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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 3)

County Sligo Golf Club
Rosses Point, County Sligo

The County Sligo Golf Club is poetry, and well it should be. Sligo was home to the poet William Butler Yeats and he once referred to Rosses Point in one of his works. Not the golf course, mind you, but the dramatic peninsula setting, a thumb of land sticking out into the Atlantic and reaching toward the Americas.

Where the wave of moonlight glosses The dim grey sands with light
Far off by furthest Rosses We foot it all the night —W.B.
Yeats, The Stolen Child

County Sligo was founded in 1894, with its present layout designed by the noted Englishman Harry Colt and opened in 1927. Pat Ruddy spent much of his childhood there. The course is the home of the West of Ireland Amateur Championship and holds a legendary status within the country, certainly equal to courses such as Ballybunion, Portmarnoch and Royal County Down, which are better known internationally.

The course pitches and tumbles along the peninsula. The tee shots at the third, fifth and 10th holes are dramatically downhill and bring a rush to anyone standing with a driver in his hands. The fifth hole is aptly named “The Jump,” with the tee on a cliff and the fairway far below. The 10th plays down through a valley of dunes to a green that has as a backdrop Ben Bulben mountain, a brooding rock tabletop of lore. Yeats is buried in Drumcliff churchyard at the base of the mountain.

The par-4 17th at Sligo has few equals, and if it was on the British Open rota, it likely would be as famous as the 17th at St. Andrews, the Road Hole. Sligo’s 17th is 455 yards of pure muscle and dread. It takes two prodigious and accurate shots to get home, and even then the green pitches so severely from back to front that two-putting is not assured. Though Sligo is less than 6,700 yards, it is one of Ireland’s strongest courses.

Donegal Golf Club
Murvagh, County Donegal

Another of Eddie Hackett’s jewels, Donegal Golf Club occupies a significant portion of the Murvagh Peninsula. Typically, Hackett worked with a limited budget when he fashioned the course in the early ’70s. And typically, when the course started making some money in the ’90s, the club called in another architect to spruce up the joint. That was the ubiquitous Pat Ruddy, who designed a few new greens, reshaped some fairways and made a stream running through the property more prominent and ominous.

Surrounded on the west by the Atlantic and by low hills to the east, Donegal is elegant and graceful—and long. When it was completed in 1976, it was nearly 7,300 yards, then the longest course in Europe. For his work, Hackett got 200 Irish pounds.

Rosapenna Hotel and Golf Links
Downings, County Donegal


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