwest coast. Still, he’s realistic about the approvals process.
“It could happen tomorrow,” says Keiser, “or it could take years.” In fact, Keiser has yet to acquire the land itself, a parcel owned by a U.S. family named Kennedy, though it appears to be a mere formality once the go-ahead on the golf course is in place. For such a special piece of property, Keiser is willing to wait.
“When I first saw the property ten years ago, it looked like Pacific Dunes, but even better,” says Keiser. “There were big dunes, little dunes, big valleys, little valleys, lots of hillocks. What distinguished it from Pacific Dunes is that it feels like it’s on an island. Because it will be routed on a peninsula, you are practically surrounded by water.”
Situated on the Inch Strand, along the Dingle Peninsula, some 30 miles west of Killarney, the new course will be roughly 300 yards away, according to Keiser’s estimates, from Dooks Golf Club, one of the Emerald Isle’s hidden gems. He has chosen Ireland’s Arthur Spring to design the course, a name completely unfamiliar to Americans. Yet, he’s designed more than a dozen courses since 1989 and was a strong enough player to have gained his European Seniors Tour card in 1997.
Most importantly to Keiser is that Spring has had routings done on the property for 20 years and has already had at least one approved that precedes the EU (European Union) restrictions about building golf along the coast. Keiser is confident that they are in compliance with all of the relevant EU statutes, but is a very aware that a litigant could step forward, sooner or later, and delay the project further.
“I wish the process were easier — more like Nova Scotia,” says Keiser, who with co-developer Ben Cowan-Dewar will open a second course in the Canadian province in 2015, Cabot Cliffs, a Coore-Crenshaw creation that will complement the existing Cabot Links in Inverness. “Working with them is a delight. They understand that business development is important and also understand that we’re solid stewards of the environment.”
Keiser hopes to close on the Ireland Inch Strand project any day, and has already assigned Old Macdonald co-designer Jim Urbina the task of assisting Spring by managing construction on-site. He also envisions a second course on the property. Keiser can endure the delays because this is his passion. And he’ll continue in his quest to develop great sites for golf, “until I run out of money,” he laughs. Given his track record, that won’t be anytime soon.