Destination Golf Ireland 2019 * - Page 131

Ballyliffin (Old) Royal Portrush (Dunluce) Royal Portrush and Royal County Down are two links mentioned in the same breath. They are two giants of the game… and yet so very different. This is a course that tests the very heart of your links abilities. The subtlety of Harry Colt’s design defines Dunluce, with an endless series of challenges. Each is different to the last as holes constantly sweep left or right along natural fairways. He is also responsible for the smallish greens which melt into the dunes and will prove hard to hit if you are offline from the tee. Bunkers are scarce… evidence perhaps of the many other challenges this course possesses. The infamous 200 yard par three ‘Calamity’ is the perfect example. Views stretch to the Skerries reef, across to the Donegal hills and the ruins of Dunluce Castle. For the 2019 Open Championship, two magnificent new holes have been added. Ballyliffin (Glashedy) The Pat Ruddy-designed Glashedy links opened to great acclaim in 1995, bringing a whole new golfing allure to Donegal’s Inishowen peninsula. These are the most northern golf courses on the island, a landscape of raw beauty, rock, sand and the clean coarse smell of ocean. Many believe it is heaven. What is most remarkable is how different the course is compared to the Old links, which shares the same piece of land. The difference lies in the terrain, with the Glashedy hogging the biggest dunes. Fairways slide so smoothly between them. It creates such an elegant rhythm that you could almost forget how testing this course can be… but only briefly. The many subtle doglegs require pinpoint accuracy off the tee. Ballyliffin (Old) The story of Ballyliffin reads almost like a fairytale. Established in 1973, on the remote Donegal peninsula of Inishowen, the course struggled in the early years. Then Nick Faldo arrives in 1993 and declares it “the most natural links I have ever played.” He loves it so much that he even tries to buy the place. He fails, but his visit reinvigorates the club… and Ballyliffin has never looked back, adding the exceptional Glashedy course in 1995, and a new clubhouse in 1999. Ironically, Faldo was invited back to do some upgrade work on the Old course in the early 2000s. The focus of his changes were to introduce revetted bunkering and new tees, but the heart of the Old course remains… this is a classic links design, sweeping over low, bumpy and unpredictable fairways which almost float towards natural green sites. Portstewart When the opening nine holes of a course tumble over a violent dunescape known locally as ‘God’s Own Country’, you know you’re playing somewhere special. That’s what Portstewart throws at you as its opening salvo. Every hole is stunning in its shape and size, but golfing memories of the course often come down to one hole… the 1st, which is widely regarded as the best opening hole in Irish golf. Views spill away over the sea to Inishowen, and Mussenden Temple sits on the cliff tops in the distance. There is no drive quite like it: soak it up before you take that first swing. The front nine all follow suit and, despite the gigantic dunes, you will be able to see what lies ahead. Home to the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open in 2017. 129