When I embarked on my golf odyssey in the summer of 2007 to play every links course in Ireland, the northwest of the country was an area I had not been to previously.
I had heard rumblings that there was a combination of rugged beauty and championship links that was something extraordinary. Well, those rumblings proved to be true and then some. For the golfer looking to play the links of Ireland in an area that is a bit off the beaten path and easier on the wallet, the northwest of Ireland needs to be where you tee it up next.
Here are a few courses that you may not have heard of, but definitely should not miss.
Relatively young by many Irish links standards (opened 1973), this Eddie Hackett design is County Galway’s only true links and absolutely worth the hour-plus drive west from Galway City.
Connemara is a bit more of a subtle links when compared to some of its Irish brethren, but the course gets better as you go until you find yourself on the spectacular 18th tee looking down over the course, the clubhouse, and the ocean.
Finish strong here and grab a pint on the deck on the back of the clubhouse with sweeping views of the course.
Tucked away in the Northwest corner of County Mayo sits Carne Golf Links. Built to drive tourism to this very remote area of Ireland, play began here in 1992 on the Eddie Hackett gem.
Unlike Connemara, Carne is home to some of the most dramatic dunes land you will find anywhere in the world: massive elevation changes, uneven lies, and links turf as it should be awaits visitors who are in for a truly unique Irish experience
Located on the edge of the border of Counties Sligo and Mayo, Enniscrone is one of my favorites in all of Ireland. Your first tee shot is out to a relatively flat and wide fairway, but once you get over your approach shot you are looking up to an elevated green, surrounded by dunes and you are off to the races.
There are no two holes alike, and the par-5 16th hole is something very special as you come towards the end of your round, which should be capped off with a stop in the clubhouse where they serve one of the very best pints of Guinness in Ireland.
Known by the locals as “Rosses Point” this 125-year-old links has its roots in the Old Sligo Militia who had a camp in the area and carved out a few holes.
Fast forward to today, and you have a fantastic test of links golf that starts somewhat slowly but builds to a crescendo, highlighted by the signature 17th hole. It feels, at times, like you’re playing about 700 yards to an elevated green, but once you hole the putt and look down across the course, you know you have accomplished something.
Located on the Murvagh Peninsula on the Southwest end of County Donegal, this links is one of the longest courses in Europe stretching over 7,400 yards from the championship tees.
A large, modern clubhouse complements what is as solid a links as you will find in Ireland. Supported by Irish golfing icon Darren Clarke, the Open Champion has said Donegal is one of his “favorite golf courses in the world.”
NARIN & PORTNOO
Currently in the extraordinary hands of Gil Hanse, this Irish links is being brought to the next level with newly redesigned holes opening May 1, 2019..
A recently-added clubhouse only adds to what is becoming one of the most sought games of links golf in all of Ireland.
Golfers routinely spot dolphins playing the waters surrounding the course, adding to an already mystical feel to this hidden gem in County Donegal.
As host to the 2018 Irish Open, Ballyliffin has recently had its profile significantly raised as it was a very successful tournament that showcased the stunning Glashedy Links which is one of two 18 hole tracks here.
Located at the northern tip of County Donegal, this rugged links land has brought to life two championship links that are a must play when coming to County Donegal.
Mirroring Ballyliffin in Northern Donegal lies the 45-hole complex of Rosapenna.
The two championships links, Sandy Hills and the Old Tom Morris courses, provide two very different links experiences, but both should not be missed.
Additionally, there is a 4-star hotel on the property, which can serve as an excellent base while playing Rosapenna and visiting the surrounding areas.