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The Old Course at Lahinch: Irish links golf at its best

Brandon TuckerBy Brandon Tucker,
Managing Editor
Lahinch Golf Club - Old Course
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The Old Course at Lahinch is as spectacular a piece of links land as you'll find in the world. (Brandon Tucker/TravelGolf)

LAHINCH, COUNTY CLARE, Ireland -- When Alister MacKenzie completed his redesign of the Old Course at Lahinch Golf Club in 1927, he left with high praise for the land and the course he'd just worked with.

"Lahinch will make the finest and most popular course that I, or I believe anyone else, ever constructed," MacKenzie wrote.

It was high praise from the Scotsman who went on to build Cypress Point in Monterrey, California the following year and later Augusta National in Georgia.

Mackenzie wasn't the first to be awestruck with Lahinch. In 1894, Old Tom Morris remarked that Lahinch's land made for the best natural course he'd ever seen.

A century later, the superlatives still ring true at Lahinch's Old Course. It's a visual stunner, rivaling the British Isle's most spectacular stages. This especially holds true after the club's five-year restoration project from 1998-2003. Among the improvements was the amplification of trouble around the greens. Bunkers, swales and mounding make approach shots from any distance a challenge.

Lahinch's famous Klondyke and Dell holes

Despite this reputation for its eye candy, Lahinch's two most famous holes have gained their reputation based on blind shots. The fourth, "Klondyke," and fifth, "Dell," are Old Tom Morris as his most deceptive.

Klondyke is an odd par 5 that plays closer to a par 4 in the modern era, but the second shot is straight over a towering dune. You can't see the green or anything for that matter, you just have to let it rip over the white aiming stone and hope it lands soft.

The par-3 "Dell" hole features a shallow green tucked entirely behind a dune. It's also been the sight of some dirty tricks by some caddies at Lahinch in the past.

"If the ball was on the green or near the hole, the caddie might rush up and put the ball into the hole," John Rouine, superintendent at Lahinch. "The golfer might come along looking for the ball and the caddie would say, 'check the hole' and sure enough it would be in there. I think the club caught onto it and put a stop to it though."

Lahinch's finest hole in terms of overall beauty comes right after Dell: the long par-4 6th: Playing uphill from the tee, there's little visibility, but once you turn the corner, the downhill shot to the green on the cusp of the sea is a sight to behold. The giant "Mine" bunker is more of a black hole, funneling anything near it down into the depths.

Most of the front nine plays on the club's most rugged links land, but the back nine doesn't drop off much at all.

The par-5 12th, playing along the edge of an inlet and bridge, with the Castle Dough in the distance as the line off the tee is one of the course's best tee shots.

The par-3 16th, playing downhill to a green heavily protected by bunkers and a stone wall separating the green from the road in back requires perfection to hit in high winds.

The course finishes with a par 5 that has been lengthened, crossing through the fourth and fifth holes. It's about as flat of a hole as you'll find here, but there are enough undulations to make the fairway -- with bunkers on both sides -- difficult to identify.

The Old Course at Lahinch: The verdict

Mackenzie's words upon completion set a pretty high bar, and the Old Course at Lahinch just about lives up to the hype all these years later, thanks in part to his influence, the modern restoration and of course the stunning property.

There isn't a mundane shot on this golf course, and your jaw will drop on many occasions.

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Lahinch Golf Club - Old Course - hole 5

Brandon Tucker is the Managing Editor for Golf Advisor. To date, his golf travels have taken him to over two dozen countries and over 500 golf courses worldwide. While he's played some of the most prestigious courses in the world, Tucker's favorite way to play the game is on a great muni in under three hours. Follow Brandon on Twitter at @BrandonTucker and on Instagram at BrandonTuckerGC.

Any opinions expressed above are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of the management.

Reader Comments / Reviews Leave a comment
  • Lahinch

    Michael Macklin wrote on: Jul 29, 2008

    Lahinch is truly one of the best links courses in the world. I had the pleasure of teeing up there in 1989 during a vacation tour of Ireland's best courses with my dad. We played Royal Dublin, Portmarnock, Rosses Point, Ballybunion, Tralee, Killarney and Lahinch. It's a trip every golfer should make. Incomparable golf in an enchanting land.


  • My favorite

    Mel Kozek wrote on: Aug 12, 2007

    Lahinch was my favorite course in Ireland. Iliked it better than Ballybunion and Tralee, two other great courses.
    I think I had an 8 on the "klondyke" but a par on the "Dell". It is worth every penny to play here.
    Ask about the goats on the course. There is great story about a broken barometer, goats gathering near the clubhouse in bad weather, etc.
    When I was there they had killed all the goats because of the hoof and mouth scare.


      • RE: My favorite - Ireland

        Daivid H. wrote on: Nov 27, 2007

        Mel - I am considering a Father & Son Golf travel trip to Ireland with my Dad. I need to know the best golf tour companies to hire to arrange for planning and booking a summer golf trip for two. I have visited & played the Scotland and England links courses, and wanted to try Ireland for a change. Your advise and sage recommendations are appreciated.
        David H.


          • RE: RE: My favorite - Ireland

            Tony T wrote on: Jan 26, 2009

            Hello David,
            Doesnt really matter which company that you use. Just make sure that they are traveling to the Old Head Golf Links. Will make your trip


          • RE: RE: My favourite - Ireland

            Mark Cummings wrote on: Jan 30, 2008

            There is a lot of information available on the web and it would pay you to do your research. Everything depends on what sort of gofl tour you want to do, how much money you want to spend on greenfees, whether you want to play all the "big name" / world ranked courses. It also depends on whether you want to organise yourself or go with a tour, and how long you have. In two weeks you could play virtually every big name recommended course in Ireland but if you only have a week, due to the driving times (not necessarily distances) between courses you may want to focus on one or two areas.
            The highest ranked courses are concentrated on the West coast. You can fly in to Shannon from the US. If you want to play the main west coast courses in County Clare and County Kerry, then you should have Lahinch, Ballybunion, Doonbeg, Tralee and Waterville on your list. These are all within one - four hours inital drive of Shannon (do not base yourself there, but travel around and stay where you play or where you will play the next day). These are the big name courses and the most expenive and harder to get on to. But scattered amongst them and further north and south are other great courses. The scenery on the west coast is truly amazing.
            If you go further south to Cork, then Old Head of Kinsale and Fota Island are the must play venues. If you go further north to the counties of Galway, Mayo, SlLigo and Donegal, you could play Connemara, Carne (aka Belmullett), Enniscrone, Rosses Point (aka County Sligo), Murvagh (aka Donegal), Rosapenna, Portsalon, Ballyliffin. If you get to Northern Ireland, then Royal County Down, Royal Portrush, Portstewart and Castlerock are the must play places. On the East coast and around Dublin are Baltray (county Louth), Portmarnock, the Island and European Club.
            I have named 25 golf courses above (some have two must play courses), all links courses, and have not even made any mention of the big name inland courses such as teh K Club, Malone, Dromoland Castle, Adare Manor, Mount Juliet etc.
            So much food for thought.