Links golf at the end of Ireland: Ballyliffin isn't easy to get to, but that's sort of the point
Ballyliffin on the northern tip of Ireland was probably my most out-of-the-way stop during my two-week golf tour on the Emerald Isle. In fact, it was a bit frustrating to get to. I was supposed to take the Foyle ferry from Limavady, which was to cut of considerable time on my voyage. The only problem is it was closed due to choppy waters, so a one hour estimated trip time soon turned into over two hours driving around the coast and I barely made my tee time.
Not like it mattered, I was one of maybe a dozen players on two 18-hole courses. Northwest courses are growing in popularity but still far deserted compared to the southwest giants like Ballybunion and Lahinch. But it wasn’t long into my round before I was enthralled with what is probably the most remote golf I’ve ever played.
The sea crashes in close to the links, which rolls through grayish dunes that vary in size from rolling to towering. A shadowy mountain backdrop lies in the distance a bit like County Down, and sunlight through the clouds sets a haze over the course that gives it a sort of eerie, almost edge-of-the-planet feel. With no other golfers in sight at most points, I felt like I was Alan Shepard swatting a ball around the moon (to my dismay, Ballyliffin’s clubhouse wouldn’t rocket me back down south).
I played the front nine of the Old and the front of the Glashedy Links, named for the looming Ailsa Craig-like rock offshore. Many are praising the Nick Faldo design team for their renovations on the Old. I fell in love with the newer Glashedy personally, with tees elevated a bit to see more of the fairway, and the 7th takes a page out of northern Michigan’s signature: a par-3 with a steeply elevated tee shot down to a green below guarded by a pond - only add a 40 m.p.h. crosswind that makes you think of hitting anything from a wedge to 6-iron.
More to come on Ballyliffin and the wonderful golf in the Northwest.
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