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Legends of the Green Isle

In northwest Ireland, the winds howl and the rains fall on some of the world's purest and most remote links golf courses
Jeff Williams
From the Print Edition:
Andy Garcia, Mar/April 2004

(continued from page 1)

Oh, Enniscrone, you beauty, you.

The Enniscrone Golf Club, approached by car from the west on the R297, is love at first sight. Without seeing a single hole, you are sure you have arrived and know that you are smitten. How could this massive, muscular dune land not hold a monumental links? How could it not, within its voluptuous folds, hold some of the dearest golf holes tightly to its bosom?

Enniscrone is the collaboration of its far-sighted members, the practical magic of Eddie Hackett and the kindred imagination of Donald Steele. Hackett expanded the original nine-holer in 1974 to a full and respectable 18 that took great advantage of the dunes, but budget constraints kept him from fully utilizing them. However, as the club became better known and attracted more members and visitors, a hardier cash flow put the heavy, heaving landscape of dunes within reach. The architect Steele was brought in at the turn of the millennium to create, or rather discover, six new holes in the dune range on the championship 18 and to build three additional ones, which turned the facility into 27 holes. The transition could not have been more seamless, the result more spectacular.

Steele’s new holes are the second through the fourth, and the 14th through the 16th, and most recently a reworking of the 18th. His new holes on the front nine are highlighted by the par-5 second, one of a quintet of superb three-shotters in the range of dunes. A tee shot through a dune saddle is followed by a right turn toward the ocean. When you get to the green, you find yourself with a front-row mezzanine view of the sweep of Killala Bay, a 180-degree vista that includes the oddly white buildings in the town of Enniscrone.

After the par-5 fourth, you embark on Hackett’s holes that take you from the dunes’ edge in the flatland and along the estuary of the River Moy, a salmon and trout fishery. Then Hackett reaches back toward the sea. His par-4 12th includes a dune of such a striking volcanic aspect that it should be known as Vesuvius or Etna.

Apart from the theatrical dunes, upholstered in the dense and defensive marram grass, and the seminal presence of the sea, what stands out on Steele’s holes is the absence of sand bunkers. Not a one. And there is not the slightest need. The dunes and rough are sufficiently penalizing to require accuracy, and the greens so naturally and challengingly contoured with short-clipped rolling surrounds that sand bunkers would be redundant.

Enniscrone’s lively head professional, Charlie McGoldrick, has not lost an iota of enthusiasm about the place in more than a decade of manning his small, well-stocked shop and providing instruction on the practice ground. He freely gives to nearly every visitor a sound bit of advice: Don’t cut corners. It would be rather like trying to scale Everest by cutting across K2. Aim for the fairways and the wider parts of the greens and be satisfied that bogey is a good score on most holes.

When you are done, you will surely come back. After all, if Sophia Loren were available for a second dance, are you going to leave the ball before midnight?

Carne Golf Links
Belmullet, County Mayo

This was Eddie Hackett’s last links layout and one that leaves a lasting impression on all who play it. Carne is but a baby born along the coast of County Mayo and overlooking the Atlantic and Blacksod Bay. The first nine holes were opened in 1992, the second nine in 1993, along with the modest clubhouse. But true to Hackett’s form, Carne seems to have been there for an eternity.

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