Introducing Greg Norman’s Doonbeg and the Majestic Old Head Of Kinsale

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“Imagination is the beginning of creation. You imagine what you desire; you will what you imagine; and at last you create what you will” – and so the words of Irelands famous play write George Bernard Shaw would seem to have informed Greg Norman’s latest creation, Doonbeg. Norman imagined a landscape of unparallel beauty untouched by the influence of man, he desired a land of innocence to be molded by a vision, he willed to create a testimony to the game of golf and so the golf links of Doonbeg was born.

Nestled between Ballybunion and Lahinch the links of Doonbeg is being hailed as “the most original links course ever built.” Located in County Clare, Doonbeg Golf Club encircles 1 ½ miles of crescent-shaped beach along the Atlantic Ocean. Developed by Kiawah Development Partners of South Carolina, the course was officially opened in July 2002. Norman himself while espousing the virtues of oldhead15the course said, “This is a course I want to be identified with, one that I will be able to say with great pride, ‘I did this one’.

The course a par-72 plays along 6,885-yards and is designed as a simple concentric loop of 9 holes out and 9 holes back. The landscape, which is defined by the ocean and given character by time – plays host to marram-grass dunes of some 100 feet in height standing as monuments to the past. In keeping with Norman’s laissez-faire principals and ‘least disturbance’ philosophy the bellow of the bulldozers were rarely heard in the tranquil setting. Incredible twelve of Doonbegs fairways were simply mowed while the undulations of the greens follow the natural lie of the land. The result of Norman’s temperance and mother nature is a quite uncommon combination; five par-3s and five par 5s.

doonbeg4Golf critics who have previewed the course have written extraordinary reviews. Sports Illustrated proclaimed the course to be “Greg Norman’s Mona Lisa” and rated Doonbeg’s 14th and 15th holes as the best par-3 and par-4 in southwest Ireland – even before the course was complete. While personally I believe the signature hole to be the closing 18th, a mighty par-4 that doglegs along the rugged coastline, playing to a magnificent green and protected by a collection of awesomely deep bunkers. It’s a grand finale for a truly grand links. Indeed Alan Shipnuck of Sports Illustrated observed, “I’m not sure I’ve ever trespassed across a course that begins and ends with such memorable holes as those at Doonbeg.” While the constant beating of the ocean and its winds have created a unique links venue it has also molded some other wonders of nature which are not to be missed on a visit to the South West coast of Ireland. The Cliffs of Moher to the north of Doonbeg rise some 700 feet above the Ocean and on a clear day, the Aran Islands are visible in Galway Bay as well as the valleys and hills of Connemara. These wonders of nature define the beauty and ruggedness of the landscape. While nature has created the raw materials man has refined much of these to his liking, indeed the historic Drumoland Castle exemplifies this. Dating to the 16th century this castle turned five star hotel will exceed all expectations. Located in Co. Clare just 8 miles from Shannon Airport, Drumoland Castle offers the comforts of today along with centuries old charm. For more on Doonbeg please click here.

oldhead16Moving further south to the historic county of Cork and to the picturesque seaside town of Kinsale, the Old Head of Kinsale Golf course was opened in 1997 to much acclaim. The course unfolds atop a 220-acre rocky promontory that juts out from the Irish coastline in to the insatiable jaws of the Atlantic. A narrow tract that is as historic as it is magnificent. The hallowed spit of land is a registered national monument and an ancient royal site. The earliest settlers predate Christ and were know as the Eranian Celctic tribe. While history continued to be played out in the area with Anglo-Norman invasion beginning in 1169 which ushered in a long period of Norman occupation. Remnants of castles and stone circles as well as churches and dwellings built on this site by monks during medieval times are visible throughout the course. While many are comparing the spectacular terrain of Old Head to that of Cypress Point and Pebble Beach – the landscape and views are if anything even more impressive. While as many as nine holes bring the 300 feet cliff faces into play, the entire performance is played out to the backdrop of a 19th century lighthouse.

oldhead18Ireland is a country well versed in the vagaries of weather patterns and no where is this better personified than on the links of Old Head. As the promontory strikes a blow for opposing the natural forces of the ocean it is met with coarse Atlantic winds and rolling fog which add to the challenge and suspense of the golfer. The natural symmetry of the land has allowed for a 6,650 yard, par 72 course configured as two returning loops. In picking a signature hole one is reminded of the challenge faced by a child raiding a candy store – every hole is so impressive it is hard to chose just one. My personal choice would be the 17th, where history, nature and the elements fuse to excite and defy the golfer in equal measure. The 17th a 628-yard par 5 begins all but within the lighthouse and ends with a black hole downhill approach – in between you traverse some magnetic fairways. The town of Kinsale much like the golf course is a happy melody of old world charm and contemporary comforts. Regarded as the gourmet capital of Ireland, Kinsale has many fine restaurants with fresh seafood a must for every visitor.

oldhead4While a trip to Ireland wouldn’t be complete without sampling the national treasure ‘Guinness’ and enjoying the craic in any of the local hostelries. For more on the Old Head of Kinsale please click here. In introducing these new wonders of Irish golf we should not forget the courses that have made Ireland a golfing mecca. Royal County Down, Portrush and Port Stewart in the north complement Ballybunion, Lahinch and Waterville in the south to create the ultimate list of links venues. While courses such as Mount Juliet and the K Club have become well accustomed to hosting the worlds elite, with the latter busily preparing to be the first Irish venue to hold the Ryder Cup in 2006.

If you would like to find out more information on any of the courses discussed or would like to book a package tour to Ireland then drop us a line at or call 00 353 66 71 81708. While further information is also available at

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