Donegal Golf Club

Donegal Golf Club is located on the Murvagh peninsula in Co. Donegal. The course can be accessed from the N15 Donegal to Sligo Road. It is around a 10-minute drive from Donegal Town or 15-minute drive from the Ballyshannon bypass if travelling from the Sligo direction.

It is surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean and Donegal Bay and is one of the longest golf courses in Ireland. The course is an easy walk with panoramic views of Donegal Bay and the surrounding countryside.

The peninsula itself is steeped in local and ancient history and it is an enchanted and isolated setting 

Donegal Golf Club History

In the middle of the 20th century, a Donegal golf course was discussed and land in the Tullycullion townland was donated by the Temple family, owners of the world-famous Magee & Co. Following design and construction, the course opened in May 1960.

The Club remained in that location for just over ten years, a community effort where much of the club maintenance was performed by members. As membership grew so did the motivation to have a larger links golf course.

There were 180 acres of the Murvagh peninsula jutting on a peninsula into the Atlantic.

It was accessed by an avenue through forestry land and not suitable for forestry or farming. It was however ideal for a links golf course and perfectly tranquil.  The Temple family, once again, was involved in obtaining this land.

A lease was obtained and the renowned golf architect the late Eddie Hackett was engaged and the course was designed using Muirfield, with its routing being two circuits of golf, as its model.

The new course had 18 holes open for play by 1973. The club has over the years had a number of holes redesigned by Pat Ruddy.

 

Donegal Golf Course

(7456 yards Par 73)

Donegal Golf Course is a links golf course built on a promontory that extends out into the Atlantic Ocean. The course is built on land of geological significance. It was inhabited in past centuries and the earliest of Irish maps indicate this.

The promontory is known for its isolated and breath-taking location, with panoramic views across Donegal Bay and the Bluestack Mountains providing a dramatic backdrop.

There are:

  • Five Par 5s
  • Four Par 3s 
  • Nine Par 4s

Each hole has five tees, plus a beginner tee.

The outside loop plays along the dunes and the ocean providing striking views of the surrounding area. The inner loop is more protected but the changing winds add to the challenge. Despite its length, the course is an easy walk with wildlife, fauna and flora that changes through the year.

It is fair to say Donegal is one of the toughest links around and it should be on many golfer’s lists to play.

The links invoke everything that golf romantics seek. Challenging golf and traditional Irish Links surrounded by panoramic views of the rugged coast of Western Ireland.

It has unsurpassed beauty and tranquillity that is almost impossible to find in the modern world. The course at Murvagh is very challenging and is sometimes dubbed the Muirfield of Ireland.

 

Donegal Golf Club Course Highlights

Hole 2 – Westward

466 yards, Par 4, index 4 

Named as the only hole that faces West and into the prevailing winds.

It is a challenging hole from the back tees.

A long hitter may play over the first set of fairway bunkers, but for the average golfer a long approach shot is needed.

The green has bunkers on both sides and is particularly difficult to hold. A conservative approach is to lay up and then chip and putt for a par.

Hole 4 – Fosters Castle

513 yards, par 4, index 1

The tee shot needs a good drive to clear a ditch.

Aim down the right as the fairway on the left has a bank of fairway bunkers.

The long tiered green is protected by bunkers on all sides.

Chose your next club carefully as the long green has various pin placements.

A very difficult long par 4. 

Hole 5 - Valley of Tears 

202 yards, par 3, index 7 

It is a semi-blind tee shot to a narrow plateau green.

There is no fairway so limited options.

If you fail to carry you will likely have a difficult shot from a killer greenside bunker close to the punch bowl green.

Aim for the back left of the green and the bowl shape can feed the ball towards the pin, depending on placement.

Hole 7 – St Ernan’s 

434 yards, par 4, index 13

The tee shot is best up the right.

This leaves a second shot down a cascading fairway to the green from an elevated height.

Shorter hitters could go left leaving a closer line to a generous green.

Hole 8 – Moyne Hill 

549 yards, par 5, index 5 

From the elevated tee here it requires a solid hit to carry to the fairway.

Favour the right side as the fairway kicks to the left.

A blind second shot should favour the left of the centre to avoid a deep and treacherous chasm.

However, the long hitter will shoot directly over it, to an elevated fairway.

On the approach, particularly with a longer iron, favour the right and benefit from the slopes to feed your ball towards the centre of the green.

Another generous green, but be sure to be up. It is one of the signature holes of the course.

Hole 10 - Hackett’s Corner 

347 yards, par 4, index 16 

The tee shot is into a dogleg left here.

Long hitters can risk cutting the corner to leave a pitch to the green which is blind from the tee.

Conservative play is down the right.

The green is then within reach of the second shot, as long as its straight.

The green itself is long and wide.

The hole honours the late Eddie Hackett who designed the original course.

Hole 11 – Fairy Rath

404 yards, par 4, index 6 

The fairway of this par 4 heads slightly left, and the golfer has a decision to make on the tee.

Do they play up short or accurately thread his best drive in between the two fairway bunkers?

It is perhaps Donegal’s version of the Valley of Sin, the swale to the front and right of the green is unseen and can catch the best of shots, making for a very difficult up and down.

Tradition associates the circular remains of the rath (fort) with leprechauns and fairies, calling them 'fairy forts'.

It is speculated that one may have existed here just short and to the left of the green.

Hole 14 - Hare’s Croft 

565 yards, par 5, index 2 

One of the longest holes on the course. The tee shot is best down the right.

Aim to the right off the tee then for the second shot chose the left of the fairway.

This will lead you up to a winding watercourse some distance from the front of the green leaving a full approach shot.

The green is long and sloped, requiring some accomplished putting.

The Murvagh Peninsula has plenty of wildlife with hares, badgers, squirrels and various birds.

During the season, many a golfer has to pause a shot, while hares scamper across the fairway.

Hole 15 – The Larks 

409 yards, par 4, index 8 

The fairway on this par 4 is somewhat narrower than most others, is framed by two hills off the tee.

A good drive should run straight down the middle from where the tip of the flag can be seen.

The green appears to be much closer than it is, and a good second shot must be long enough to carry all the way, avoiding the bunkers on both sides of another generous green.

The golf course abounds with larks, a ground-nesting bird that makes its home in the protected areas of rough, away from the fairways.

It is common with an errant shot to see these small birds pop up from the rough, attempting to distract the oncoming golfer away from its nest.

The singing of this bird can be heard from April to September.

Hole 16 – Temple 

248 yards, par 3, index 4 

This is the longest par 3 on the course, and while the hole looks fairly straightforward from the tee, it demands a good drive to reach the green.

A fairway bunker, some yards from the front of the green catches a missed hit and makes par difficult.

The late H.L. Temple, the owner of Magee's of Donegal, was instrumental in acquiring the land, both for the original course in Tullycullion, and the present course in Murvagh, and this hole is named in his memory.

 

Local Attractions in Donegal

Donegal Castle

Donegal Castle is on the aptly named Castle Street in the heart of Donegal Town. It was Initially built as a stronghold in 1474 by Hugh O’Donnell chief of the O’Donnell clan. The O’Donnell’s ruled one of the biggest territories in Ireland mostly made up of Donegal and its neighbouring counties.

In the 1580s, the O’Donnell’s joined forces with the O’Neill’s a lifelong enemy of the clan, as there was threat of their lands being seized by the crown. Red Hugh O’Donnell who led the battles against the English was victorious for a short period but eventually lost to the English at the Battle of Kinsale in 1602.

This resulted in Red Hugh and many other Irish Chieftains leaving Ireland for Spain, known as ‘The Flight of the Earls’. Their defeat paved the way for the Plantation of Ulster by thousands of newly arrived Scots and English Protestants, sowing the seeds of the divisions that still afflict Ireland to this day.

In 1611, the crown took control of all estates that belonged to the O’Donnell clan and gifted the castle to English Captain Sir Basil Brooke.

In 1898, the castle was donated to the Office of Public Works who began restoring the castle in the 1990s. On the top floor of the Castle is where you will find the History Room, full of displays where you can learn a great deal about the O’Donnell’s.

The Trip Stairs are about 550 years old, a spiral stairway made entirely in stone. The Banqueting Hall has a huge fireplace bearing the Brooke family arms and stuffed wild boar head on the wall making this seem like a place where many a fine meal was had.

Guarding a picturesque bend of the River Eske the well-preserved 15th-century Donegal Castle is an imperious monument to Irish and English might. The castle was rebuilt in 1623 by Sir Basil Brooke, along with the adjacent three-storey Jacobean house.

The Great Hall has a vast and ornate fireplace, French tapestries and Persian rugs.

 

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