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Donegal

Yardage
7280
Par
73
SSS
73
Built
1976
Architect(s)
Eddie Hackett, Pat Ruddy
Nature:
New championship course on beautiful open links land behind a line of coastal dunes.
Location/Address:
West coast of Ireland, 10 miles south of Donegal town.
http://www.donegalgolfclub.ie
Secretary
Grainne Dorrian
Telephone
+353 (0) 74 9734054
Professional
Leslie Robinson
Green Keeper
John Gallagher
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Access Policy:
Visitors welcome with handicap certificate
Dog Policy:
No dogs
Open Meetings:
Fees in 1960s
N/A
Fees today
€60

Review

Donegal Golf Club was founded in 1959 on land donated by the local Temple family who own the Magee clothing business based in Donegal Town on the north-west coast of Ireland.

It is not often in the last fifty years that a club has had the capacity and vision to move ten miles down the road to upgrade itself, bring in Ireland’s premier golf architect and create a classic championship links on virgin land.

Clubhouse

Clubhouse

This is what happened in 1973 when the Club moved to the Murvagh peninsular and Eddie Hackett created a new course on land of which he said: “I only dressed up what the good Lord provides”.

He created a track that would stretch the professionals from the back tees and the outcome was 7,280 yards, par 73 and sss73.

Unknown to me, I only came across it by chance when planning a golf holiday and looking for a course to play between Ballyliffin in north east County Donegal and County Sligo GC at Rosses Point.

The Valley of tears 5th

The Valley of tears 5th

We were bowled over by the strength of the challenge, literally so for my compatriots with handicaps around 20, as we followed on after a medal competition and played off the same back tees in a 20 mph breeze.

Murvagh has continued to mature with Pat Ruddy of “The European” fame upgrading some greens.

There are some great holes like the 170 yard 5th (Valley of Tears) up in the high dunes that bound the course on the seaward side, from whose tee there is a panorama of the sea and the links with the Bluestack Mountains in the distance.

Approach to 6th green

Approach to 6th green

The 6th (The long ridge) is a tempting par five but the ground is not flat where you drive to, making your second over three bunkers short of the green)- in echelon across the fairway – a highly risky enterprise.

The 8th (Moyne Hill), a par five along the beach with such movement in the land between the dunes, has some of the character of Lahinch. The 10th (Round the bend) has a touch of Birkdale.

The Lahinch-like 8th

The Lahinch-like 8th

The 12th (Runway) and 14th (Hare’s Croft) are terrifyingly long par fives in opposite directions. Hackett clearly wanted to make quite sure you can play the low shot under the wind!

There are few trees apart from the attractive little copse by the 12th green bent sideways over the decades.

My friends, inland golfers who use the high game, by this time were tiring and now slogging the ball, as it carved away on the wind and, though there is no heather or gorse as will be found on many Scottish links, the wiry grass is just as brutal!

The 14th fairway

The 14th fairway

The 14th incorporates a meandering stream across the fairway posing strategic questions for your third shot to a raised green with the ridge of a large Stone Age tomb behind. This also forms the high tee of the 17th, a slight relief at only 350 yards.

This course uses modern design on classic links land. The fairways dry out, go brown and run and are a true test of keeping the ball as close to the ground as possible. Your bump and run needs to be in good order around the many contoured and ridged greens to save your par.

It is a tough track and a wonderful test of shotmaking with no blind holes. This is emphasised by the fact that the professional record is only 69.

Howard Clark is quoted as considering it to be in the top three links courses in Ireland and who am I to argue, though I am not sure which, of another seven I can think of, he has relegated!

Playing this fine course was a revelation to me to see how a new course, built to stretch the professionals, can have so many traditional “joy to be alive” factors and in my opinion is among Ireland’s finest ten courses, though unfortunately it does not allow dogs!

The hospitality of the Secretary afterwards was of renowned Irish conviviality as we relaxed in the well-appointed clubhouse with its panoramic views from the first floor lounge. Donegal at Murvagh deserves to be much better known.
Reviewed by Lorne Smith, 2009.           Leave us a comment below.

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