The North & West Coast Irish Links Part II
By Neil MacKinnon Classic Golf Tours
Hopefully you recall in the last issue our first 2 days along the North & West Coast of Ireland and the spectacular golf of Connemara and Carne. In this issue, we will venture further north and experience some of the remaining gems of the British Isles on the second half of our tour.
Thursday morning we headed east along the coast to Enniscrone. I would have to say that this par 73 layout would rate as my personal favorite. That has as much to do with my five over round as the course itself. Here again it seems as if you are approaching most greens uphill. The fairways are very generous and most holes are straightforward. With five par fives you have several chances for birdie here if you can keep it out of the sand dunes. For finishing holes, it's hard to find any course with a better selection than 13 thru 17. These holes play along Killala Bay perhaps one of the most beautiful white sand beaches in the world.
Holes 1 thru 4 test your accuracy then you get a bit of a break on 5 thru 9. But look out from 10 on. It's a great golf course with a reputation that puts it in the company of Ballybunion, Connemara, Lahinch and Waterville. And, with green fees of 55-70 euros, how can you go wrong?
Friday saw the day open with intermittent rain that soon turned to showers accompanied by a 50 mile per hour gale off the North Atlantic. Just right for our first trip around Ballyliffin. This takes you to within about 15 miles of the northernmost tip of Ireland, Malin Head. The Ballyliffin Golf Club consists of two courses, The Old and The Glashedy. The Glashedy opened in 1995 is a Pat Ruddy Tom Craddock joint effort. Tough, long, fair, and spectacular can all be used to describe The Glashedy. It like all of the others meanders through the dunes and measures 6897 yards in length from the member tees to 7217 yards from the championship tees. The Old, which is being renovated by Nick Faldo, is due to reopen in the summer of 2006. Look for this to be a standout Irish Links course. It plays more down to the ocean than its cousin The Glashedy does. Here again golf is a value at 60 to 80 euros.
Saturday brought a complete change in the weather and a new challenge, Rosapenna Sandy Hills Links. Here like Ballyliffin you have the choice of two clubs. The Old Tom Morris and The Sandy Hills. Both outstanding links venues. Here as at Ballyliffin renovation is the rule. The Old Tom Morris Course originally opened in 1891 is undergoing a renovation by Morris Ruddy and is almost ready to reopen. It will, when reopened, rank among the top Links Courses in the British Isles.
The Sandy Hills Links, which opened in 2003, sits further up on the land overlooking The Old Course and Sheephaven Bay. Many of its holes run across the dune ridges making for some interesting lies and testy shots. Here too as with all of the courses we played it's easy to get into the dunes and forget that you are playing alongside The Atlantic Ocean. The breezes drop and it becomes eerily quiet at times. It's only when you approach that next tee box and the ocean again comes into view that you remember where you are. This course like Carne, Connemara and Enniscrone seems to be all elevated tees and greens.
Our trip came to an end in lovely Ballyliffin with a Saturday afternoon drive south to Shannon and a Sunday departure for Denver.
The courses described here are but a small sampling of what's available. There are others such as County Sligo, Donegal, Portsalon, Castlerock, Portstewart and Royal Portrush. All with pricing and quality that most of the world has forgotten. This area is one that I will certainly revisit hopefully many times. Bargain golf and all of the courses offer powered golf carts if needed or caddies. Along with the bargain, golf you can treat yourself to some of the best lodging to be had anywhere. From castles to more traditional hotels and guesthouses. Many of the hotels are new and many have spas for that special end of the day golfer's massage. Pubs were excellent and the food outstanding. And oh the scenery. The only thing better than the golf, hotels, food, scenery and pubs was the people. We felt truly welcome at every turn on our trip. Hospitality was second to none. This part of Ireland is ready and begging for your golfing dollars and after you've tried it once, they won't have to beg you to come back a second or third time. With many new courses opening or scheduled to come on line in the next few years, golfs future looks bright on The North & West Coast of Ireland.