Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Ireland's Top Ten Hidden Golf Courses - No. 9

Esker Hills 8th - a sharp dogleg right

Here's the second blog on Ireland's best Fairways Less Travelled... or Hidden Gems.

These are the 9th-ranked courses. For the 10th-ranked, click here.

Parkland: Esker Hills
Links: Laytown & Bettystown

There's a free fourball up for grabs at the end of this post.

Esker Hills

Now commonly referred to as the ‘Home of Shane Lowry’, Esker Hills has a lot more going for it than a famous golfing son. This very tidy Co. Offaly course has tremendous shape and thrills. The eskers of the title ensure big rises and falls in an almost hypnotic rhythm. Trees, gorse and water features abound, but it is the ups and downs that define this course, creating some delicious drives and green approaches.

Esker Hills 1st - a sharp dogleg right (I'm getting a sense of deja vu) 
Buggies are the popular way to travel, but sticking to the buggy paths can create far more work for yourself as they tend to be routed over the hills that flank the holes. Besides, you’ll appreciate the brilliance of the course far more if you walk it. There are some very good holes here – many of them tantalising doglegs that demand respect off the tee – and lots of variety and interest to each one you play. The par threes are all good and dangerous.

Is it challenging? Of course, but not unfairly so. With so many twists and turns it certainly helps to have some course knowledge (or an App) so you know the best lines to take.
The 14th weaves between the eskers

A special mention must be given to the (sand-based) greens and green complexes, which are beautifully presented.

Esker Hills was awarded "Best Hidden Gem" in Leinster by A Golfer’s Guide To Ireland in 2012 – something I concur with completely.

(Much better images on their website)
Esker Hills Website:
Green Fees: €25 - €35

Laytown & Bettystown

Laytown & Bettystown (L&B) is on County Meath’s tiny, tiny strip of coastline, 20 minutes from Dublin Airport. A few miles long it may be, but it can boast a fine links course that is often overlooked. From The Island, on Dublin’s northern borders, most golfers heading north will immediately look at Co. Louth/Baltray for the next links thrill… failing to appreciate the charms of L&B.

The rolling, jagged dunes at the start of the course can confuse the eye,
adding considerably to the challenges

You don’t see the sea that often but that’s because the dunes rise up between the course and the ocean (as at other courses such as Co. Louth and Rosslare). This is where you will find the opening and better nine. The landscape tosses you (and your ball) about freely, hiding fairways and creating intimidating approaches. Pinpoint accuracy is required. It’s thrill-a-minute golf and the routing ensures you will be severely tested by the wind. The par three 9th and par four 10th sit at the far end of the course and are excellent holes: the former offering a green tucked into a crown of bumpy sand ridges; the latter promising an almost blind tee shot and a tantalising approach. 

The 8th - a par three with the green surrounded
The course then flattens out for a few holes as L&B heads away from the sea, but here the wind has free rein. The par three 16th is a terror, bringing you back to the dunes but promising plenty of wind and a small target to land on. The par five 18th is an intriguing finish, where your final approach will be blind.

(Much better images on their website)
L&B Website:
Green Fees: €40 - €45

Free Fourball
To win a free fourball for Esker Hills, leave a Comment below with your name, email and the answer to the following question: 

In what county is Esker Hills? 
(Comments will remain unpublished to ensure privacy.)

Draw closes on 16th December at 6pm, at which point a winner will be chosen. 
(The draw for the Mulranny and Bearna fourballs closes on the same date so you can enter this too)

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for your recommendations. I'll take note of them when I visit Ireland in the future.