Image by Kevin Murray.
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To view some of Kevin’s work from around the world [CLICK]
The Portmarnock Links can very easily be confused with the more established and prestigious ‘club’ which lie to its south. The ‘Links’ are much more recent creation, designed by Bernhard Langer and Stan Eby they opened for play in 1995.
Set in the grounds of the old Jameson estate of St Marnocks, in 1858 the family developed a private 12 hole course that stretched as far as the infamous 15th at Portmarnock Golf Club. Just fifteen minutes from Dublin International Airport, the Portmarnock Links enjoy a fantastic location with stunning views over the famous five-mile “Velvet Strand”.
The Portmarnock links make for an ideal introduction to any tour that seeks to begin in Ireland. For such a modern layout, the architects resisted the temptation to introduce hazards and gimmicks and relied instead on natural links putting it to simple use. This is a solid, functional golf course. It has the crisp turf, wispy fescue, some riveted bunker faces, and all the other trappings of a proper links.
|Yardage||Championship tees 6514 yds|
|Handicap Restrictions||No handicap restrictions apply|
The Course itself
We mentioned that the Portmarnock Links is an ideal way of easing you into a golf trip, and this needn’t be restricted to the itinerary and the proximity to the airport. It works for the course itself too. The course really seeks to accentuate what was in the natural landscape rather than force the issue by introducing artificial interest. Perhaps the most telling testimony to this is that there is little way of telling that it’s a relative juvenile course having only just broken through it teenage years. It is honest, old-fashioned, and most importantly, an excellent and fair test of your golf. It is a very honest course with plenty of raised greens surrounded by large run off areas, deep and well placed pot bunkers in the fairway and around the green. Lovely undulations humps and hollows challenge your shot making
It’s probably fair to say however that whereas there are occasions on the opening holes, most notably at the 3rd and 5th where the architects have done a fine job of creating the illusion of a greenside bunker, that the course tends to go through the gearbox and only really comes to life at the eighth when it turns into duned section. The first seven holes needn’t be without interest, their attraction is subtle rather than obvious, but once it’s got warmed up, Portmarnock Links begins to reveal its full majesty and tenacity. It perhaps helps that the inward holes are closer to the beach area and the land begins to show a good bit more variety.
The eighth is a blind dog-leg par 4, that immediately begins to taunt you into calculating how much you dare to try and bite off to shorten-up your second. A pair of par-3’s pose the problems at the ninth and eleventh. Two quality short holes but with any wind possible they can prove quite perplexing. The elevated tee on the eleventh catches the imagination.Langer and Eby have completely removed the ground game from the player’s arsenal here with a phalanx of forward bunkers and the surfer has to catch the wave and ride the wind all the way into the putting surface
With a stroke-index of 1, the twelfth is the most difficult hole on the estate, a challenging par 5, the rolls out to some 630 yards now that it has been lengthened. The green has now been pushed back into the landscape, whilst the tee has also been dropped back to a more sheltered position within the dune system which now requires you to hit-out onto a more exposed flight, perhaps not fully appreciative at the time of doing so, as to just how coercive the breeze might be in persuading a golf ball to perform uncooperative contortions in mid-air
The ebb and flow of the back nine is always about movement. Holes slide one way or the other and prevent the golfer from getting into a rhythm, constantly requiring adjustment. The par-4, dog-leg, fifteenth hole is another. An intimidating tee-shot bending out to the right players have to decide how much risk they have the stomach for as they stand there surveying the puzzle being posed. The bold play can set-up a short iron but two deep bunkers await the sloppy play from the tee. The green is nicely angled and again the approach must be hit with precision and executed crisply.
The final stretch features a trio of quality golf holes to finish on. The par-4, sixteenth slides to the right off the tee and has another testing putting surface. When your reach the par-3 seventeenth, you will likely be staring into the prevailing wind and recognising that having got this far you’re going to be dropping a shot. It’s a supreme test of mental resolve to summon up the determination to salvage something late. The green is another fine target, elusive to all but the most skilled. The closing hole is memorable in a big time with an arresting view from the championship tee that brings the whole of the links together. A left-to-right ball flight can provide big time dividends and for those who feel the urge the daring tee shot down the right side can yield a major reward provided the bunker on that side is avoided. If the pin is cut in the front or back right areas it takes a safe cracker’s touch to dial in the right yardage and trajectory on the approach.
Although we’ve never heard anyone suggest that Portmarnock Links is a superior course to the Portmarnock Golf Club (it isn’t), we do hear it mentioned in the same conversation, and do hear people suggest it’s better value. If the facility were to upgrade the opening series of holes without losing any sense of integrity, then it might begin to stand alongside its more celebrated neighbour. That’s how good it is. Perhaps the bigger barrier that it’ll need to overcome however is the reflected stigma that is often attached to ‘resort courses’. It took Gleneagles and Turnberry half a century to throw this off, whereas other such developments are too easily diminished as being ‘corporate’. The label doesn’t sit well with Portmarnock Links incidentally (it isn’t corporate) but it is part of hotel and leisure development. In this regard it perhaps most closely resembles the St Andrews Dukes Course
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Buggy hire, Trolleys, Caddies and Clubs
|Driving Range Available||Yes|
|Rental Carts Available||No|
|Rental Clubs Available||Yes|