It's Irish Open week and one of the island's top golfing venues has had an impressive upgrade. We went to have a look.
After a period of difficulty golf in Ireland is on the up again, emboldened by the success of Rory McIlroy and Shane Lowry around the world and backed up by the continuing excellence and heritage of the country's courses which draw visitors from all corners of the globe.
This week’s Irish Open is a reminder of the nation’s hunger for the sport and it comes just a few weeks after Portmarnock Hotel and Golf Links revealed the first fruits of a multi-million Euro investment in both the golf course and the hotel – concrete proof of the continuing growth of the sport in Ireland.
Investment in the golf course has included the creation of a wonderful new short game area, a new natural grass path between greens and tees and the refurbishment of many of the riveted bunkers which are a feature of the course.
Barry O’Connor, Director, says: “This is just the first steps of a planned ongoing programme aimed at ensuring that the course will continue to be ranked as one of the true great links courses on the east coast of Ireland.
“We attract a large number of both American and European tourists initially drawn here for the opportunity to play a great links golf course. They are fascinated with the connections to the Jameson family and inevitably always want to know more. It is our intention to highlight this rich history.
“The business has been built on the best of Irish hotel values – traditional Irish hospitality and a welcome for everyone. We want to retain that friendly approach and the investment being made is as much a thank you to our local support as it is to attracting more international business. Our way of doing business will not change.
"We strongly believe we have one of the best locations in Ireland. It is 10 minutes from Dublin Airport and 10 miles from the heart of Dublin. Add in a championship links golf course, a five mile long Blue Flag beach, restaurants and other local attractions and it is hard to beat.”
There’s no arguing about the superb location of Portmarnock Hotel and Golf Links: just minutes after emerging from arrivals at Dublin airport you’re taking a seat in the Jameson Bar, part of the original family home of the famous distillers, and plotting your attack on the golf course.
If you arrive in the dark, the morning offers more proof that the location is sensational: opening the curtains your eyes slide across the links to the wide expanse of beach beyond. Only a fool wouldn’t go for a walk on the sands before breakfast and hitting that first tee.
The course was created by European Golf Design and Bernhard Langer in 1995, yet plays very much like a track that was laid down a hundred years ago.
This is no modern layout that has utilised monster diggers to reshape the landscape. Instead the course follows the natural terrain and is all the better for it.
The front nine is more inland than the back, tracking along flatter ground, lit up by the bright yellow gorse that flanks the fairways and featuring beautifully contoured greens.
The back nine moves between the dunes, offering raised tees which grant superb views of the beach and coastline. Shot-making comes to the fore, but key is that good shots are rewarded. There are no unnecessary gimmicky features, just a genuine test of golf that doesn’t mess with quality shots.
After the round a return to the Jameson Bar is a must: not just for a warming dash of whisky, but to refuel from the excellent menu.
There’s not much doubt that with its proximity to the airport and the city this is a great hotel and course to start or conclude any tour of Irish golf, or even host a trip based in and around Dublin.
Great golf, great food & drink and great hospitality: the Irish trifecta.
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