|The 18th green of Portmarnock Links sits in the shadow of some dunes and the old Jameson house that's now a hotel. (Jason Scott Deegan/TravelGolf)|
COUNTY DUBLIN, Ireland -- Portmarnock Links does not have history on its side.
But the golf course, designed by Bernhard Langer, has everything else going its way -- a playable layout, an affordable rate, a historic golfer-friendly hotel and a seaside setting filled with dunes just minutes from the Dublin airport and the vibrant downtown of Ireland's capital city.
Portmarnock Links opened in 1995, a far cry from the century-old links at nearby Portmarnock Golf Club that dates to 1894.
Some locals call Portmarnock Links the "new" course and Portmarnock Golf Club the "old" course. Portmarnock Links Head Professional Moira Cassidy said the club puts information about both courses on all its brochures just to avoid confusion.
Cassidy said some golfers make the mistake of comparing the two green fees and think Portmarnock Links isn't worth playing. It's reasonably priced to attract foreigners, while Portmarnock Golf Club charges handsomely to attract big-game hunters checking a bucket-list course off their life list (Portmarnock ranks 30th in the world by Golf Digest).
Both the 6,444-meter Portmarnock Links (roughly 7,047 yards) and Portmarnock Golf Club sit on land that used to be part of the famous Jameson family's private golf course, developed in 1858 as one of the earliest golf courses in Ireland. Even though this Jameson course disappeared many years ago, Langer incorporated some of its elements into his new design. Neither course is loaded with views of the Irish Sea, unfortunately.
"Even though we are new, it is a very traditional links," Cassidy said. "It is a young club, but we have achieved a lot."
Portmarnock Links might be the most ideal place to tee it up the morning of arrival after an overnight flight from America. Its forgiving corridors don't dish out the serious punishment that comes hand in hand at most other links. The 99 pot bunkers demand some shot-making skills, though.
"I like the layout. I think it is fair," said P.J. O'Hara, who was visiting from Northern Ireland earlier this summer. "You are not penalized. If you hit a bad shot, you have a chance."
The first seven holes are relatively flat next to the dunes, not in them. The biggest worry is a burn that cuts in front of the green at the par-4 first and seventh holes and runs parallel to three other holes (Nos. 3, 5 and 6). The warm-up ends at No. 8, with a stimulating romp through the dunes, and doesn't stop until No. 18. The plateau greens on the par 3s at No. 9 and 11 are particularly strong.
"People get to the dunes on the eighth and say 'Yes! Here we are,'" Cassidy said. "The first-time player will remember the eighth on in, but five and seven are good holes. It is a course you should play a lot, and you'll see something different each time. It is nice to be eased into it (the round)."
Johan Skoglumd, visiting from Sweden, calls playing Portmarnock Links a "great value."
"They could easily charge 70 to 80 Euros," he said. "I've always played better here (than other links)."
There is still confusion, and some hard feelings, between Portmarnock Golf Club and Portmarnock Links. It's too bad because they both serve a purpose. Portmarnock Golf Club is a historic place with that private club vibe, which isn't for everybody. Portmarnock Links is the democratic club that is open to all and playable for all. The only criticism I've heard of Portmarnock Links is its affordable price and lack of land (roughly 120 acres) can make the course feel crowded at times. But overall, it's a great links experience.
The Portmarnock Links Hotel is part of the former Jameson Whiskey family estate. The original house, St. Marnocks, dates to 1847. The hotel has 138 rooms -- all with free Wi-Fi -- divided between the old Jameson house and the newer wing. The Osborne Brasserie serves international cuisine. The Jameson Bar serves the whiskey that made the family rich. There's also Oceana Beauty Salon & Treatment Rooms and a fitness room. Cassidy said the two-mile beach walk to the charming Malahide Village, with a cab back, is a popular afternoon for couples.
October 14, 2011
Jason Scott Deegan has reviewed more than 700 courses and golf destinations for some of the industry's biggest publications. His work has been honored by the Golf Writer's Association of America and the Michigan Press Association. Follow him on Twitter at @WorldGolfer.
Any opinions expressed above are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of the management.
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