Insider’s Guide: Northwest Ireland
Hidden gems, uncontrived, natural golf courses, high-energy pubs with traditional Irish music and a welcoming citizenry are just a few of the reasons you should venture to the northwest of Ireland on your next golf trip to the Emerald Isle.
“It’s not as well known as other parts of Ireland, but the northwest has phenomenal golf and a much less touristy lifestyle that oozes with authenticity,” says Tim Willerton, Premier Golf’s international golf travel specialist, an intrepid traveler who loves playing golf in Ireland. “It also takes a shorter amount of pre-planning, around 3 to 6 months, compared to other more popular parts of Ireland like the southwest, which is generally like 9 to 12 months.”
Willerton says the seemingly untouched, pristine settings of the courses, great pubs with live music, and extremely friendly people in the region make it a fabulous destination for a golf trip.
One of Willerton’s favorite people in the northwest is Alan Maloney, the amiable and accommodating owner/manager of the Mount Falcon Estate, a luxurious, 32-room castle-like hotel in County Mayo, located about 20 minutes from Enniscrone.
“Alan is what the northwest is all about,” Willerton says. “He becomes your immediate friend and will do anything to make your stay memorable. He even took us salmon and fly fishing on the river in front of his property. The hotels and golf courses really appreciate American visitors and you feel the warmth and friendliness everywhere you go.”
For lakeside luxury, the beautiful 4-star Harvey’s Point Lodge on the lakes of Lough Eske just a few miles from Donegal, appeals to golfers who relish its warm Irish hospitality, excellent cuisine and spectacular lake panoramas.
Other excellent accommodations in the region, include Ballyliffin Lodge & Spa and Radisson Blu Hotel in Sligo.
Willerton’s courses-to-play list:
Enniscrone -With its gigantic sand dunes overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, this Eddie Hackett, Donald Steele design has beautiful views of Killala Bay, Bartra Island and sandy beaches. The last four holes play alongside the water making for a scenic and exciting finish.
County Sligo Golf Club at Rosses Point–Fantastic mountain, ocean and countryside panoramas dominate the golf experience at this legendary layout located in the picturesque seaside village of Rosses Point. Originally founded in 1894 as a nine-hole course, it’s now a 27-hole complex.
Ballyliffin Golf Club–Stunning views of lush, green countryside and ocean coastline justify snapping a few pictures along the way at this beautiful 36-hole complex in the County of Donegal. The Old Links layout (6,910 yards) is shorter than the Glashedy Links (7,217 yards), but both provide ample challenge.
Carne Golf Links–Pristine and wild, Carne is uncontrived as the course weaves through amazing large mounds and terrain giving the golfer a phenomenal natural golf experience. Isolated somewhat on the Atlantic edge of County Mayo, you feel as though you’re hundreds of miles away from city life even though the village of Belmullet is just a few minutes away. The holes snake up and down through the large dunes with a generous share of elevated tee boxes where you can watch your drives soar into the sky towards the fairways and greens down below.
Rosapenna Hotel & Golf Resort–The four-star, family operated resort features two 18 hole courses with another one on the way. The Old Tom Morris course was originally laid out by Old Tom in 1891 and the Sandy Hills Links, a Pat Ruddy design, opened in 2003. Slated to open in summer 2021 is the Tom Doak designed St. Patrick’s Links.
Donegal Golf Club–Set on a promontory extending out into the Atlantic Ocean, the course has the Bluestack Mountains as a backdrop. It’s a challenging links course that stretches back to 7,200 yards from the back tees.
Connemara Golf Links–Nestled between 12 Bens mountain range and the Atlantic Ocean, Connemara is on an open exposed site so the ever present wind presents golfers with different shot angles.
Once you put away the sticks for the day, you can celebrate your good fortune at the pubs in Sligo, which are brimming with superb entertainers performing traditional Irish music. Top sights to visit, include Slieve League Cliffs, Giant’s Causeway, Glenveagh National Park and The Ceide Fields. Other great experiences are Foxford Wollen Mills, Connacht Whiskey, Kilcullen Seaweed Baths, fishing in the Atlantic Ocean and fishing the Moy River.