Monday, November 17, 2014

Ireland's Best 18 Holes on the Wild Atlantic Way

The inspiring 16th tee shot on Ballybunion (Cashen)
Everyone has their opinions. What a dull place it would be if we didn’t.

Failte Ireland, in its guise as The Wild Atlantic Way, has produced a list of the top 18 golf holes along the 2,500 km route that stretches from Cork to Donegal. The list was produced for them by In The Company of Huskies, a Dublin digital agency.

The Wild Atlantic Way is Ireland’s new holy grail of tourism, showing off the beauty of Ireland. You’d think the goal would be to pick 18 holes that show off the beauty of the golf courses’ surroundings.
There are very good holes on the list, for sure, but there are some odd choices too.

·      The 7th at County Sligo, for example, is the hardest hole on the course but probably one of the least dramatic in terms of its surroundings. The 3rd hole, however, is a par five from a hugely high tee and as dramatic an introduction to the surroundings as you could hope for.

The hypnotic fairway on Strandhill's par 5 5th hole.
·      At Waterville, the entire landscape is 360 degrees of drama for the entire round, but the ocean and the estuary appear most spectacularly on the brilliant, straight par five 18th.

·      Dooks. Stand on the 2nd green and you have the most remarkable views of any golf course in Ireland. The mountains surround you and Dingle Bay slides alongside. You’ll miss the putt, I guarantee it.
The dramatic landscape is all on show from Connemara's par 5 14th tee.

·      Connemara’s par 3 13th is a peach – and one of the best par 3s on the island – but the beauty of the course is there for all to see from the next tee, as it sits high and looks out to sea, across half a dozen holes and the clubhouse, standing proud against the skyline.

·      Westport’s par 4 8th… not a bit of it! The 7th, 11th, 12th, 14th and 15th are far more enticing, with Croagh Patrick looming overhead and the estuary spilling alongside. The 15th has to drive over the water, while the 14th drives straight at Ireland’s most famous mountain.

The long drop to Carne's par 3 16th

·      Carne’s 10th hole is a straight, over the crest par five but, again, the beauty of the landscape is hidden… not like the par 3 16th, from a sky-piercing tee to a green far below, and all the views squeezed in between. You could tee off, do a 360 degree rotation, drink it all in and still have time to see your ball land on the green.

·      But of all the holes, it is the 17th at Portsalon that is the strangest inclusion. The 2nd hole at this County Donegal links is a world-class par four, full of intrigue, danger and glory. Ballymastocker Strand flows right underneath, stretching long into the distance towards Knockalla Mountain, and it is as close to golfing nirvana as you can get when it comes to your tee shot. 17 is not a bad hole, not at all, but next to the 2nd…

The majestic par 4 2nd at Portsalon
·      The WAW’s holes for Old Head and Narin & Portnoo are both superb – the 12th at Old Head has the toughest drive (across cliffs) you might ever face, while N&P’s dune top to dune top par 3 7th is glorious – it’s simply that I prefer the 2nd at Old Head, because that’s when the sheer amazement of the location takes hold, and the 8th at N&P, because you drive down to the very edge of the Atlantic Ocean.

So here are the WAW’s 18 holes (on the left) with my selections on the right:

The five courses highlighted in Yellow indicate the same course and hole… the nine highlighted in Green indicate same course but a different hole.

WAW List
Old Head - Par 5 12th
Old Head - Par 4 2nd
Waterville - Par 4 7th
Waterville - Par 5 18th
Killarney (Killeen) - Par 3 10th

Dooks - Par 3 13th
Dooks - Par 4 2nd
Tralee - Par 5 2nd
Tralee - Par 5 2nd
Ballybunion (Old) - Par 4 11th
Ballybunion (Old) - Par 4 11th

Ballybunion (Cashen) – Par 3 16th
Trump International - Par 3 14th
Trump International - Par 3 14th
Lahinch - Par 5 4th

Galway Bay - Par 4 12th
Connemara - Par 3 13th
Connemara - Par 5 14th
Westport - Par 4 8th
Westport - Par 5 15th
Carne – (Hackett) Par 5 10th*
Carne (Hackett) - Par 3 16th
Enniscrone - Par 3 17th

Carne (Kilmore) - Par 3 2nd
County Sligo - Par 4 7th
County Sligo - Par 5 3rd
Donegal (Murvagh) - Par 3 5th

Strandhill - Par 5 5th
Narin & Portnoo - Par 3 7th
Narin & Portnoo - Par 4 8th
Rosapenna (Sandy Hills) - Par 4 6th
Rosapenna (Sandy Hills) - Par 4 6th
Portsalon - Par 5 17th
Portsalon - Par 4 2nd
Ballyliffin (Glashedy) Par 3 5th
Ballyliffin (Glashedy) - Par 3 5th

* Huskies listed this as the par 5 1st, so I’m assuming they mean the 10th – based on the description.
Tralee's par 5 2nd
Clearly this is all my opinion, and I would be more than happy to play the WAW’s 18 holes - as would any golfer - it’s just that I believe the 13 alternative holes combine the most spectacular scenery of this south-north route with stunning and thrilling golf holes.

On a more critical note, and given the abundance of photographs of Ireland's golf courses (there are over 9,000 images on my Flickr page, people), Huskies used 10 photographs of which only one (maybe 2) was of the actual hole being discussed. That's just daft.

The Index 1 12th hole at Galway Bay. A brute of a dogleg.

Out of interest, here’s the hole count by county:
Cork - 1 hole
Kerry - 5 holes
Clare - 1 hole
Galway - 2 holes
Mayo - 3 holes
Sligo - 2 holes
Donegal - 4 holes

Now there’s an incentive to get out and visit some of the best golf destinations in Ireland – or, indeed, the world.


  1. "or indeed, the world".....Melbourne beckons your review.

  2. TTrump International is that partly because the 'par-3 14th' no longer exists...

    1. The aim - from what I've heard - is that the 14th is being reinstated. Trump would be foolish to do away with such an iconic hole