Touring undiscovered links golf courses in north and west Ireland like Donegal, County Sligo and Rosapenna is worth the trip
COUNTY DONEGAL, Ireland – It’s a shame most American golfers never see the Northwest coast of Ireland.
Driving through “Yeats’ Country” in remote County Sligo is so beautifully rural and so distinctly Irish. The roads are narrow and winding. The rolling hills look a deeper shade of green than I’ve ever seen. The dunes that cover the golf courses lead to lovely, private beaches. We stopped at the grave of W.B. Yeats – the famous poet – just to catch a little culture.
The golf at Donegal Golf Club and County Sligo – the courses I’ve played the past two days – sing to the soul, just like a Yeats’ poem. The photo above was taken at County Sligo Golf Club (also called Rosses Point), where kite-surfers and sailboats put on a colorful show off the coast.
Both courses are wildly scenic – overlooking Donegal Bay and Sligo Bay, respectively – and cut through devilish dunes. The best part? They charge a significantly lower greens fee than the well known courses in the southwest, Ballybunion and Lahinch.
I’ve been coming to Ireland for nearly a decade. These past two days were, arguably, the best back-to-back, weather-wise, I’ve seen in some time. I actually played Donegal in short sleeves most of the round. The good weather bore fruit for my handicap. I shot in the low 80s both days, losing just two balls (a miracle for an Irish links).
I couldn’t get Leslie Robinson, the current head pro at Donegal, to compare his course to County Sligo, where he used to work as the pro. He left that job up to me: County Sligo gives off more good looks and Donegal plays more challenging. But you can’t go wrong playing at either place.
After a bus ride to unwind, our group reveled in an emergency nine before dinner at the remarkable Old Tom Morris Course at Rosapenna Hotel & Golf Resort in County Donegal, then was treated to a five-star meal at the hotel dining room. Some believe this is the best golf resort in the northwest and so far, I don’t disagree. It’s still light out at 11 p.m., so playing golf all evening is possible through the early days of summer.
Let’s hope the rain forecast later in the week holds off. This has been a special trip the minute I stepped off the plane 36 hours ago. I pray that the good swings on great links in “soft” Irish weather continues. Isn’t that every American golfer’s dream?
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I am glad and jealous that you had such great weather at Rosses Point and Donegal! I played Rosses Point with my brother the first time we toured with John and Justin and I thought it was terrific. We also had great weather that day. I have watched the Irish Open this week and the weather has not been as good. Saturday's weather looked terrible and similar to the weather we experienced when we played Portrush. Hopefully, Sunday's weather will be better and Padraig can win the trophy.