Ballyliffin Old Course

Ballyliffin is not a Golf Resort, you have a choice of several local hotels which are very close to the club.

Below are notes on one of the local hotels. A list of alternative hotels is to be found on the Ballyliffen Golf Club website.

Many believe that the two highly ranked courses at Ballyliffen are the best 36 holes of links golf in the Republic of Ireland.

Ballyliffin Lodge and Spa Hotel

Located just over half a mile from the golden sands of Pollan Bay and the world-famous Ballyliffin Golf Club.

It has 40 bedrooms, all of which are decorated and equipped to a very high luxurious standard with complimentary Wi-Fi in all areas of the hotel. 

Dining at the hotel you get exceptional value for money, accompanied by great food and quality service by award winning chefs making dining a memorable experience.

Elegant and warmly furnished, every room at the hotel has an en suite bathroom with a hairdryer, free Wi-Fi, and an in-room safe.

Guests can make use of a telephone, TV, and tea/coffee facilities in the room.

The Lodge leisure complex features:

  • a relaxing sauna and steam room
  • a modern gym
  • air-conditioned aerobics studio
  • wide range of exercise classes, including aqua aerobics, step, and swimming are available.

With views of the Donegal Inishowen coastline, the open-plan Jacks Bar and Restaurant serves buffet breakfasts, lunch, afternoon tea and evening meals.

 

Ballyliffin Golf Club

The club is located 10 miles due South of Malin Head, the northernmost tip of Ireland.

It is on the scenic Inishowen Peninsula and at the start of the Wild Atlantic Way. Ballyliffin has Ireland’s most northerly golf links, two courses on 365 acres of magnificent duneland.

It is bounded by rolling hills and mountains with the only other boundary being the Atlantic Ocean. The Golf Club has two superb eighteen hole courses

  • The classic Old Links
  • The superb modern Glashedy Links

They are unique in the quality and the contrasting excellence with two courses at one club, both high in the rankings. Ballyliffen has recently been described as “the Ballybunion of the North” and is now firmly on the itinerary of every selective golfer visiting Ireland. 

Only established in 1947, Ballyliffin has rapidly gained acclaim and recognition as 36 of the finest holes of links golf in Ireland.

Ballyliffin Golf Historic Summary

Golf had been played irregularly at Pollen Green by members of the British Army stationed at Leenan Fort and later by others. After World War II the idea of establishing a Golf Club in the area gained momentum.

A meeting was held in 1947 and it was decided that the Ballyliffin Golf Club be established. A lease for a period of ten years was granted by the ten landowners concerned.

The course was officially opened in 1948. Membership of the Club didn't just mean turning up to play a round of golf, in practice it meant that members brought along their own lawnmowers to cut greens and tees before they played.

Development of the Club proved to be slow through the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s. In October 1956 the medium-term future of the Club was secured when the landowners agreed to extend the lease of land up to 1972.

Membership increased improving revenue and an increase in green fee contributions. The question of the renewal of the land lease eventually had to be addressed and in 1968 it seemed unlikely.

It was decided to look at leasing a very large area of links territory outside the current nine-hole course. There was much negotiation because the 400 acres or more of land was commonage. 

All the landowners, in turn, gave the approval to sell their portions to the Golf Club at £500 per share.

Work began in 1970 on what is now the 'Old' links. At first, nine holes were prepared and eventually by 1973 eighteen holes were in play. Eddie Hackett, who was the golfing architect, attached to Bord Failte, visited the course on several occasions and helped to lay out the playing holes.

The acquisition of 400 acres of land, in practical terms, highlighted financial concerns to a new level. The most successful initiative proved to be the selling of shares to members for a percentage return in their investments. The club was fortunate with an increase in memberships and green fee intake.

In 1974 disquiet, was expressed by members regarding the dangers of erosion along the seaward boundary of the course. This real threat to the Club's property, and indeed to the future of golf in Ballyliffin was by increased removal of the natural gravel barriers protecting the coastline.

Thousands of tonnes of gravel were being removed weekly, leaving a sandy coastline to the mercy of the sea. A large tract of the property was literally washed away.

While the Club was concerned environmentalists petitioned the Council to be responsible and proactive. In general, the 1970s was a time of constant financial problems which inhibited the growth and development of the Club.

Special committees were formed to:

  • Run Monthly Concerts
  • Organise a Club Draw
  • Run Bazaars

Six months later, at the A.G.M. of 17th February 1978 the Treasurer, reported that the Bazaar and Raffle Committees, by raising £1,160 had effectively rescued the Club from a precarious financial position.

At the A.G.M. of 24th February 1980 members agreed that the time had come to make the Club more attractive for members and visitors alike and accordingly the implementation of a development plan was agreed. The balance figure for 1984 revealed that the year was a disastrous one for the Club financially speaking.

However, in subsequent years, with a marked increase in the popularity of golf in general, the Club performed with a much greater degree of profitability.

At the A.G.M. of 1st February, 1987 the Auditor declared that the £100 Draw had been a magnificent success and thus the Club had a credit balance of £102,826.74.

In 1987 a new Clubhouse was opened and perhaps symbolically represents the point when the sleeping giant that was Ballyliffin Golf Club exploded onto the golfing map of the world.

From this historic moment, the Club would never look back. Ballyliffin Golf Club suddenly became a business that necessitated careful management. From 1987 membership numbers mushroomed, green fees almost tripled and the numbers of societies playing increases to the point where they had to be regulated.

A Development Committee was established towards the end of 1991, the purpose was to draw up a long term plan for the clubs future which would address the problem of constant pressure on the course and clubhouse from visiting players.

In the early summer of 1992 members of the committee met with Pat Ruddy and Tom Craddock, golf course architects from Dublin to discuss using the remaining land.

They strongly advised the club to build a second course of championship standard. Ruddy & Craddock were employed to design the new course. The instructions given to the course designers was to create a world-class championship course.

The Minister for Tourism and Trade was approached and a grant of £315,000 was approved. Construction of the course began on 7th May 1993 and was completed in record time with the opening taking place on 3rd August 1995. 

 

The Glashedy Links Golf Course

(7486 yards, par 72)

The Glashedy Links opened in 1995 and makes the most of a genuinely spectacular location.

It is a Pat Ruddy and Tom Craddock masterpiece fashioned around the incredible dunes of Ballyliffin. Ruddy has returned on many occasions to fine-tune the bunkering and oversee the constant improvements to the links.

The course has been laid out mostly on higher ground above and beyond the Old Links.

The views are magnificent. Glashedy is a wild and challenging links course, it combines spectacular terrain with the characteristics of a mature Championship course.

It is named after the massive, mystic Glashedy Rock about a mile offshore and has large undulating greens, deep bunkers and fairways that twist and roll between towering dunes. The challenge presented by the Glashedy Links is almost as formidable as it is exciting.

The course winds up some hills which creates difficulty on some par fours but allows for some thrilling downhill holes too.

 The Glashedy layout is intertwined with the Old Course, the holes weaving their way through the wild dunes, with nine brutal par fours in excess of 400 yards.

You really do need to be on top of your game to play to your handicap. The huge greens, with some scary undulations, are well protected by bunkers, three-putting can be a constant threat.

The large greens and rolling hills certainly offer plenty of challenges. The deep menacing revetted bunkers will undoubtedly threaten if you are just slightly off line, it’s a true but fair links test.

The Glashedy Links offers a challenge unlike any other, it is long and with the ever blowing wind it can become a monster.

There are many signature holes that all have their own charms but one hole, in particular, catches your eye.

The par-three seventh playing from height to a green sited 100 feet below at ground level.

Every hole is different and each of them asks a different question, whether it’s from the tee or approaching the green. The putting surfaces are spectacularly good, they are true and fast.

The Glashedy golf course has multiple tees to suit all golfers.


Ballyliffen Old Links Course

(6937 yards, par 71)

The Old Links was opened in 1973 following the clubs move from rented lands nearby and was originally designed by Eddie Hackett the godfather of Irish Golf with contributions from, Lawrie, Pennick and members.

Ruddy and Craddock made considerable changes whilst he was routing the Glashedy Links and Nick Faldo upgraded the links in 2005/6.

When Nick Faldo visited Ballyliffin he described the Old Links as the most natural golf course he had ever seen. The course is a classically old style links that exudes charm, character and curiosity in equal measure with rumpled fairways which wildly skip and hop from tee to green.

More than anything it is the extraordinary terrain that makes a golf game on the Old Links such a unique experience. Stand on any tee and the fairway undulates in each and every direction.

The principal architect of the links was none other than Mother Nature herself. The Old Links undulates in the glory of its natural terrain presenting an immensely enjoyable challenge to every golfer.

Work recently undertaken by Nick Faldo has strengthened the links and brought much acclaim from members and visitors. Few other layouts boast quite so many corrugated fairways that mean a level stance is not to be found very often.

Given the spectacularly exposed nature of the course these uneven lies add much to the strategy.

It is simply impossible to determine which way the weather is coming from as it rolls off the Atlantic and around the mountains that form the backdrop to Ballyliffin.

Find yourself with an uphill lie and it is a skilled links player indeed who can avoid a high shot and being at the mercy of the wind. Similarly challenging is trying to predict the bounce of the ball on a downwind shot when the fairways are firm.

So much rain falls in this area that Ballyliffin rarely loses its green tinge.

Like many esteemed seaside courses, the Old would be much diminished without its local weather, as the holes change character from one day to the next and sometimes in between.

For years the course was a place so remote that while many golfers knew of its existence, few had actually made the trek up to the rugged northeast corner of County Donegal.

Those who did bought back reports of the amazing linksland they found there, of fairways that rippled and rolled through shaggy dunes, almost as if they were an extension of the waves on Pollan Bay.

 

Irish Open

The Ballyliffin Golf Club was host to the Irish Open in 2018. The Glashedy course record was 67, set by Jean-François Lucquin in 2002, then Rory McIlroy shot a 66 in 2006.

The course record was eventually broken again in the 2018 Dubai Duty Free Irish Open where Erik van Rooyen, Andy Sullivan and Jorge Campillo all shot rounds of 65 to share the honour of owning the course record on the Glashedy Links.

The winner was Russell Knox from Scotland after beating Ryan Fox from New Zealand in a play-off.

 

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