Ballyliffin Golf Club
The New Links
To play The Old Links at Ballyliffin is to experience golf on one of nature's most beautiful stages. All around are dramatic hills and mountains. You rarely climb much higher than sea level but when it happens you are treated to magnificent views of the bay, the ocean and, of course, Glashedy Rock.Another natural feature has long stirred the golfer's imagination. Adjoining The Old Links is a massive sand hill and, beyond this, a seemingly infinite stretch of spectacularly wild duneland. The mind cannot help but wander. And wonder. 'Imagine building a golf course in amongst those dunes!' ...'Think how sensational the views would be from up there!' Mere golfing flights of fancy? Not any more. Glashedy Links provides a roller- coaster tour of this remarkable, almost lunar landscape. As we all suspected, the wild duneland (now tamed) makes for glorious golfing country. And, yes, the views up there are out of this world.
On a calm day it is a shimmering diamond, but when the wind is howling, beware the smiler with the knife. Anyone wishing to tackle this links from the back tees (7000 yards plus) on such a day will need to possess a masochistic streak. There is no gentle break in. The course opens with three mighty par fours, the combined effect of which is to lead the golfer away from the clubhouse and deep into the dunes. Deep into that other world. The links will become notorious for its plethora of revetted (i.e. turf stacked) bunkers. Just as some of the contours on the fairways of The Old Links make those at St Andrews appear mild by comparison, so a handful of these giant traps on the Glashedy Links dwarf the shallower pots of Carnoustie. An especially cavernous bunker guards the entrance to the green at the 2nd and there is one almost as gaping in front of the 3rd. Another lurks just off the fairway to the right of the 4th and as for the quintet that ring the putting surface at the short 5th...be careful you don't lose your partner!
The greens are generally very large and full of subtle undulation; as many are also two-tiered, accurate approach shots are properly rewarded. Modern machinery was used during the construction stage to temper some of the landing areas - though there are still undulations aplenty - with the intention of eliminating the bad bounce and awkward stance. As Pat Ruddy puts it: We like one in ten of our golfers to come home sane!' The course fits harmoniously into the landscape and flows along natural valleys beneath and between the dunes. It is rugged country and it is a rugged links.
As you saunter up the 4th fairway, admiring perhaps the little clusters of primroses and the orchids that nature has sprinkled in the rough, the dunes begin to increase in size. Then, just as an alarming cross bunker reveals itself, Glashedy Rock emerges directly behind the green. It is a magical moment. From this point onwards Glashedy rarely disappears from view. Another shock awaits, however, once you have completed the 6th and climbed to the 7th tee. You are now standing on top of the giant sandhill - the one that towers over The Old Links. The panoramic views border on the intoxicating and yet you must try to keep a clear head because the 7th requires you to go 'over the top' as you play a par three down to a green sited one hundred feet below.
The 15th is the longest of the par fours. It is another of the Glashedy links' sweeping dog-legs and aIls for a downhill drive followed by a searching second to a raised green. The course starts very boldly and finishes with a touch of panache. The shot to the 18th must be threaded along a corridor of sentinel-like dunes and between two revetted bunkers - miss the green to the left or right and you may have to display your shot - making artistry in front of a packed clubhouse. At least you an count on the members' sympathy.