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XII: Doonbeg

One of the often-overlooked treasures of golf travel in the UK and Ireland is the corners of the world that you are dragged to- places which you would never otherwise think twice about visiting. So far, this trip has given me a whole new appreciation for the small coastal towns of Ireland and the gorgeous roads which connect them. Taking the road which links Lahinch and the small town of Doonbeg on a perfect May afternoon was truly special – endless sea views to the right, quintessentially Irish countryside on our left and around 25 minutes later, the emergence of Doonbeg’s famous 100-foot dunes. After a couple of weeks in Ireland, I think I know prime golf land when I see it!

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Commonly referred to as grounds for golf.....

Trump Doonbeg is far from a place that you could drive past obliviously, amongst its towering dunescape sits luxurious accommodation and a castle-like clubhouse straight out of a fairytale – grand scale extending from the driveway to the 18th green. With long stretches of coastal frontage, majestic dunes, rippling undulations and well-scaled changes in elevation, Doonbeg is the ideal site for golf. In the early 1890’s officers of the Scottish Black Watch Regiment and their propensity for links golf, had their eyes on the development of a course through the dunes of Doonbeg before landing on a wonderful site in Lahinch.

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The towering, rugged dunes of Doonbeg

Doonbeg’s traditional out and back routing traverses the naturally rugged landscape, beginning on the outskirts of the dunes with the meat of the course playing alongside the spectacular Irish coastline with holes carved through the sand hills of epic proportions- a spectacular setting to play golf. The layout features a rare combination of five par threes and fives, and its cleverly internally contoured greens combine with rippled firm fairways to provide a number of different options to attack pins.

 

A wonderful mixture of hole lengths with both short and long par 3s mixed amongst the par 4s- both brutal and driveable kept us guessing and engaged throughout the round. The course offered plenty of opportunities to score with large greens and plenty of width off the tee, however we quickly found out that straying from the fairways was a fool’s game, thick rough ready to swallow up any rogue shots!

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Rippling contours and wavy green complexes are a firm favourite

It has been commonly written that there are a handful of holes on the flatter outskirts of the property which lack the intrigue and drama of the seaside holes- a notion not uncommon of Irish links courses, however my lasting impression of Doonbeg is dominated by the highs of the course and the moments of magic dotted throughout the links.

The Magical First Tee

Doonbeg flies in the face of the notion of a ‘nice gentle opener’, smacking us in the face straight off the bat with one of the most spectacular opening tees on the planet. The wide, rippling fairway is flanked by sandy dunes and the green benched into the base of one of the largest hills on the property. A moment like this so early in the round set tone for some of the grandeur to come!

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The wonderful first green sits at the base of a heaving dune

Back-to-Back Short Par Fours

Some of the most captivating holes in golf are driveable par fours and Doonbeg threw two spectacularly different iterations of sub-300 yard holes our way at the fifth and sixth. The fifth hole threads through a valley of two dunes, bottlenecking around 50 yards short of the green. Playing slightly uphill, the hole offers a simple layup at around 180 yards or the opportunity to drive the green- fantastic risk-reward early in the round! At a similar length but playing flush up against the coastline, the 6th is a very different test. The ocean running the entire length of the left hand side and the layup zone on the right challenged by a bunker- a true white-knuckle tee shot! This is 25 minutes of the most interesting, enjoyable and spectacular golf in the country.

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The gorgeous view back down the short par four 6th

The Seaside Par 3s

When I think of my favourite courses in Ireland, quality seaside par 3s are something of a fixture and Doonbeg boasts two spectacular coastal one-shotters at the 9th and 15th. Playing in opposite directions, with the stunning 15th demanding just a flick of a wedge down the hill, there aren’t many finer places to stand and take in the waves crashing on the golden sands of the Irish Coast. On an beautiful evening like we had, these holes could be placed on the shores of the Caribbean- truly breathtaking.

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There are few more magical sights than the view from the 15th tee

The Home Hole

In the same breath as opening holes, closing holes are often a means to an end- a connection back to the clubhouse. The home hole at Doonbeg ensures that the last encounter with its layout lives long in the memory; a spectacular clash of land and sea for the length of the hole with the majestic clubhouse looming over the coastal greensite. A fitting way to finish off a stunning hike through the dunes!

Walking the coastline and climbing the dunes of Doonbeg makes for a spectacular day of golf. The variety and playability of the holes are compelling, and the conditioning pristine. To miss the opportunity to experience such an incredible site for golf while in the Southwest of Ireland would be a mistake. We will remember our evening in the sun with great fondness!

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The road home: Doonbeg's magical 18th

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