With 7 of the top 35 courses in Ireland located less than an hour from the Clanree Hotel, it is easy to see the options that golf fanatics have to choose from. These course have remained hidden gems meaning no clogged fairways or inflated green fees and a warm welcome every time. Here is a rundown of the championship golf on our doorstep.
Described by Rory McIlroy as one of his favourite links courses in the world, it was no surprise when he made the effort to take the Irish Open in 2018 to this links paradise. The most northerly links course in the Republic of Ireland is no longer a hidden gem as the world has now taken notice.
Less than an hour from the Clanree, the two courses on site offer very different challenges. The Glashedy Course offers a modern links challenge with severe length, penal rough and lightning greens the main challenges. And that is on a calm day! The Old Course is much more traditional with severe undulations, roll offs, pot bunkers and tight greens keeping you honest. With both courses in the top 20 in Ireland, a trip to North Donegal will not be a wasted one.
When Old Tom Morris was invited by the Earl of Leitrim to build a 9 hole golf course in 1891, I am sure he did not imagine that over 120 years later golfers from all corners would be travelling to play his wonderful layout. The old course at Rosapenna now bears the name of Old Tom, and his statue watches over the resort which has evolved into one of the finest in Europe.
Both courses at Rosapenna are world class which is reflected in the names that have been involved in the designs from Old Tom Morris to Pat Ruddy and Beau Welling. Just a short 35 minute drive from the Clanree will have you on the first tee looking out across Sheephaven Bay with the stunning Mount Errigal in the distance. A round at Rosapenna will live long in the memory and provide a night of talking points over your drink in McGettigans Bar.
As you make your way out on the front 9 at Portsalon Golf Club, you may struggle to concentrate on your golf game. The sight of one of the most beautiful beaches in the world hugging the left side of the front 9 is enough to distract any golfer. Ballymastocker Bay is a stretch of golden sandy beach that must be among the most photographed in Ireland. With Knockalla jutting out behind it into the North Atlantic Ocean beyond, this is one of the most breath-taking stretches of holes in Irish golf.
The golf course at Portsalon has enjoyed large investment since the turn of the century but regardless of this, still maintain a welcome informality. The second hole played from an elevated tee across the beach onto a narrow landing area is simply one of the best holes you will find anywhere.
At just a 30 minute drive from the Clanree Hotel and with green fees remaining reasonable considering the standard of the course, a trip to Portsalon is a must on your trip to Donegal.
Making your way up the tree lined driveway to the clubhouse at Donegal Golf Club, you would be forgiven for wondering if you have mistakenly found yourself on Magnolia Lane before a game at Augusta National.
The similarities between the most exclusive club in the world and ‘Murvagh’ as the locals know it, can also be recognised in the quality of this rugged links layout. Regularly ranked in the top 20 courses in Ireland, Murvagh can measure over 7,400 yards off the tips. Darren Clarke is know to rank this as one of his favourite courses in the world. With the journey time of only 45 minutes from the Clanree, you can sample this Eddie Hackett design and make it back for a late afternoon swim in our leisure centre before an evening in McGettigans Bar.
Located in rugged west Donegal on what feels like the edge of the earth, a links golf gem has been sculpted from the dunes at Narin & Portnoo. Recent redevelopments have seen the course extended to a par 73 and among the many memorable hotels, the 15th which is lined by a stunning beach. This is fantastic in theory but any tee shots with too much fade will find their way into the Atlantic Ocean.
With a journey time of almost an hour from the Clanree Hotel, a trip to Narin & Portnoo is best included on a longer stay golfing itinerary while playing golf in Donegal.