Destination Golf Ireland 2019 * - Page 120

Westport Ballinrobe Ballinrobe has received high praise from Padraig Harrington, who described it as “the finest championship golf course in the West of Ireland”. It is spread over an old estate of 300 acres with big trees and gentle changes in elevation. There’s an old stone wall or two, ponds and lakes (but not too many), swathes of gorse and one good hole after another. It has an easy flow. A par 73, with five par fives, it measures 6,144 metres (middle tees). Finding the right fairway position on the doglegs is the main challenge. Big trees stay back… with the one exception being the weeping ash completely blocking the 18th green. Westport Westport sits on the edge of Clew Bay, where the sea laps up to the best holes and the ever-present Croagh Patrick looms large. Given the mountain’s iconic status, golfers may go searching for inspiration. On the par three 14th, you hit directly at it. This is a par 73 of 6,800 yards (middle tees). There are five par fives, with the 15th being the pick of the bunch, curling around the waters of the bay and demanding a big drive to clear it. Westport shifts gear considerably from the 7th on, when some significant ridges appear. Holes 11 to 16 are superb, using the best elevation changes, the best views and the water to thrill you. 118 Connemara Eddie Hackett’s name sits in the design column of many Irish golf courses and the links at Connemara is yet one more. The course also boasts a fascinating evolution thanks to a local priest. There are 27 holes here, tucked away in the remotest spot south of Clifden. The drive across the barren beauty of Connemara, however, is just one of the joys of playing here. The course matches that barren beauty, its holes wrapped around an impressive clubhouse which sits up high and allows visitors to take in so much of the course. Flags flutter in every direction, towards the Twelve Bens, beneath rocky hillocks and in front of raw seascapes. The fairways - like the views - are generous, which they need to be when the wind whips in over the often exposed course. Portumna The ancient forest which surrounds Portumna contrasts against the glorious estate of undulating terrain that flows within. This is parkland in every sense of the word, where mature oak, ash and beech trees wander across the landscape as casually as the deer which frequently appear from the forest. Here the holes all work perfectly together, establishing a lazy rhythm where gentle changes in elevation are used to show off holes to full advantage. It promises a tantalising day with the driver. The sweetest changes come on the par three 5th, descending between the trees, and the par three 18th. Portumna is a beautiful, unfussy parkland offering exceptional value.