Take the rough with the smooth
Golf, especially links golf, comes in no greater, dramatic abundance than on the Emerald Isle. Spectacular courses trace the coastline like a necklace – with towering dunes, tumbling fairways, howling winds and the taste of salt in the sea air. Some courses are old classics laid out by legendary designers like Old Tom Morris, while other more recent creations look like they’ve been part of the landscape for centuries.
Finding your way there is all part of the adventure, travelling through a wild landscape of mountains, peat moors and gurgling streams – past ancient castles perched atop windswept headlands. You may make a few wrong turns, be stuck behind a tractor, or have to wait for a flock of sheep to cross the road, but it is time well spent in anticipation.
Carne Golf LinksCOUNTY MAYO
When you phone Carne Golf Links to book a tee time, you’re guaranteed a warm welcome in Gaelic – the traditional language that is preserved in these parts. “The remote location doesn’t seem to stop people coming. We even had Hugh Grant play here recently,” says Mary Tallott, who takes bookings at the club.
But that’s the special charm of Carne – you enjoy a feeling of isolation because of the distinctly divided fairways that twist and turn through the hilly landscape. It really feels like you have the whole golf course to yourself. And it’s all set against the backdrop of Ireland’s rugged Atlantic Coast.
Another special feature is the way the greens
reveal themselves at the very last minute,
sitting like emerald islands nestling among the
dunes. Carne’s signature hole is the 168-yard,
par-three 16th, which drops steeply from an
elevated tee to a green encircled by dunes.
The tough duo – 435-yard, par-four 17th, and
the 540-yard, par-five 18th – are a memorable
finale to this wild and rugged layout that makes
a lasting impression on all who play it. Be sure
to make the pilgrimage.
TEL: +353 (0)978 2292,WWW.CARNEGOLFLINKS.COM MIDWEEK, €65 (PER DAY). WEEKEND, €65 (PER ROUND).
Standing on the elevated tee of the 567-yard, par-five first hole, eyes are drawn down a fairway that bucks and plunges like a raging river towards a large green complex protected on three sides by soaring dunes. It signifies the feel of the entire course. Although only open since July 2002, Doonbeg looks and plays like it’s been part of the landscape for the past 100 years.
Two-time British Open
champion and course
architect, Greg Norman,
together with his team, has
achieved his goal of “least disturbance”
to the existing sand hills by letting the terrain
dictate the routing – avoiding long climbs
across the highest dunes by using them as
backdrops for many greens. Indeed, most
fairways were simply mowed to play the
natural contours, which pitch and roll
with every ridge and rumple of
earth. Holes play up, down,
beside, around, and seemingly
into the towering sentinels.
Bunkers are dug by hand,
some edged by tall layers
of stacked sod, others by
shaggy tufts of native grass.
At just under 6,900
yards from the tips, it’s a
short course by contemporary
standards, but Norman’s design
places a premium on accuracy, not
distance. Doonbeg’s bagmen will give the
time-honoured advice: “Keep it on the fairway
and out of the thick
stuff.” Depending on
the ocean breezes, a
caddie may advise you
to use anything from
a four-iron to a sand
wedge for Doonbeg’s
signature hole. The
spectacular 98-yard, par-three 14th – arguably
the best one-shotter in Irish golf – is a truly
memorable hole that requires the most careful
strategy. At the par-four 15th, there’s the best
second shot on the course, played to a green
set amid the dunes.
TEL: +353 (0)65 905 5602, WWW.DOONBEGGOLFCLUB.COM MON—THU, €200 PER PERSON. FRI—SUN, €210.