Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Portsalon: a huge disappointment

My huge disappointment was not the course… but not being able to play it. With an injured foot I had to take it easy and Cathal, the club’s manager, arranged for me to have a buggy. I nipped around the course in an hour and a half, overwhelmed by the thrills it presents and furious that I couldn’t play it. I’m here in Donegal until Friday, so maybe I’ll get back there and play one of the best opening stretches on Ireland’s shores. The attached picture shows the best 2nd hole in Ireland, a truly spectacular affair that will strike the fear of God into many golfers. The yellow flag sits just over the furthest left hand edge of the river.

There is no doubt that the housing boom in Ireland has had some unattractive consequences, and these can be seen around golf courses, like Portsalon. Holiday homes are littered about the entrance and along the road before you reach the club. As you play 16, you drive straight at some of these homes and it detracts from the beauty of the course.

Talking to Cathal, he said that many of these homes are only used for four to five weeks a year, and that they’ve only popped up over the last ten years or so.

So let’s be thankful that in 1986, when the hotelier owner decided to sell Portsalon, the members grouped together and raised the funds to buy it. They sold £50 raffle tickets and managed to pull in £150,000 in just three months. The asking price was £65,000, and the additional funds went towards prizes and into the club. As Cathal was telling me this I looked out at the course and its extensive beach, assessing how this stretch of land would be any developer’s nirvana. Aren’t we lucky that a course that dates back to 1891 and is one of the GUI’s founding members, wasn’t consumed by our enormous housing boom. Golfers the world over should be extremely grateful that this great links course is alive and kicking to this day.

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