Our experiences visiting some of the most unusual and undiscovered golf locations in the world.

18 Holes in Heaven – The Best 1-18 in Donegal

Located in Ireland’s most North Westerly corner, Donegal is a county that has long remained a well kept secret as a tourism destination. A change is on the horizon however with visitor numbers on a steep upward curve and the Irish Open set for the county in 2018.

With some of the finest courses in Ireland to be found in Donegal, we have compiled our best 1-18 in the county. If you ever get a chance to play each of the courses included in this list, you will have had the pleasure of enjoying some of the most spectacular experiences in golf. For those based in Donegal, this list may draw some debate but we’re fairly confident the holes that made our final cut are worthy entrants!

1st at Letterkenny Golf Club

Although Donegal is not famous for its parkland courses, the opening tee shot al Letterkenny Golf Club is one that will stick in the memory. A drop of around 50 feet awaits as you tee off on this dogleg par 4 with a precise yardage needed to avoid running out of fairway and ending up in the fir trees.

In the distance you see the Inishowen peninsula with Lough Swilly just below and on a summer afternoon the manicured lines of the fairway will have you filled with anticipation for the round ahead.
Having had considerable investment over the past 10 years, Letterkenny GC is now one of the finest parkland courses in the North West and surely has the most spectacular opening hole.

If you have managed to place your tee shot in the fairway, a mid iron to a green guarded by sand on the left and water on the right awaits. A par on this memorable Par 4 is always very welcome.

2nd at Portsalon Golf Club

Those that have stepped up onto the second tee at Portsalon Golf Club may argue that this is among the best holes in Ireland. This golf course is one which almost catches you by surprise when you realise the utter brilliance behind some of the holes as you make your way along the world famous Ballymastocker Beach.

From a raised tee, you’re faced with a shot across the rocky beach with the dogleg Par 4 stretched out in front of you. Measuring almost 450 yards, the temptation is to cut off as much of the dog leg by hugging the left. This is all very well in theory but a slight error can lead to a sandy grave with out of bounds all the way up the left side on the beach. If you opt out and aim safely right, you’re left with a monster shot into the green.

Your choice!

Even if you do manage a perfect tee shot, more danger lies in wait. The approach to the green is guarded by water for anything short with large imposing dunes on the right and a run off area on the left. This hole is not for the faint hearted but is a classic example of risk and reward. Without doubt one of the best holes in Donegal – if not in Ireland.

And that means it’s one of the best in the world, right?! That’s our story and we’re sticking to it!

2nd Hole Portsalon

3rd at Buncrana Golf Club

Founded back in 1890, Buncrana Golf Club is the oldest 9 hole golf course in the country. Don’t be fooled into thinking this is a short knock about, however!

The monster par 3 3rd hole is a beast for even the biggest hitters. At 240 yards off the back sticks, ‘The Valley’ will test the best golfers on any given day and with stunning views of the Fanad Peninsula across Lough Swilly, this is a hole and indeed a course that will live long in the memory.

4th at Sandy Hills Rosapenna

Risk and reward are two words that can be associated with some of the best holes in world golf. The 4th at Sandy Hills is no different. The hole measures 438 yards off the back sticks but if you decide to cut off the corner, this is greatly reduced.

Any 300+ yard hitters will be tempted on days when the wind is favourable and a very manageable birdie chance can be set up with a good drive at the green.

By contrast, leave it right or short and you encounter penal bunkers, deep dunes and a world of misery.

If you do lay up safe off the tee, the sloping green provides a challenging approach and a double bogey can still materialise if you’re not accurate. A fantastic hole that can seem easy if you hit good shots but miscue slightly and your scorecard may well be finding the bin well before its time!

5th at the Old Course Ballyliffin

The 5th hole at the Old Course Ballyliffin is a truly classic Par 3. From the tee you are greeted with a raised tee surrounded by daunting dunes. There are no bunkers on ‘The Tank’ but don’t let this fool you. Unless you are perfect with your yardage you will either find your ball trundling back towards you if you are short or in a horrendous lie in the dunes above the hole if you are long. Left of right will not be much better!

If the green staff are feeling particularly grumpy, you may find the flag tucked in behind a dune on the left hand side of the green. When this is the case, aiming for the pin could be a fatal error and a safe iron to the middle of the green is the percentage shot.

At less than 180 yards off the back sticks this hole will seem like a great par change and with a solid iron off the tee this will be the case. Get greedy or pick the wrong club however and you will soon see the error of your ways!

6th at Cruit Island

If Donegal is the hidden gem of Irish golf, the Cruit Island is the hidden gem of Donegal golf! Located on a remote island off west Donegal, it presents views difficult to match anywhere else in the world.

As you stand on the 6th tee, a gaping chasm waits in front of you with the Atlantic Ocean crashing into the rugged rocks below. Everything at the front of the green slopes back into the ocean so you better make sure you have enough club. Around you, marvel at the sea stacks, sea arches and wild coastline.

But the sad truth is all of this can only really be appreciated if you have found the putting surface of this majestic 137 yard par 3.

And that’s no easy task.

7th at Glashedy Ballyliffin

Elevated tees in Donegal are always a guarantee of something spectacular. The 7th at Glashedy is no exception and is sure to provide stunning viewing during the Irish Open in 2018.

Standing on the tee, you are faced with a shot that feels as though it should be straightforward but rarely is. With a rare links course lake on the right, clever bunkering around the green and a severe bank with deep rough on the left, your margin for error is minimal. Add to this a strong wind from any direction and choosing a club becomes nigh on impossible.

7th Hole at Ballyliffin Glashedy

A par at this stunning Par 3 is always a welcome addition to the score card!

8th at Murvagh

Okay, we bring golf tourists to play golf in Ireland, many of them to Donegal, so we’re not exactly impartial here.

But still, we firmly believe the Par 5 8th at Murvagh Golf Club is without doubt one of the best Par 5’s in Europe. Bordered on the right by the Atlantic Ocean, this 550 yard hole challenges you in almost every manner imaginable.

With a sloping fairway you need to keep your drive on the right side as it will feed left. For your second shot, a layup is no easy feat as a deep chasm awaits on the right. If you choose to go for the green you will do so blind hoping you find the right yardage as anything short will ensure a treacherous shot out of very thick rough.

This hole has a generous green – once you make it that far!

But you’re almost guaranteed to have a bit of an adventure on the way there.

9th at Otway

A round at the 9 hole Otway Golf Club is not for the faint hearted. As one of the oldest courses in Ireland, the history is palpable and a game here often feels like a step back in time. Views of Lough Swilly provide a spectacular backdrop and there are certainly a couple of holes here that remain in the memory.

The 9th tee on the headland leading to Mackamish Fort is one of the most dramatic in Ireland. Just make sure to remember to tee off as you may annoy your playing partners by getting sidetracked photographing the spectacular scenery!

10th at Narin & Portnoo

10th Narin & Portnoo

Carraig Fada, the name of the 10th at Narin & Portnoo, translates to ‘Long Rock’ and the literal translation of this Par 5 may be down to the fact that it is long and very, very hard!

With the Atlantic Ocean to your right, this hole requires two precise shots before playing to a green that is protected like a military bunker!

With the front protected by 3 pot bunkers and deep rough all around, there is no option to run a fairway wood into the green, so trying for this green in two will be out of bounds for most golfers.

But of course, no matter what we say or anyone else tells you, and despite lots of dunes, bunkers and rough, the large green that awaits will still tempt many to go for broke.

A Par 5 should be about risk and reward and if you strike the ball well on the 10th at Narin & Portnoo you will be rewarded. Lose your way on this beautiful par 5 and you could be in big trouble.

11th at Bundoran

As with so many links gems in Donegal, the 11th hole at Bundoran is memorable for the views of the Wild Atlantic coast as well as the hole itself. With your view across Donegal Bay on one site and upon Ben Bulben on the other, by the time you reach the 11th you are already sold on this forgiving links layout.

‘Tullan’ comes in at less than 400 and as with many holes on this course, its main defence is the wind. For golfers looking for a hole and a course that are playable in the lap of spectacular natural beauty, the 11th at Bundoran will not disappoint.

12th at Greencastle

‘Lighthouse’ as it is known is a fitting name for this wonderful little Par 4 at Greencastle Golf Club.

Your view from the tee across the bay and out onto the North Atlantic Ocean allows a glimpse of the landmark in the distance to the back right of the green.

Before you get there however, you have to ensure to stay out of the rocks and sandy bay that line the hole before reaching the tight green which is just metres from ocean. Your reward once you find the green is a photo opportunity as good as any in Ireland with the beautiful bright white lighthouse in the foreground and the wild atlantic ocean behind.

13th at Glashedy

13th Ballyliffin Glashedy

The Glashedy course at Ballyliffin could easily claim to have any number of entries in the ‘Best 18’ list for Donegal – it’s not for nothing that this gem of a course will become the first Donegal course to stage the Irish Open in 2018.

Stepping onto the 13th there is no doubt about the inclusion of this beast in this list of the greatest holes in Donegal. Depending on the wind direction, you may be faced with the fear of requiring three of your Sunday best strikes even to get close to the green.

At almost 600 yards off the back sticks and playing straight up the hill, a strong headwind will make a bogey on this monster an acceptable score.

The vast dunes either side of the straight fairway are to be visited only if you want to take advantage of the spectacular view across the course.

When you finally reach the green, make sure your yardage is accurate as all approach shots coming up short will feed into the pot bunker in front of the green while overshooting the green will see the same fate.
For mere mortals this hole is enough to give you sleepless nights so it will be interesting to see how Rory McIlroy & Co handle it in July 2018.

14th Tee Box at Portsalon Golf Club

14th at Portsalon

Matterhorn is a par 4 that will live long in the memory. From an elevated tee, the view across the Swilly and over to the Inishowen peninsula is quite spectacular. If you can find the fairway having taken the aggressive line off the tee, you can be rewarded with an inviting approach shot.

Finding the fairway off the tee is no easy feat however! You can try to cut the corner on this dog leg right – but you’ll need an exact yardage if you do or you will find your ball on a vertical downslope in some extremely thick rough. That is if you manage to find the ball! For those taking the safe option and staying short of the dog leg, a daunting approach of up to 200 yards awaits.

15th at Gweedore

Situated in the Gaeltacht region of west Donegal, a trip to Gweedore Golf Club is a must for any golfer looking to experience true rural Ireland. This welcoming golf club has enjoyed extensive improvements over the past decade and as with many courses in Donegal, it is the landscape surrounding the course that helps make it a stand-out.

With the majestic Mount Errigal towering over you to the east, and the Atlantic Ocean to the west, you will have to remind yourself to focus on the golf.

When you arrive at the 15th hole, if the day is wild – not uncommon on the coast of the Wild Atlantic Way – you could be forgiven for feeling like you’re on the edge of the earth. The teebox on this short par 3 is jutted out into the Atlantic Ocean and playing to the raised green, surrounded by dunes, you will marvel at the beauty of the hole.

16th at Northwest Golf Club

In a world of 7,600 yard courses and 350 yard drives, it’s easy to forget that the most iconic holes in golf often measure little over 100 yards. Think of the 17th at Sawgrass, the 12th at Augusta or ‘the Postage Stamp’ 8th at Royal Troon and you will instantly remember drama.

The 16th at North West Golf Club – or ‘Fairy’ as it’s known locally – is a rare thing in golf as a hole measuring less than 100 yards. Yet this tricky little hole is arguably one of the most memorable on this wonderful links layout.

Very few golfers enjoy a ¾ wedge shot, and with deep pot bunkers, steep roll off areas and thick rough surrounding this green, a slight error in distance is punished heavily. ‘Fairy’ is a reminder, if needed, that golf is as much about feel as it is about ferocious hitting.

17th at Dunfanaghy

As with so many on this list of the best 18 golf holes in Donegal, the 17th at Dunfanaghy Golf Club is memorable for the use it makes of the natural land at its mercy.

At 171 yards this hole is by no means a cinch. From an elevated tee, jutting into the shoreline you can be forgiven for seeing nothing but beach, especially if you are closing in on a competition win! Anything right on this hole will see your scorecard ruined and you will wonder where it all went wrong. If you choose to take the safe option and play left, a par is a difficult score to come by.

The only option on this visually stunning par 3 is a solid iron into the middle of the green allowing you to enjoy the magnificent view of Sheephaven Bay as you approach your birdie putt.

18th at Old Tom Morris (Rosapenna)

A statue overlooking Sheephaven Bay at Rosapenna comes into vision as you make your way towards the 18th green on the Old Tom Morris course. Having made your way around this traditional links course, you ascend the hill on this lengthy Par 5 and feel the sense of history that resonates around this spectacular golf resort.

This iconic finishing hole with the golf pavilion & statue of Old Tom in the background can provide ammunition for months of gloating – or perhaps a bit of shame, depending on how you play the hole.

If you happen to be the last group in as part of a society, you can rest assured that a large group will be watching your approach shot from the golf pavilion. If the wind is against you, this par 5 becomes a monster and a very lengthy third shot is a certainty.

With the right wind, though, two big hits can allow you to reach the green and an eagle on this fine finishing hole is not an impossibility – and that, dear golfer, could give you bragging rights for years to come.

Tom Morris Looking Out Over the 18th

Irish Open 2018 at Ballyliffin – A Bright New Dawn for Donegal

Very often you will see a venue that claims to be the ‘most this’ or the ‘highest that’. Have a hole that is the ‘longest’ or a bunker that is the ‘deepest!’ These claims to fame are often used to create a selling point around a course that may otherwise struggle to impress. Situated in almost the tip of the Inishowen peninsula, Ballyliffin can justifiably claim to be the most Northerly golf complex in the Republic of Ireland. When compared to the quality of the golf courses here however, this claim pales into insignificance.

My first taste of Ballyliffin was in the 90’s. As a young golfer, I had heard the stories about Nick Faldo arriving in a helicopter and the big plans on the horizon. At that stage, playing on courses such as Ballyliffin had become something I took for granted. Growing up playing golf in Donegal had ensured that playing world class championship courses had become the norm. It was only when I travelled around Europe that I began to appreciate the quality of what I had become accustomed to on my doorstep.

Atlantic Ocean Beside Ballyliffin Glashedy

Despite this however, Ballyliffin always had a certain aura. Before the wonderful new clubhouse and Glashedy links were added, a round on the Old course always left you feeling as though you were treading on hallowed turf. Following in the footsteps of Sir Nick certainly played no small part in this mystique.

That aura has continued to grow and today the chance to visit this wonderful complex is always tinged with excitement. The first sighting of Glashedy rock as you leave Ballyliffin village gets the heart rate going that bit faster as you think of the round ahead. Every golfer will know the feeling of approaching a course they love and the sense of wellbeing as you consider what is ahead, ‘I am playing Ballyliffin today, life is good’.

A walk through the doors of the club house gives a sense of the esteem that those who know best hold this place. A stunning image of a younger, less lean Rory McIlroy at the apex of his swing with a moody sky and Glashedy Rock in the background has pride of place. The welcome from manager John Farren or Head Pro Gareth McCauseland will have you in no doubt that you are in the right place.

And then there is the golf. There is not another venue in Ireland that can boast two such high quality courses on one piece of land.

The Old Course has regularly been ranked in the top 15 best courses in Ireland and is certainly one for the traditionalists. With undulating fairways, well placed bunkers and a playable yardage for amateurs, this course is enjoyable for all.

Nick Faldo has had a hand in redeveloping and adding to what was already a stunning links layout. You will not find a flat lie too often and watching a well hit low drive meander through the peaks and troughs in the fairways will keep you entertained. On the front nine, the 179 yard par 3 fifth or ‘the Tank’ is a standout. A mid iron to this elevated green leaves little room for error with tricky dunes left, right and back and anything short leaving a very tricky uphill chip.

The Old Course is a spectacular course and holds a dear place in many of those who have played it for years. But it is the Glashedy Links that will attract the eyes of the world in July 2018.

The Glashedy Links, designed by Pat Ruddy with the help of Tom Craddock and opened in 1996, is a course that stays with you for weeks after you have played. On any given day, depending on the wind strength, it can make or break the average golfer. Fairway bunkers so well placed that you are constantly on guard, greens so true that a well-read putt will do its best to drop for you and views out to Glashedy rock so stunning, that you need to be careful of slow play as you stand gazing out in awe.

On the front 9, Ruddy has carried out improvements in preparation for next years Irish Open with new, championship tees on the 4th and the 9th and new bunkering on the 1st and the 3rd. These improvements are sure to be added to over the next 12 months.

You will encounter 3 mighty Par 4’s to start on the Glashedy links. If these are played into the wind they are sure to ruin some scorecards before you have caught your stride. The Par 3 seventh is a stand out hole with a drop in elevation of a good 50 feet. As you stand on the tee you can see for miles around, and the beautiful Inishowen peninsula feels at your mercy. Trying to choose a club on this little par 3 can be the biggest challenge with anything from a 3 iron to a wedge being called into action, again dependant on the wind conditions.

Venue with 2 great links in County Donegal

View from the 7th Tee – Glashedy Links

If you make your way to the 10th tee with a score on the go, you can be assured that the back 9 will keep you on your toes. The three hole stretch from the 13th to the 15th is probably one of the finest stretches of holes in Ireland and Pat Ruddy has aptly named this stretch ‘The Magic Circle.’

The Par 5 13th is a particular stand out. This hole will measure close to 600 yards for the professionals making its way up hill between a natural corridor of dunes to an elevated green. As is so often the case, with a head wind, this hole will be a true three shotter. You then find a dainty little 14th. Again, an elevated tee shot and again a nightmare for club selection. Miss the green at your peril as getting up and down will be a 50% chance at best. You then make your way to the Index 1 Par 4 15th where a sweeping dog leg will leave you with a testing approach to the elevated green. A par at this the longest Par 4 on the course is always a bonus.

For the amateur golfer, a round of 36 points on the Glashedy links will provide a real sense of achievement. Who knows what score we can expect when the worlds best visit in 2018 as nobody could have expected the 23 under total that we saw at Portstewart. Locals will surely be hoping for strong winds and blue skies next year but 4 days of blue skies in Donegal may be a bit much to ask!

Most Irish golfers will agree that it is long overdue that our national open visits this links golf haven of Donegal. Courses such as Rosapenna, Portsalon, Murvagh and Narin and Portnoo have for years complimented Ballyliffin to offer international visiting golfers a golf tour in Donegal that is like no other.

Rospaenna – Another Links Gem in Donegal

During the press conference to announce the event at Ballyliffin, a journalist questioned whether the Dublin public is being short changed with no Irish Open having been held in the capital for the last number of years. This question really missed the point of what this event will mean. National and international events take place in Dublin on a weekly basis and an event like the Irish Open would barely make a mark on the consciousness of most Dubliners.

For Donegal however, this event could be a game changer. Over the next 12 months golfers and non golfers up and down the county will be on the band wagon. Families will be involved and there will hardly be a small business that will not benefit from this great event. In this isolated county that has suffered so much since the recession, this boost cannot be overestimated.

A drive around Donegal takes in coastal drives, golden sandy beaches, quaint villages with traditional Irish pubs, historic lighthouses, fresh seafood and above all a welcome like no other. Local population centres such as Letterkenny and Derry will provide plenty for visiting golfers to experience post golf.

Donegal is at the start of Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way coastline and it won’t be hard to find a local who is happy to advise on how to best spend your time there. Whether you want a day of hiking at Glenveagh National Park, an evening meal in one of the country’s best restaurants the Lemon Tree or a quick round on one of the finest 9 hole courses in Ireland at Cruit, there will be plenty to discover. For those in search of an authentic 19th hole, The Glen Bar, Conways, the Singing Pub and Nancy’s Tavern should all be on the hit list. You could easily add another 20 names to this hit list however so hopefully you have a good capacity for Guinness and the locally brewed craft beer from Kinnegar Brewing.

Fanad Lighthouse Donegal

When over 100 European Tour pros make their way to Ballyliffin next year there is surely only one outcome. As was the case with Portstewart for the 2017 event, the worlds best will be in awe of this spectacular golf venue. The Glashedy Links may well bare its teeth if the wind blows but regardless of the weather, its stunning quality will make the world take note.

And so the countdown begins. Twelve months until the biggest sporting event ever to take place in Donegal and an event that will capture the imagination of every man, woman and child in the North West. We can hardly wait!

***Contact Green Golf Travel to organise your dream golf break in Donegal on info@greengolftravel.com or +353 74 91 16660***

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Ireland’s Blue Book – Top 5 Luxury Golf Breaks

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Set up in the mid 70’s by eleven forward thinking small country houses, Ireland’s Blue Book has evolved into the go-to guide for those looking for a stay that oozes quality. This collection of historical hotels, castles, country houses and unique restaurants exists to offer something a little bit different.  Ireland’s Blue Book properties keep the focus on quality rather than quantity.

Each of these hotels and golf courses could fill a warehouse with awards and achievements.  However it is the welcome they offer, aligned with quality that have seen them make our top 5.

With Ireland boasting some of the most renowned yet welcoming golf courses in the world, a golf holiday including a stay in a Blue Book property ensures an experience of a lifetime. Let’s have a look at our five most memorable Blue Book golf breaks.

1) Bushmills Inn – Royal Portrush & Portstewart

history and luxury at Bushmills

Waking up in Bushmills is like waking up in the heart of golfing paradise. Parts of this historic hotel date back to 1608 and many a bottle of Bushmills’ world famous whiskey has been poured at the Inn since. With Giants Causeway and the Bushmills distillery on the doorstep, you needn’t worry how the non-golfers will pass the time in this incredible part of the world.

These elements are just added bonuses to compliment the offering that avid golfers will enjoy. Royal Portrush will host the British Open in 2019 and it is a safe bet that the world’s best golfers will choose Bushmills as their base. As if that was not enough, Portstewart is just a skip along the coast as is Castleknock, which is a true hidden gem on the North Coast. A trip to Ballyliffin in Donegal will round off the trip nicely to a course which many have whispered, is Rory McIlroy’s favourite in Ireland.
Links golf doesn’t get much better than this and when Rory and co come to visit for the Irish Open at Portstewart in 2017, the golfing boom on the north coast will surely be in full swing.

2) Rathmullan House – Rosapenna & Portsalon

Rosapenna Golf

Rosapenna Golf

Hidden among the woods on the shores of Lough Swilly, you will find a country house hotel that will last long in your memory. Opened as a hotel in the mid 1960’s, Rathmullan House dates back to the 18th century and has had an illustrious list of owners over the years. Today the house is a haven of relaxation and luxury with open fires in each lounge, luxurious bedrooms and some of the finest food, locally sourced and served in the Cook & Gardener restaurant.

Golfers staying at Rathmullan House can take the short drive over the spectacular Knockalla Hill to Portsalon Golf Club which is certainly one of Ireland’s hidden gems. This challenging links layout has enjoyed major investment in the past few years and is now considered one of the finest links courses in Ireland. What makes this place even more spectacular is that due to its location, you will find clear fairways on most days and green fees at a fraction of what you could expect on a course of this calibre.

No golfing trip to Donegal would be complete without a trip to Rosapenna and a round of golf at either the Sandy Hills or Old Tom Morris course. Two championship links courses which are recognised among the best in Ireland and you can marvel at the unspoiled Donegal scenery en route from Rathmullan House.

3) Mount Juliet

Mount Juliet Golf

Mount Juliet Golf

‘”The greens are perfect and the fairways are immaculate,” were the words of Tiger Woods on his way to winning the World Golf Championship at Mount Juliet in 2002. This Jack Nicklaus design is considered by many to be the best parkland courses in Ireland and few low handicap golfers would disagree. The Paul McGinley golf academy will open here in 2017 as part of a major investment programme which has been underway in the past few years.

As if having a world class golf course designed by the most decorated major winner of all time was not enough, Mount Juliet boasts luxury accommodation dating back to the 18th century. Those looking for absolute opulence can make themselves comfortable in the manor house. Golf groups looking for comfort rather than luxury, will be delighted with the accommodation in Hunters Yard which is also set for major investment in 2017.

4) Killarney Royal – Waterville & Tralee

relax in luxury at Killarney Royal

Killarney Royal Hotel

Killarney, without doubt, ranks among the most popular tourist destinations in Ireland. On any given day a walk down the main street of this bustling town on the shores of Lough Leane, will allow you to hear accents and languages from all corners of the globe. Killarney Royal has an air of luxury without being stuffy and serves a breakfast that will set you up for 18 holes at least!

By day you can make your way to two of Ireland’s most recognised and popular links courses at Waterville and Tralee. By night, make your way into Killarney town and sample one of what seems like hundreds of bustling pubs and restaurants. If you enjoy a lively night and fantastic golf, Killarney is the town to visit.

5) Ice House Mayo – Enniscrone & Carne

beautiful river view at Ice House Mayo

Ice House River View

Situated right on the shore of the Moy Estuary, the Ice House is a unique mix of old and new. Golfers will enjoy the outdoor hot tub to sooth the muscles after a day on the links at Enniscrone or Carne. The original building at the Ice House was built a decade before the famine in 1836 and has since been modernised with over €15m invested since 2004. This is now a boutique hotel with a world class spa and outstanding cuisine.

Take a 15 minute drive north of the Ice House and you will find yourself at Enniscrone. Since Eddie Hackett extended this challenging links course to 18 holes in 1974, it has been recognised among the top 20 courses in Ireland. Be prepared to battle the elements coming in off the Atlantic Ocean, but this is what makes golf on the Wild Atlantic Way what it is. A trip to Carne Golf Links from the Ice House will take the guts of an hour but once you arrive you will be glad you made the effort. This is another Eddie Hackett masterpiece and many consider it to be his finest piece of work.

After a couple of days on these wild links courses on the West of Ireland, book yourself in for a massage in the renowned spa at the Ice House. You will have earned it!

Hipster Hot Spots – 4 Coolest Golf Breaks Available With GGT

Us golfers have always liked to think we are pretty cool even if the rest of the world may not have agreed. Without doubt the hipster golfer with the tweed glove and ‘Beef’ beard can be seen at most golf clubs these days. To avoid an awkward silence next time on the putting green, visit one of these ‘cool’ golfing destinations. If craft beer and hidden gems are your thing, have a look at our Top 4 Hipster Hot Spots:

1)  Donegal

Venue with 2 great links in County Donegal

Ballyliffin Golf Club in the worlds ‘coolest’ holiday destination – Donegal

This isolated location in the North West of Ireland can often seem to be at the edge of humanity. So much so that the latest Star Wars movie used Donegal as a location to shoot scenes set on another planet!

What you will find in this hidden corner of Ireland is not the well trodden tourist trail or the manufactured and ‘perfect’ visitor experience with queues, gift shops and audio tours. Windy roads, thatched pubs, freshly caught sea food, locally brewed craft beers, deserted beaches, quirky club houses and clear fairways are all part of the Donegal experience. You will find yourself hitting tee shots over sea stacks along the Atlantic Ocean before settling into a night of live music and craic in a little local pub which feels like the roof may blow off at any given time! When you are in Donegal, you will find perfectly manicured golf courses, rugged landscape and an authentic experience alongside the locals. There is an air of relaxation on a golf holiday in Donegal but make no mistake, when it comes to teeing off on the first, things become serious. Especially if there is a friendly skins game on the go!

The courses are world class with Ballyliffin, Rosapenna, Narin & Portnoo, Portsalon and Murvagh all recognised by the industry as leading links courses. The prices however are a fraction of what you will find in Scotland or Ireland’s South West.

Championship golf while being immersed in what the locals get up to on a daily basis sounds pretty cool. The guys at National Geographic Magazine agree and voted Donegal as the ‘Coolest Visitor Destination’ in the world for 2017.

2) Prague

these destinations are as cool as the king Arnold Palmer

‘The King’ – This guy was as cool as they come

When you think of a weekend city break, Prague will be one of the first destinations that will come to many minds. A city rich in history, architecture, nigthlife, shopping and of course Czech beer is easily accessible with flights from Dublin. What many don’t realise is that since the end of the soviet era, golf has been enjoying a boom in this central European city.

During the Soviet era, golf was not exactly a popular sport in the eyes of the power brokers and so most courses around Prague are less than 20 years old. Nowadays the European Tour has a regular spot at Albatross Golf Resort which could stand shoulder to shoulder with any parkland course in mainland Europe. Other courses such as Plzen, Karlstejn and Black Bridge offer varied and quirky golf challenges.

A golf break in Prague will see evenings filled with beer, history, architecture and traditional dishes such as ‘pork knee’ or ‘beef shank goulash’. You can wander the cobbled streets and make sure you pick up a Trdelník which is rolled dough made as you watch and coated in sugar. Serve this with a centre of local ice cream and you certainly have a recommendation to come back home and tell your playing partners about.

This is not your average golf break which is why it makes number 2 in our ‘hip golf destinations’.

3) Marrakech

Reportage Samanah Marrakech Groupe Alain Crenn Photo Eric Malemanche

Golf at the base of the Atlas Mountains – Marrakech

Very few destinations can offer guaranteed sunshine, championship standard golf and a vibrant city for exploring post golf. Marrakech established itself in the 60’s as the must visit destinations for rock stars and artists alike with Mick Jagger and Ronnie Wood regulat visitors while Yves St Laurent was a famous resident.

Today it one of North Africa’s most inviting cities and is enjoying a golf boom. The climate allied with beautiful riads and hotels as well as superb golf courses mean that it ticks most boxes. Venues such as Assoufid and Noria Golf can stand up to any of the best courses in Europe but the traffic levels are nowhere near these established destinations.

By night you can wander through the labyrinth of Souks and perfect your haggling for varied items from Moroccan tea pots to the mandatory Fez hat! The cuisine is exotic while not daunting with lots of European themed restaurants but also fantastic local dishes for the more adventurous. A lamb tagine a must before you leave.

This certainly is a ‘hip’ golfing destination and it is only a matter of time before the mass market finds out this wonderful secret!

4) Iceland

Iceland – The next hip golf destination?

OK, we may be pushing it if we were to name Iceland as a golf destination alone! You might be surprised however to learn that the country now has over 10 courses and some experiences that you will not find anywhere else in the world.

How does a round of golf at midnight surrounded by lava fields sound? Or a morning tee time followed by an afternoon spent in the geothermal spa known as ‘The Blue Lagoon’. These quirky adventures will ensure unforgettable experiences and plenty to chat to your Sunday 4 ball about.

Evenings can be spent sampling the numerous local beers in Reykjavik. True golf hipsters will surely be fans of ‘The Big Lebowski’ and will enjoy a trip to the bar dedicated entirely to this movie. The Dude’s bar sums up the Icelandic sense of humour and you will not get tired of chatting to the locals during your trip.

 

***All of the above destinations are available through Green Golf Travel so contact info@greengolftravel.com to enquire***