County Louth Golf Club

County Louth is probably the least widely known of Ireland’s leading Championship links.

It has a modest international profile and doesn’t see as much tourist traffic as some of the more commercial venues or those in popular golfing areas.

This makes it easier to keep the course in great condition and the members are probably happy with the low profile.

It is on a stretch of coast that supports other links courses such as Laytown and Bettystown and Seapoint. However, they are unlikely to attract International golfers.

It is only about 35 miles north of Dublin City and so is an easy day trip for golfers based in the capital.

About the same distance south of Dublin is “The European” course with a World ranking which has a much higher profile.

County Louth will fit into some tour schedules played en route by golfers moving from Dublin to Northern Ireland or crossing to the West coast from Dublin to play the links at County Sligo, Carne and Enniscrone.

 

County Louth Golf Course

(7031 yards, par 72)

County Louth Golf Club is located in the village of Baltray in the historic Boyne Valley region just north of Drogheda. It is at the mouth of the Boyne estuary and within 35 miles of the city of Dublin.

 The first holes at County Louth were laid out by Thomas Gilroy, a Scottish professional with the odd nickname of ‘Snowball’. He teamed up with a local barrister, George Henry Pentland who had never played golf.

Gilroy had laid out 11 basic holes at nearby Mornington several years earlier, but had trouble with neighbours and the project was abandoned. Pentland then suggested the Dunelands at Baltray and Gilroy was amazed when he saw the terrain.

“Here was I,” he said, “trying to make a course out of poor material when, less than a mile away, there was one of the best pieces of golfing ground in the world!” The club was established in 1892 and prospered from the start. 

It was not until 1938 that full advantage was taken of its superb linksland. Tom Simpson and Molly Gourlay redesigned the course on about 200 acres of linksland.

Simpson was an English barrister turned golf architect. He was wealthy, eccentric and flamboyant. He arrived in a silver chauffeur driven Rolls Royce to walk the construction site clad in an embroidered cloak and beret and carrying a shooting stick or riding crop.

Gourlay was English Ladies’ champion in 1926 and 1929, she could have been the first woman golf course architect. Simpson was however a serious golf architect following strategic principles close to those of Harry Colt and Dr Alistair McKenzie.

Simpson and Gourlay had also remodelled Ballybunion and Carlow. For their services, Simpson charged County Louth £40. The redesign of Tom Simpson and Molly Gourlay was so successful that the course remains relatively unchanged today.

The present course is an authentic yet subtle test of shotmaking on an understated, traditional great of Irish links golf. It is a true Championship venue that in season plays firm and fast.

Shots running along the ground being almost as essential here to good scoring as the game through the air. Its sand-based fairways follow imaginative routing rippling and tumbling through the dunes.

The greens have outstanding diversity as Simpson set out to provide eighteen completely individual putting surfaces. He also believed that fairway bunkers could be unnecessary if there are bold contours, natural hazards and the greens and surrounds were properly situated.

This is a seaside course beautifully fitting the landscape and was only lightly bunkered. He only created 50 bunkers on the course, less than 3 per hole. This may well have changed over time as equipment and professional play have improved.

The opening holes have generous fairways and welcoming greens. An honest test on the flatter terrain with forays into the dunes, some changes in elevation and a couple of sharp doglegs.

The short holes are particularly challenging with some stimulating contours on and around the greens. From the 12th to the 16th the holes run through the dunes alongside the sea and there are great views to be had from the elevated 14th tee.

The wind is almost always an issue at County Louth, you need to be able to shape the ball both ways to score well. The dunes may not be as large as some to be found on Irish links.

However, there are many of them and they provide an excellent frame to many of the holes, particularly around the turn.

There are a variety of teeing options available to ensure enjoyment for golfers of all levels.

A unique feature of the County Louth Golf Club is the availability of bedroom accommodation in the Clubhouse. There are eight comfortable bedrooms upstairs, a mix of single and double/twin. 

 

Irish Open Championship

County Louth has hosted the European Tours Irish Open Championship twice in 2004 and 2009.

The tournament in 2004 was typical, with  Brent Rumford of Australia winning with a total of 274 shots. He finished 14 under par, four shots better than Padraig Harrington of Ireland and Raphael Jacquelin of France.

In 2009 it was far from normal. Shane Lowry an amateur was playing partly to test if he was ready to turn professional. The event gained recognition around the world when Shane Lowry made history by scoring 67,62,71, 71, a total of 271 and 17 under par.

This left him to play Robert Rock from England in a playoff. He won at the third extra hole. Ironically, winning a European Tour event as an amateur he won the trophy but Robert Rock could not lose in terms of the cheque and went away with €500,000.

Lowry turned professional and made history again when he won the 2019 Open Championship at Royal Portrush.

 

County Louth Golf Course Highlights

Hole 1

454 yards, par 4, index 4

A difficult opening hole that starts with a drive into slanting, hummocky ground protected left and right by punitive bunkers.

The fairway moves left and the approach shot is over a gentle rise that hides a pot bunker just short of the green.

The green falls off to the right.

Hole 5

173 yards, par 3, index 12

A memorable one-shotter played from an elevated wind-exposed platform across swales to a plateau green defended by a gathering of bunkers and steep falloffs.

Hole 7 

183 yards, par 3, index 10

Plays from lofty wind exposed platform to a difficult green complex with deep bunkers fronting the green.

Hole 9

419 yards, par 4, index 2

Takes you back to the clubhouse with 6 bunkers in collection area of the tee shot. It is well bunkered near the green with a difficult bunker in front of the green.

Hole 10

429 yards, par 4, index 9

From the tee, a slight dogleg left with two bunkers protecting the right corner of fairway and two at the green.

A nice start to the back nine.

Hole 11

470 yards, par 4, index 1

The longest par four that can play tricky with the wind up.

The green is protected by seven bunkers.

Hole 14

332 yards, par 4, index 13

From the tee, the view embraces the broad beach, the grey-green sea and on a clear day the lovely Mountains of Mourne.

The shot from the elevated tee is to a fairway almost 200 yards away.

The approach is a tricky pitch to a small plateau green partly hidden within the dunes.

The green complex is surrounded by small mounds with many humps and hollows fronting the green.

Hole 15

167 yards, par 3, index 17

From the tee, it can look as if the green is on an island.

You play up the coast towards the beach.

The small raised and tiered green is well bunkered, one to the front and two to the right.

Hole 17

207 yards, par 3, index 15

The final par three from an elevated tee needs a long carry over rough scrub to an elevated green.

Hole 18

559 yards, par 5, index 11

A strong closing hole where the tee shot must account for well-placed bunkers on the left of the fairway.

There are pot bunkers in the middle of the fairway, one of them 100 yards short of the green, the other 50 yards closer.

They test the second shot and can transform a possible birdie into a par or bogey.

Near the green two cross bunkers front right and side left of the green come into play.

 

Selected Local Attractions near County Louth

Newgrange Passage Tombs

This is one of Europe’s most remarkable passage tombs. It is aligned so that the rising sun sends a shaft of light into the tomb at the winter solstice.

Built around 3400 B.C. together with Dowth and Knowth, these three Megalithic passage tombs make up the Brú na Bóinne Unesco World Heritage site.

Around 8.20 am on the winter solstice, between December 18th and 23rd, the rising sun's rays shine through the roof-box above the entrance, creep slowly down the long passage and illuminate the tomb chamber for 17 minutes.

This is an unforgettable experience. Whenever you visit there is a simulated winter sunrise for every group entering the mound. Newgrange is older than Stonehenge and the Great Pyramids of Giza.

The original purpose of the tomb is not known and there are various theories and myths.

You enter and walk down a narrow passage for 19 meters into the tomb chamber. The passage is lined with stone uprights, some with engraving.

The chamber has three recesses that held cremated human bones.

Above, massive stones support the vaulted roof. Amazingly a drainage system that the builders installed appears not to have let in any water in countless centuries.

Slane Castle 

Overlooking the River Boyne just upstream from Newgrange and is well worth a tour.

Also housed in the stables you can have an interactive and immersive tour of the state of the art working distillery.

Finish the tour in the best way possible, with a taste of the signature triple casked blend, Slane Irish Whiskey.

Trim Castle

Ireland's largest Anglo-Norman fortification.

It was founded by Hugh de Lacy in 1173. Within a year it was destroyed  by Ruaidrí Ua Conchobair the last high King of Ireland. The present building dates to around 1200.

Throughout Anglo-Norman times it had a strategic position on the western edge of the Pale. This was the area where the Anglo-Normans ruled supreme. 

Away from Trim was the dangerous country where Irish chieftains fought with Norman rivals striving for power and land.

In the 16th century, the castle started to decline and in 1649 the town was taken by Cromwellian forces and it was ruthlessly damaged.

The castle's stone keep was mounted on a Norman motte. Outside the central keep are the remains of an earlier wall. The long outer-curtain wall is mainly still standing.

Fans of the film Braveheart might recall that it starred as Edinburgh Castle, York Castle and the Tower of London.

 

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