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IX: County Sligo (Rosses Point)

On trips like this one, it’s easy to fall into the trap of going through the motions- taking for granted things which would usually take your breath away and missing the magic of the moment you’re in. Sometimes, sky high expectations can be the thief of moments of joy when something incredible falls just short- it doesn’t make sense really. Every now and again though, this can work in the other direction, where out of nowhere something you know very little about finds ways to spark something inside you. Enter County Sligo Golf Club.

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The gorgeous location of Rosses Point

For no good reason, driving into County Sligo, I assumed the course would be laid out on a relatively flat piece of land, perhaps towards the Scottish end of the linksland continuum. Chasing after my tee shot on the second, climbing up to the green site towering above me, I found myself huffing and puffing away- as is so often the case, every assumption was thrown out the window early. County Sligo is a golfer’s rollercoaster, and throughout the round it’s layout pulled me up hills and tossed me off cliffs, mounds chewed me up and valleys spat me out – truth be told it took my breath away both figuratively and literally.

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'The Jump' tee shot on the 5th hole

In a country overwhelmed by dramatic golf amongst towering dunes, County Sligo is a rare breed of links whereby its exhilarating drama is fostered by spectacular changes in elevation. Atop the second green, the North Atlantic crashing, Darty Mountains looming and spectacular golf all around - this was the most connected I had felt to Ireland and its gifts. In terms of awe-inspiring sites, County Sligo in its own unique way, was breathtaking.

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Views of Tabletop Mountain make for a compelling sideshow to the golf!

Spectacular looking land doesn’t always lead to compelling golf, however Sligo’s big, bold and tumbling terrain provided a brilliant canvas for Mr Harry Colt to refine the existing course in 1927. Colt’s routing tackles the natural landforms in such a wide range of ways, creating a level of variety rarely seen and a sense of place untouched.

 

Perched up greens, penal bunkering, clifftop tee shots, uphill climbs and sneaky burns meandering throughout the course make Sligo a strategic test and a course which rarely asks for the same shot twice – H.S Colt’s stamp of quality in plain sight.

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The brilliant bunkerless green of the par 3 fourth 

The front 9 tackles the largest hill early in the round, scaling its apex for the first two holes and giving way to a tumbling par 5 back down. The bunkerless volcano green 4th is a magical one-shotter reminiscent of the 5th at Paraparaumu Beach, its devilish run-offs know only rejection. I am however 100% sure I haven’t seen a hole like Sligo’s 5th- its hilltop tee shot falls further to a fairway than I have ever seen, the ball suspended in the air for what seems like forever. County Sligo’s ability to not only navigate what could be a problematic hill in the routing, but to build unforgettable and exhilarating moments amongst it is what makes the front 9 so intriguing and unique.

A special mention should be made of the straight-away 7th hole which seamlessly integrates the ditch weaving through the course. Boasting a magically sloped green complex and a forced carry over the deepest golf ditch I’ve seen, the hole presents a stern test and a real heart in your mouth approach shot!

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A plummeting ditch meanders short of the 7th green

Reaching the 11th hole, I could feel a change of pace to the golf course, the next seven holes took me on a journey along a spectacular headland- an idyllic place for golf. Spectacular vistas begin on the 12th green and are relentless throughout, providing views out to Tabletop Mountain and flanked by the North Atlantic. The variety and quality certainly doesn’t fall away on the back 9, with a fantastic run of holes against the sea apexing at the stunning seaside par 3 16th and the 17th- a fascinating par 4 which asks for an accurate drive followed by an approach to the green, perched atop a dune at a 90 degree angle to the fairway.

 

On a clear day I doubt there is a more serene walk to take, every step full of magic.

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Wonderful views back down the 17th hole

Every now and then you walk off a golf course and think how lucky people are to play it every day, giving the course an opportunity to evolve, unravelling its subtleties as rounds go by. Striking the ideal balance between challenge and quirk, County Sligo is the type of golf course I would love to play every day- its variety is compelling in the most thrilling way and its layout stacked with the subtleties and nuance of the world’s great links.

 

With no expectation of what was in front of me, County Sligo, a little gem in the North-West of Ireland blew me away, imprinting memories of thrilling shots, gorgeous spots and little doubt in my mind that a return is in my future!

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