Rugged beauty of Ireland’s North West
Ireland has long been a pilgrimage destination for golfers seeking world-famous Links experiences. ‘Trophy Courses’ in the South, East and North of the island are well known. First-time visitors migrate to Walker Cup, Irish Open and Open Championship venues. Serial ‘Trophy Hunters’ seek out Top 100 ranked bucket-list courses. Ireland can lay claim to five Links in the world’s top 20 courses, with Royal County Down in top spot. Many have fallen in love.
Ireland’s North West may not yet boast tournament pedigree, though it shares the same stunning natural Wild Atlantic Way Links topography and architecture as the famed South West. Renowned golf architect Gil Hanse was himself caught off-guard during a visit to Narin & Portnoo, Co. Donegal, “I was blown away by the beauty of the landscape. How it translates from mountain, to peat, to Links with a rocky coast and ocean to three sides – it’s arguably one of the prettiest Links I’ve ever been on.”
The natural beauty wasn’t lost on National Geographic either. They named Donegal as the ‘Coolest Place on the Planet’. It’s hard to argue. “With a weather-nibbled coast spotted with sea stacks, Blue Flag beaches and offshore islands, Donegal is a land that feels undiscovered” they lauded.
Many of Ireland’s golfing legends have paid dues and experienced success in the North West. Grab a coffee, and join us on a journey…
Narin & Portnoo Links welcomes Gil Hanse
We’ll start at Narin & Portnoo. a classic Irish Links and masterpiece in fescue and sand, recently re-imagined by prominent architects Gil Hanse and Jim Wagner. A change in Golf Club ownership signalled significant course investment, with Hanse Design commissioned to create the perfect links set up in this, their first Irish project.
Wagner soon fell in love. “Some properties have great internal contours for golf, some have magnificent beaches set along gorgeous coastlines, others have incredible everchanging sky and distant views. Narin & Portnoo has it all.”
Golf Digest approved too, “Golfers are forever searching for the next frontier and they will find it in Narin and Portnoo Links, where the renowned golf architect Gil Hanse and his design partner Jim Wagner are transforming one of Ireland’s forgotten Links gems into something truly special.”
Phase 1 of the course redevelopment is now complete, with 18 marvellous Links golf holes open for play.
Co. Sligo GC (Rosses Point) and the Carr connection
Legendary course architect Harry Colt’s portfolio includes Royal Lytham & St Annes, Royal Dublin and the Dunluce course at Royal Portrush. Add to that list the stunning Co. Sligo Golf Club, also known as Rosses Point.
A place of rich sporting heritage, each autumn Rosses Point hosts one of the four Irish Amateur Majors. Our founder, my father, Joe Carr won the West of Ireland Championship on 12 occasions at Rosses Point, with my brother Roddy following suit in 1971. Padraig Harrington, Rory McIlroy and Shane Lowry have all since mastered the Links to lay claim to this coveted trophy.
From the moment you arrive, it’s clear this is a special place steeped in history. A Céad Mile Fáilte (hundred thousand welcomes) awaits visitors, treated as members for the day. The scenic course is overlooked by Ben Bulben, a large rock that provides an awesome display of extraordinary elevation changes, delivering an incredible golfing experience irrespective of how your round unfolds. It’s a traditional Irish Links that will not disappoint.
Enniscrone Golf Club
Seaside town Enniscrone and its beautiful sandy beaches attract visitors year-round, with Enniscrone GC consistently ranking in GB & Ireland’s Top 100 courses. A traditional Links course with blind tee shots and a combination of short and long holes traverse 400 acres in all directions.
Spectacular high dunes line Enniscrone’s fairways, creating a natural amphitheatre to match any Open Championship venue. As a links course, its natural defence will always be the elements and when the wind blows at Enniscrone, it’s as tough a Links test as you can get.
Ballyliffin Golf Club
The Irish Open is now a marquee, European Tour Rolex Series event, similar to the PGA Tour’s FedEx Championship. A key feature with both the Irish and Scottish Opens is timing, they’re played in the fortnight preceding the Open Championship, enabling Tour Pros to sharpen their Links game.
Ballyliffin GC (Glashedy course) hosted the Irish Open in 2018, a tournament widely praised with Scotland’s Russel Knox victorious, in stunning conditions. Situated in North Donegal, Ballyliffin is as far north in Ireland as you can go. It boasts two world-class championship courses, arguably the best 36-hole combination of Links golf there is.
Rosapenna GC and Old Tom Morris
Rosapenna in Co. Donegal is home to two fantastic golf courses. The Sandy Hills course is accompanied by the legendary Old Tom Morris course, with both complemented by a lovely 4* hotel run by the Casey family, overlooking the Links.
Golf on the Wild Atlantic Way is celebrated for its high dunes framing holes and fairways. At Sandy Hills, architect Pat Ruddy has instead sculpted through the dunes. The result is dramatic, with great drops in elevations and beautifully crafted undulating fairways. The golf course has a fierce reputation, measuring over 7,000 yards with long par 4s. Tom Doak is currently completing work on a third Links Course, St. Patricks, adjacent to the site. More about that later.
A wonderful, dramatic and wild stretch of coastline, home to some stunning Links courses and pints full of traditional Irish craic. If you’re yet to visit, you must try it one day.
Yours in golf,