Pat Ruddy surveyed coastal Ireland by helicopter before deciding upon the duneland at Brittas Bay for his beloved European which he built and owns. Even though it is a tough test from back tees I really love playing at these links. And if you are feeling energetic you can play 20 holes as there are two additional par 3's. There are plenty of steep sleeper faced bunkers so you need to think your way around here.
There are just so many good holes such as the 3rd and the 11th that run through dunes towards the sea and then the fabulous 12th, 13th and 15th holes right beside the sea. The par 4, 7th is Index 1 and plays beside a river and then marshland. Despite its acclaim it is one of the few holes that I am not fond of. The round closes with two very interesting and demanding holes, particularly the 18th which requires precise shot making to avoid the bunkers and then a pond and a burn near the green. The European is justifiably steadily climbing up the rankings as one of the premier links in Ireland.
(photo - The 12th is my favourite hole at The European)
The remaining courses for you to consider are all located in the coastal stretch from Dublin to about twenty five miles further north.
Royal Dublin is on low lying land at North Bull Island which is connected by bridge to the mainland. King tides have caused flooding (particularly in 2002) to the extent that when I played there in 2006 they were building a high earthen sea wall beside holes 10 -13, 16 and 17. As they were in the process of spending 8 million Euros on the course and clubhouse I would be interested to see the end result.
The fairways are firm but there is little by way of dunes or panoramic vistas and I can't comment on the greens as they dumped truckloads of sand on them as we sat drinking coffee before our round. I rather liked many of the holes on the opening nine, particularly the par 4, 5th and 8th. The par 3, 7th is quite a test at 196 metres. Anything short and right will either find gorse or a pond. The back nine is on flat relatively featureless land with a wet ditch coming into play on several holes. At the 18th the fairway turns 90 degrees right at about 340 metres. You then have another 90 metres with a burn and then OOB all along the right hand side.
In summary, Royal Dublin was somewhat disappointing.
Portmarnock was a delight to play with its variety of good holes.
The 4th is index 1 and is a lovely winding par 4 of 474 yards through the first area of dunes. The drive at the 5th is blind which is a rarety at Portmarnock. Your line is at the two chimneys, but first you have to carry 211 yards to reach the fairway. The back nine is virtually a separate loop with holes 12 -18 on the other side of the clubhouse.
Henry Cotton once described the 14th as "the best par 4 in the world." Two sets of deep revetted bunkers guard the steeply sloping green. Par 3's don't come any better than the 15th that runs alongside the beach. I f your tee shot finishes anywhere other than on the green then you can expect trouble. The 18th is a great finishing hole with a stadium atmosphere formed by the raised green with gorse, buckthorn and low trees at the sides and the stately clubhouse standing at the rear. Several styles of bunkers appear on the links but the revetted ones are the toughest due to their depth and often small diameter.
(photo Portmarnock's superb par 3, 15th)
The Portmarnock Hotel & Golf Links course was built in the mid 1990's on the site of the Jameson whiskey family estate and was designed by Bernhard Langer. It features wonderful seaside dunes, elevated tees and greens and attractive revetted pot bunkers. It is at the dog leg 8th where the dunes commence. The par 3, 9th is a good par 3 running parallel with the shoreline. It contains no bunkers but the green is raised and has a deep hollow in front. The 18th is a visually stunning par 4 with marram grass covered dunes running all along the sides and behind the green and the hotel set further back. The course is well conditioned and clever use is made of dog- legs throughout both nines.
(photo Portmarnock Hotel - 8th green and par 3, 9th.)
The Island is a very good links course with some large dunes, plenty of rough and bracken, revetted bunkers and excellent greens. Please note that we found it extremely difficult to locate.
The first eight holes are par 4's but are all different. I particularly liked the relatively short 4th and its narrow and undulating green. There are some first class holes from around the 12th with its elevated green, the par 3, 13th which requires a long carry and the wonderful par 5,15th with huge dunes on the left and behind the green.
The Island is not so well known outside of Ireland but it is a solid test of golf and has its own natural charm.
Laytown & Bettystown is about 30 - 40 minutes drive north of Dublin near Drogheda and ten miles from Baltray (County Louth). One of the best holes is the 7th, a par 4 of 361 metres. The fairway winds through low dunes that form a narrow entrance to the green. You won't find it as difficult as nearby County Louth but it has some interesting holes and good greens.
Seapoint is a relatively new links but it is rapidly making a name for itself. It is located at the mouth of the River Boyne at Termonfeckin, just north of Baltray. Some of the front nine has a heathland feel but the last four are alongside the Irish Sea. The back nine is seaside and has low dunes, plenty of marram grass and some well placed revetted bunkers. Holes 12 - 14 are each over 400 metres and the whole course measures a healthy 6473 from the back tees. Scenic and challenging - Seapoint is well worth investigating.
Last, but by no means least, our epic golfing journey ends at Baltray. County Louth gets off to a tough start and never really lets up. The 5th and 7th are excellent par 3's, each made more difficult because of their elevated greens. Some of the par 4's such as the 14th and 16th feature fairways that narrow near the green and have mounds and swales that will push a running shot off line. And the 18th will test you with deep rough and bracken on the right, three bunkers to catch any drive left and two more bunkers 97 and 50 yards out respectively.
County Louth can be a little difficult to find on the winding coastal back road about five miles south of Drogheda. It is a classic links that will punish bad shots and test your ability to avoid any three putt greens. I would love to play there one day when it is not wet and miserable as was my experience on two visits.
- All photos are copyright David Worley, unless stated otherwise, and may not be reproduced in any format without his written approval.
- A more detailed description of all links courses can be found in my last two award winning books -Journey through the Links
-Another Journey through the Links.
Refer to my other website: www.golfbooks.com.au
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