Donegal Golf Club - Par 73 - 7,295 Yards
Donegal Golf Club is on the Murvagh peninsula in Donegal Bay, hence it is generally known as Murvagh. The links is isolated from the outside world by a forest of evergreens washed on one side by the great Atlantic Ocean and by Donegal Bay on the others. It has a panoramic view of the Bluestack Mountains and the beach that runs along the Atlantic border is one of the finest in Ireland.
Murvagh has been described as the Muirfield of Ireland, similar in terrain with two loops of nine holes, the first nine an outer loop and the second nine an inner loop running in the opposite direction. At nearly 7,300 yards (championship) or 7,000 yards (medal) this course is long. The serious golfer needs to be at his or her best, while those less serious will still enjoy Donegal as it offers a chance on each hole to win a battle, if not the overall war.
The first four holes make their way out towards the ocean. The par-4 second in particular is a fine golf hole, requiring a long accurate drive to set up a narrow approach to a well protected green. The 4th is another par-4 that runs through a wide expanse of pure linksland that can make judgement of distance diffcult.
The par-3 fifth begins probably the best run of holes on the course. Named 'The Valley of Tears', the tee-shot is played to a plateaued green whose size cannot be seen. Everywhere else is trouble so the tee-shot can be intimidating at worst but can also inspire the good shot needed to land safely on the severely sloping green. Par here is noteworthy, birdies a career achievement.
The next three holes run along the Atlantic coastline and the sixth tee is the first opportunity to view the stunning beach. The 6th and 8th holes are both par-5's requiring two good shots to set up approaches to very large greens. The eighth in particular is memorable for the blind nature of both inital shots and the tumbling nature of the terrain covered. In between, the 7th is a classic par-4 where the second shot plunges down to a two-tiered green, well protected on all sides by sand hills.
The inner loop begins with the aptly named 'Round the Bend' which describes the hole and the place it can drive you. A tee-shot to the right hand side of the fairway will give the chance to hit the green nestled under a large bank - but the shot must be well executed or a simple par is missed.
The 11th features an upturned saucer-like green that again requires an accurate aerial approach. The 12th and 14th holes are both par-5's that feature streams that need to be negotiated. They sandwich a little par-3 known as the 'Wee Dunt' but which can be very tricky despite it's short length.
'The Big Dunt' on the other hand is just plain tough. Over 200 yards to the green, a good strategy may be to consider it a short par-4. Certainly par is a battle well won. The par-4 17th offers possibly a better chance of a 3 - a drive avoiding the left hand rough leaves a short iron to a generous green. The final hole also offers the chance to finish on a high note - the blind drive over a huge sand hill is to a generous fairway. Again, a well struck approach is required to another slightly elevated green.
There is no doubting Donegal golf club's claim to be among the best golf courses in Ireland. Premium is placed on pure ball striking and the ever present wind requires thought rather than force. It may leave you battle-scarred, but the memory of battles won will leave you with that satisified feeling unique to links golf.
Quotes and Comments
"I found that nature is the best architect, I just dress up what the Good Lord provides".
Eddie Hackett - Course Designer
"Hauntingly beautiful and an excellent test of golf"
Peter Dobereiner - Golf Journalist
"There are so many good holes on the course that it is difficult to know where to begin"
Pat Ruddy - Irish Golf Course Architect
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The Irish Amateur Close Championhip, confined to Irish amaturs was played at Donegal Golf Club from June 16-20, 2004. A testament to the challenge of Donegal Golf Club, the two round qualifying medal was led by Gareth Maybin of Ballclare Golf Club with rounds of 72-73, for a one under par total. Maybin was the only player to break par. Noel Fox of Portmarnock, one of Ireland's leading amateurs for the past number of years, carded the only sub-70 round (a superb 69) to finish on level par 146.
The 64 leading qualifiers took part in a matchplay event with Brian McElhinney (Nothwest Golf Club), who qualified with rounds of 75-75, emerging victorious over his clubmate Mark McGeady by one hole in the final. McElhinney had beaten Maybin 3/2 in the semi-final while Fox was surprisingly beaten 7/6 in the third round by Alistair McKinley of Shandon Park Golf Club.
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