CO. MAYO, Ireland -- More than a decade in the planning, the new Kilmore Course at Carne Golf Links might be just what this remote links in northwest Ireland needs.
Carne has always been Ireland's most unattainable links. There's not another golf course within 30 miles. Americans renting a car rarely head this direction, fearing the confusing road signs written in Gaelic, an Irish language still spoken in these parts. Golf tour buses struggle to navigate the narrow local roads. The new nine makes the journey even more worthwhile.
The original course, designed by Irish legend Eddie Hackett, ranks among the top 20 golf courses in Ireland -- 16th by Golf Digest Ireland and 13th by www.top100golfcourses.co.uk -- but the Kilmore nine is uniquely special. The par 35 routing of 2,952 meters (3,228 yards), which was completed in 2013, is currently used as a standalone nine holes, although it could eventually be integrated with the back nine to form one of Ireland's wildest dune rides.
Irish architect Ally McIntosh stepped in to finish the job started in 2004 by American Jim Engh, an overseas member at Carne. He let the natural elevation changes within the dunes dictate the flow of holes.
The first hole, a par 5 squeezed between the first and 10th holes of Carne's Hackett course, immediately dives into the dunes. The second hole gets the blood pumping with a drop-shot par 3 of 165 meters into an amphitheater of gigantic hills covered in maram grasses. The third, a short par 4, doglegs right and falls downhill, introducing views of the Blacksod Bay. The difficult par-5 fifth hole snakes through dunes as high as any in the British Isles. Should the club someday merge the Hackett back nine with the Kilmore nine, a new top-100-caliber Irish links could be born.