Golf365 Review: Slieve Russell – Now ‘PGA National Ireland Slieve Russell’

Golf365’s Andrew Swires reviews the newly-rebranded PGA National Ireland Slieve Russell in County Cavan, Ireland.

Following a year of discussion, planning, refinement and contract review, Slieve Russell became the PGA National Ireland Slieve Russell on 23rd May, 2019.

I was fortunate enough to be invited as part of media representation from the UK, Ireland and Scandinavia to go to Slieve Russell to witness the re-branding ceremony, play the course and spend time in the hotel.

This change in status for Slieve Russell is the result of hard work, great ambition and a belief in the quality of the product they have to offer.

They join an elite group of eight PGA National courses which includes The Belfry (PGA National England) and Gleneagles (PGA National Scotland).

The management at PGA National Ireland Slieve Russell are clear about the benefits this accreditation and elite status can deliver. General Manager Tony Walker (see above on the right) who shared the re-branding ceremony with PGA Chief Executive Robert Maxfield (see above on the left) told me:

“The golf and leisure facilities here are among the best in the country and re-branding as PGA National Ireland will further enhance our position at the forefront of Irish golf. These are very exciting times and this new partnership will improve our domestic profile and open-up many international opportunities.”

So, what is it about Slieve Russell that lead to this partnership with the PGA and resulted in their Chief Executive Robert Maxfield saying:

“We are delighted to welcome Slieve Russell to our exceptional list of PGA branded properties. The PGA National Ireland further strengthens the PGA’s brand’s reputation internationally and we look forward to promoting Slieve Russell to both PGA members and golfers across the globe.”

Set in County Cavan (c. 90 minutes from Dublin), PGA National Ireland Slieve Russell covers over 300 acres of stunning countryside. This natural beauty has been harnessed by designer Patrick Merrigan to produce a Par 72 course to test the best. A combination of lakes, streams (the estate includes over 50 acres of water), drumlins and trees are used to full effect to deliver over 7,000 yards (7,001 from the back tees) of Championship quality golf.
Multi-level greens and pristine bunkers complete the picture.

The course has matured and been developed over it’s twenty-seven year history to the extent that it now ticks all the boxes and rigorous requirements the PGA demand before offering up their brand.

The signature 13th hole 528 yard par-5, requiring a drive over water and the SR flower bed which borders the fairway and then a second (or third) shot over the lake which surrounds the approach to the green, is spectacular and from the Championship tee a challenge even for golf’s elite.

The four par 3 holes, 4,7,11,16 (which I could just about reach in regulation) are gems, requiring precision accuracy and in the case of 7 length to avoid water or the ring of bunkers surrounding the greens.

PGA National Ireland Slieve Russell is a parkland course and for many Ireland is all about the links of Ballybunion, Lahinche, Waterville etc., but there are parkland courses and then there are special parkland courses, and PGA National Ireland Slieve Russell is definitely special and fully deserving of its place in Ireland’s top 50. With twenty seven courses only a manageable drive from a Slieve Russell base the “Hidden Heartlands” of Ireland offer a great package for any golf break.

This Championship course already has a pedigree CV having played host to significant events, including the Irish PGA Championship 1996, European Tour North West of Ireland Open in 2001 and 2002 and regular Pro-Am tournaments offering significant prize funds. It has attracted golf’s best exponents with one of Europe’s finest and Open Championship winner Henrik Stenson holding the course record of 65.

Outside of the course, the venue has so much more which make it a fantastic destination and base for the family and/or golfers on tour. A nine hole par-3 course, equally stunning in design is great fun and superb for tightening up the short game. The venue includes a driving range and academy for those looking to practice and learn from the resident professionals. The crazy golf course provides one of the best of that genre for a very relaxed game.

The venue also includes two quality tennis courts, state of the art gym and leisure facilities, including swimming pool, jacuzzi, sauna, steam and a games room. For those looking for “special” relaxation and pampering Slieve Russell has a Ciuin Spa where highly qualified therapists can provide the latest and best treatments.

These facilities are based in the impressive 222 bedroom, four star Slieve Russell Hotel which provided the base for our short stay and certainly makes an impression of splendour when first viewed. This is a favoured venue for conferences and weddings (one can see the attraction of hosting a wedding in such regal surroundings) and the new status of PGA National Ireland will surely enhance demand for sport from both the wedding guest and conference delegate. Spacious traditionally furnished rooms, inclusive of the facilities you would expect in premium accommodation made the two day stay very comfortable. This pleasant experience was further enhanced by the superb fillet steak served by the hotel’s long serving (c. 20 years) head chef.

The ingredients and infrastructure are now in place for PGA National Ireland Slieve Russell to take off and reach new heights in the world of golf. With two local ambassadors in the shape of young golfing stars Lisa and Leona Maguire – whose skills were nurtured at Slieve Russell – lending their support, the venue has a bright future. Aspirations similar to those held by The Belfry and Gleneagles who both hosted the Ryder Cup are part of the make up at Slieve Russell and whilst that may be a longer term plan, there are many more short term opportunities for PGA National Ireland Slieve Russell in terms of hosting significant tournaments and events. Don’t be surprised if the Solheim Cup turns up there sooner rather than later.

The immediate aim is to develop golf at the resort and in the region, appealing to a domestic and international market. The management convinced me that this is a long term association with the PGA that will lead to even more development and further improvement of the course and facilities. Being awarded PGA National status is not easily achieved and all at Slieve Russell are aware of the scale of their achievement, which I can confirm is well deserved. More important they (300 staff employed at the resort) see this only as the starting point for a great future. Based on what I saw and experienced and listening to their team, I suspect they will deliver it.

By Andrew Swires