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Trump International Doonbeg

Irish Golf Gems Well Worth Finding on Wild Atlantic Way Journey via Rugged Western Coast

By Art Stricklin

WILD ATLANTIC WAY, Ireland - Any golfer worth his fancy bags tags or his logo golf balls longs to play the most famous and recognized golf courses in the U.S. and beyond, much like hunters like to bag the so-called Big 5, the African lion, the elephant, the cape buffalo, the leopard and rhino.

But what if you could play golf seemingly at the end of the world? With nothing but wildly untamed roads, mountains, seas and wonderful links golf, plus small town pubs and welcoming friends, new and old.

Thanks to an innovative Irish Golf promotion branded as the Wild Atlantic Way which now stretches more than a 1,000 miles up and down the rugged Western Coast of Ireland, golfers can do exactly that.

There are no household, worldwide known, instantly familiar layouts here, just wonderful scenic golf, better people and links layouts you're likely to remember forever. Plus direct international flights which land at the Shannon International Airport can put you on the links an hour from when you land.

Lahinch and Trump International Doonbeg are perhaps the best know courses on the route and also the closet to the international airport. Lahinch has been around for more than 100 years, first designed by Scotsman Old Tom Morris and later perfected by fellow Scot Alister McKenzie. It's delightfully old school quirky and fun.

Regardless what you may think of the owner's name on the course, the Doonbeg layout which was recently renovated by Englishman Martin Hawtree, after an original Greg Norman design, is a brilliant links, dunes infused, layout hard along the Atlantic coast.

When you pull into the original Irish fishing village of Belmullet, then take the winding road a couple of miles north to Carne Golf Links, you're truly near the spiritual home of authentic links golf on the Wild Atlantic Way.

Just to find the course it takes a series of increasingly narrow turns only to look for a very small sign announcing the Carne Links.

"It's simply a great place to play golf in fine conditions and then to retire to the bar for a drink, watch the boys on the TV and have a bit of fun," said longtime member Eamon Mangan.

Unless you've recently played golf on the surface of the moon, there is nothing at Carne, which was designed by famed architect Eddie Hackett that will remind you of anywhere else, that's how unique it is. The first hole, a long par 4 dogleg right stretches over the massive sand dunes, usually directly into the wind and introduces you to a green grass roller coast ride of links golf excitement which you have rarely seen before.

McConnell's is certainly the pub of choice in town with crowds spilling out on Front Street on a typical night.

Enniscore, less than an hour northwest of Carne, also designed by Hackett, certainly falls into the level of hidden links gem as does County Sligo Golf Club at Rosses Point. The logo feature on the Sligo pin flag is a large tree bending over in the wind over an ancient building. That should give you some idea of the conditions you're likely to face on the layout designed by legendary architect Harry Colt.

Continue your journey further north on the Wild Atlantic Way and the towns get smaller, the roads more winding, the cows and sheep far outnumber the people, but the golf is just as good.

Donegal features a cross in its club logo meaning golfers may not have much of a prayer on the Hackett and Pat Ruddy designed golf course where three front nine holes run alongside the Murvagh Beach. It's one of the longest in the area at 7,248 yards from the back tees.

Rosapenna, almost as far north as you can get on the Emerald Isle without falling into the North Atlantic, has the original Old Tom Morris links opened in 1891 and the new Sandy Hills course opened in 2003 and also designed by Ruddy. The first five holes of the Morris back nine run along the Tramore Beach.

The most amazing sight at Rosapenna is the five-star resort hotel of the same name which lies less than a mile from the course. It's a majestic structure with a large dining room, full spa and huge rooms, which overlook the bay with balconies for outdoor viewing when the weather is agreeable.

If you're looking for a parkland, non-links challenge, you can try Westport GC, in the tiny Irish town of the same name. But parkland doesn't mean easy as this hilly, tree lined layout will attest.

Ballyliffin considers itself the furthest north championship course anywhere in Ireland with 36 holes, the Old and the Glashedy layouts, and it certain lives up to that billing.

The massive Malin Head rock structure dominates the landscape with the Inishowen Peninsula cutting into the scenery along with the back nine. The course is designed in a circular links pattern so golfers can catch all the views of golf on the tip of the world.

These are hidden gems on the Wild Atlantic Way well worth discovering.

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Revised: 09/06/2016 - Article Viewed 28,202 Times

About: Art Stricklin

Art Stricklin Art Stricklin has covered every professional and most major amateur golf tournaments in the state of Texas. He has covered both the Byron Nelson and Colonial PGA Tour events for the last quarter century, plus the Texas and Houston Open more than a decade. He has covered every Champions Tour event in the state along with the Nationwide and LPGA Lone Star tournaments.

On the national scene, he has achieved the domestic grand slam, covering the Masters, U.S. Open and PGA Championships on multiple occasions along with the U.S. Amateur, the Tour Championship and dozens of other professional golf events.

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