Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Golfing in the West of Ireland.

In recent months the eyes of the golfing world have been firmly fixed on Ireland. The reasons for this are numerous.

Firstly the success of Northern Irish born Rory McIlroy at the U.S open “confirmed the arrival of a new sporting hero”, high praise indeed coming from a former champion and another Northern Irish golfing hero, Graeme McDowell.
Next Irish golfing legend Darren Clarke lifted the Claret Jug, having won the British Open Title, at Royal St George’s ending a 20 year wait for the honour.
Next month, Co. Meath will play host to the top ladies of the golfing world as the Solheim Cup gets underway.

Irish landscape lends itself quite naturally to someone of the world’s top courses. We asked Terence McSweeney, former communications director for the PGA of America, and owner, along with wife Frances, of Stella Maris Hotel in County Mayo to give us a few tips as to what he thinks are the best courses in the west of Ireland.

Terence McSweeney& Frances Kelly
 of Stella Maris Country House Hotel.
Eddie Hackett, the legendary Irish golf course designer, was reputed to have stated of his final work: “If God ever intended a piece of property to be a golf course, this is it”. Hackett was referring to his magnum opus: Carne Golf Links in Belmullet, Co Mayo.

Carne golf course, located near the town of Belmullet, is the finale of Eddie Hacketts natural links work. Massive sand dunes tower above grassy fairways that have been shaped by nature over thousands of years. Working with such magnificent landscape, Hackett created eighteen totally different holes that were noteworthy for their elevation changes and hidden greens. The finishing work was done by hand, virtually unheard of today. Local volunteers in Belmullet worked diligently with scythes, shovels and other manual instruments to make the magnificent course come alive.

Carne golf course.
Enniscrone golf course raised the status of its game in 2001 after club leaders received planning permission to move farther into its seaside dunes. Hackett had re-designed the original course in the 1970s, but was not able to utilize most of the dunes that surrounded the course. As a result, most golf was contested over the flat plains that dominated the land leased to the club.
Hackett, who died in 1996, never saw the work of Donald Steel , the British golf course architect  enlisted to add six new challenging holes to the layout. The resulting holes drastically altered Hackett’s original layout, but certainly he would have approved of the even more demanding test of the game with additional elevation changes and seaside holes.

Enniscrone golf course.
Rosses Point has the oldest pedigree of most golf courses in the West, and has hosted many national championships down through the years, as well as the West of Ireland Amateur Open Championship since 1923. Rory McIlroy won this prestigious championship in 2005 and 2006 before he cast his lot with the professionals. “The Point” was re-designed by the famed Harry S. Colt in the 1920s, providing the foundation for a course that has delighted generations of golfers in the West and Northwest.
Situated on the shore of Sligo Bay, Rosses Point offers panoramic views of some of the most picturesque landscape in Ireland, including the Oyster Island lighthouse.  Like many other links courses of its caliber, Rosses Point offers distinct and severe elevation changes that provide the course with its own inimitable character.

Enniscrone and Rosses Point in Co. Sligo, and Carne in Belmullet, Co. Mayo, form a wonderful trail of links courses for the avid golfer seeking to experience the game as nature intended it to be played.  They are among the great “hidden links” of Ireland.

Spectacular view of Ben Bulben, Co. Sligo.

Stella Maris  Country House Hotel, located in Ballycastle, Co Mayo is the perfect base to enjoy the courses of the West.
Stella Maris Hotel.
For something inland, Glenlo Abbey in Bushypark, Co Galway has a lakeside, 9 hole double green golf course on the property. Before your game, the 10 bay driving range is the best place to warm up. Bill Daly, on-site PGA professional, offers individual and group tuition. Contact Glenlo Abbey for more details.

Glenlo Abbey golf course, Co. Galway.

In the east of the country Rathsallagh House in Dunlavin, Co Wicklow is home to a beautiful 18 hole golf course designed by Christy O’Connor Jnr and Peter McEvoy. Contact Rathsallagh House for more details.

Rathsallagh House golf course, Co. Wicklow.

Planning a golfing tour of Ireland? Have a look at Ireland’s Blue Book golf tours and itineraries page.

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