Ballyliffin (Old) - Donegal - Ireland

Ballyliffin Golf Club,
Ballyliffin,
Inishowen,
Co. Donegal,
Ireland


  • +353 (0) 7493 76119

  • John Farren

  • Eddie Hackett, Charles Lawrie, Frank Pennink and Nick Faldo

  • Gareth McCausland


Visit Golfbreaks.com for a golf holiday at Ballyliffin (Old)

Ballyliffin is Ireland’s most northerly golf club, located off Tullagh Point on the Atlantic edge of the Inishowen Peninsula. The location is divine; the course hugs the shoreline overlooking the golden beach of Pollan Strand and Glashedy Rock (Ballyliffin’s equivalent of Turnberry’s Ailsa Craig).

It’s difficult to pin a date on the earliest origins of the game of golf at Ballyliffin, though it is clear that the Ballyliffin Golf Club was founded in 1947. The Old course originally started out in life as very ordinary nine-hole course and the club progressed very slowly, often struggling financially. In the late 1960s, Martin Hopkins, a local agricultural advisor, identified a prime stretch of links land nearby, ideal for golf.  Eddie Hackett, Charles Lawrie and Frank Pennink were engaged in shaping the new links course and in 1973, the brand new “Old” course opened for play.

The Old is a classic links, with fairways that pitch and roll through wild dunes. This is links golf at its most traditional, where the perfect drive will often find an awkward lie. If you are afflicted with a lack of balance, you will struggle, because you’ll rarely get a flat stance.

For about 20 years, the Old course remained well and truly outside of the limelight. Only those in the know, and Ballyliffin’s lucky members, knew the secret.  Then, in June 1993, a helicopter dropped out of the blue sky and landed next to the clubhouse with the world number one on board.  After a quick thrash around the Old course, Nick Faldo was spellbound, falling under Ballyliffin’s trance. “One of the most natural courses I have ever played,” he commented. And from that point onwards, Ballyliffin came of age. The Faldo design team was engaged in the renovation of the Old course. With new revetted bunkers, new 'Faldo' tees and two enlarged greens, the Old course is set to rise much higher in the Top 100 rankings. Renovation work is now complete and the Old course hosted the 2008 Irish Seniors Open. "Tank" the stunning par three 5thRyder Cup captain Ian Woosnam and his assistants Sandy Lyle and Des Smyth were in the starting line up, but it was Spain’s Juan Quiros who claimed the title by a single shot from a disappointed Des Smyth.

There are many memorable holes on the Old course, but the 190-yard par three 5th, called “The Tank”, will stick in the mind for a very long time. It’s an intimidating tee shot to an elevated plateau, almost stage-like green that is surrounded by dunes.

Ballyliffin’s new Glashedy course has recently upstaged the Old, but don’t make a trip to County Donegal without playing it. Both courses contrast and complement each other supremely well. But for the true links purist, the Old course is the one.

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Reviews for Ballyliffin (Old)

Av. Reviewers Score:
Description: The Old course at Ballyliffin Golf Club is a classic links, with fairways that pitch and roll through wild dunes. Rating: 5.2222222222222 out of 6

One immediately feels the difference between The Glashedy and the Old Course. The Old has a more classic feel to it. The bumpy fairways have not been leveled so level lie will be found rarely. Especially on The first 11 holes, I all found them good golfholes but in my opinion they lack a bit of diversity. Alsho having played the Glashedy, it seemed that there were a lot of short-mid range par 4’s with a slight dogleg right that played roughly the same and therefore weren’t too special. There are a few standout holes like the brutal par 3 5th. It played downwind with 5 Bft. To a highly raised, shallow green between dunes and a front pin position. Anything short would be 40 yards back down the fairway. Luckily my 5 iron punch worked like a charm and now forms a fond memory. The back nine is where it really gets good, with some holes right next to the sea with sloping fairways, deep swales and some long finishing holes. No surprise that Sir Nick appreciates this course. I’d love to go back but I do feel after having played Sandy Hills (for a fraction of the price) and the Glashedy, that 120 euro’s might not be the best deal in Donegal. However, I thoroughly enjoyed my round on this classic links and Ballyliffin is a great destination that shouldn’t be missed. MO

September 12, 2017


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The Old Links at Ballyliffin may be viewed by many as being inferior to the Glashedy, the younger and more dramatic sibling, but in reality there is not much to choose between them.

As you drive down from the village and look over the magnificent piece of land on which the two courses sit, there appears to be enough ideal ground to build at least two more. What a destination that would make, however Ballyliffin (Old) Golf Course - Photo by reviewerremote. The Old Links had to undergo architectural changes to make room for the Glashedy but you would never know it playing there today. Further refinements were made by Faldo in 2006 with some major bunker improvements adding to the charm and interest of this most traditional of links courses. Holes spill in all directions, pitching and tumbling to leave many uneven stances and although not long from the daily tees there is no shortage of challenge even in a rare light breeze. The back nine occupies the land nearest to the sea and this was marginally the better half in my opinion with holes 14 to 18 providing an excellent finish. On my first visit here there was only enough time to play the Glashedy but I made sure not to make the same mistake this time around. Don't miss Ballyliffin and when you arrive remember to say hello to the Gareth, one of the friendliest and most welcoming head pros you could wish to meet. Brian W

September 11, 2016


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If you are willing to play a true natural course, this Old Course is one of the best choices you have in the world, where no earth was moved. The layout just was Ballyliffin (Old) Golf Course - Photo by reviewermowed and bunkers place, with of course some shaping work in the greens but really very little. Opened in 1949, in the 90s Faldo did a complete refurbishing of the bunkers of a place that he stated more than once that he loved. The course is pretty much plain, with no big level changes but it has very nice views of the Ocean and the Glashedy Rock, which gives the name to the other course in the property. I played on a twosome with the Club Captain Paddy and it was nice as I was able to learn a lot about the history of the course and of the Club, how the new Glashedy was built, how Faldo helped and the day Rory as a young kid smashed the Glashedy course with a 66. The front 9 are maybe easier than the back with some great holes like Ballyliffin (Old) Golf Course - Photo by revieweruphill par 3 5th, a very tough green to hold the ball and if you miss, God help you! Course gets nice, tough and demanding as you arrive to long par 3 number 12, where a long iron is needed to reach that tough green. 14 to 18 make it a very nice final, specially long and tough 18th where if you miss the tee shot, the third one will be a very long one. A very well kept course, natural and true, with great views and challenge. Do not avoid any of them, maybe the best idea is to play 36 the same day and experience in real time the very big difference between Old and Glashedy.
December 18, 2014


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Very good golf course. Played the Old in the morning and Glashedy in the afternoon. This is a brilliant 36 holes of golf. Considering the courses occupy the same land, they are very different in topography and conditioning. I would urge golfers to play both courses at this top resort.
July 08, 2014


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Having played the Glashedy in the morning I thought we may have already played the best of the two courses and the afternoon was just going to be a post lunch knock around but I was wrong. The Old is every bit as good as its bigger brother. It's not as long as the other course and  much flatter but this doesn't make it any less challenging, it just means it's more playable (even enjoyable) for the average player. The fairways are very traditional links and the greens were a joy to putt on. I can't recommend Ballyliffin highly enough as a resort, 2 great courses, great food and service and the Guiness isn't too bad either.
May 17, 2011


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Out of the two superb courses at Ballyliffin this just nudges it for me. There’s something about the more traditional linksy feel with it’s numerous bumps and hollows that brings a smile to the face on every hole – though probably not the greenkeepers who somehow have to cut the bumpy surfaces. It’s also a touch easier which would suit me if I had the pleasure of being a member here. Both courses are must plays and the welcome at this resort is second to none. The food is also excellent (As is the Guinness!).
May 02, 2011


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Probably my favourite 36 hole complex in Ireland. Course plays different every time I have played it but the condition of the course always remains the same – excellent. The course is complimented by a fantastic clubhouse and friendly staff. Anybody that has not yet made their way to Ballyliffin should make it their next port of call.
March 23, 2011


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The Glashedy was my favourite at Ballyliffin when I played here before but I fell in love with the Old course this time around. The Faldo bunker changes that have been incorporated so sympathetically into the design were a delight to behold, blending in so unobtrusively into the golfing landscape. I loved “The Tank” (so reminiscent of the wonderful uphill 13th at Muirfield) on the front nine and the run of holes along Pollan Strand between the 14th and 16th (with exhilarating tee shots from positions beside the sandy shore) were a delight to play. It was marvellous to listen to some of the members back in the clubhouse describe the original, elementary nine holes that were laid out back in the late 1940’s, comparing what had gone before to the magnificent modern day 36-hole complex now in play – a links setup that everyone on the Inishowen peninsula can be justifiably proud of. A lot of water has flown under many a golfing bridge since my untrained eye surveyed the scene here six and a half years ago so, in the light of experience gained since then, my original 5 ball review is grossly inadequate for either the Old or the Glashedy at Ballyliffin – nothing short of 6 balls will suffice for two of the best links courses that I have played in GB & I. Jim McCann
April 08, 2010


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As an overseas member (the best $5 grand I ever spent), I'm naturally inclined to love both the Old and Glashedy courses. Not sure I have a preference, as each has its own style and a number of very strong holes. As noted, the Old Course is a bit shorter, wider and perhaps easier. The pro shop and clubhouse staffs are both extremely friendly and helpful. I've played each course on calm sunny days - and each under stormy conditions. I would strongly suggest targeting the former scenario, and avoiding the latter! Short of a hurricane, tornado, or volcano, it's hard to imagine more natural fury than that of a true Irish squall. Nothing like NAILING a drive 45 yards into a gale wind, or 345 yards with the same wind at your back. While the package tour trade seems to target "name" Irish courses like Lahinch, Ballybunion, County Down, Waterville and Portrush (admitedly all fantastic), lesser-known Northwest tracks like Ballyliffin, Castlerock, Enniscrone, Rosses Point, Murvaugh, Portsalon, Rosapenna, Carne and Narin & Portnoo are just as deserving of your time. (Also the "9 hole Pebble Beach" - Cruit Island). On second thought, I'd just as soon have the tourists (and their six-hour rounds) stay away! P. McGarey Side note: After your round at Ballyliffin, visit the northernmost pub in Ireland, Farren's Bar at the tip of Malin Head.
November 06, 2008


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I absolutely love this place. My favourite clubhouse in the world, with superb food and smiling faces everywhere. I think I prefer the old course to the Glashedy, because you have to be so inventive around the greens. It`s so crumpled I have no idea how they manage to cut some of it, but cut it they do- its always in good condition. I`m looking forward to going back to see how Faldo has improved it- he`d better not have made a mess of it! If any of you reading this haven`t been to Ballyliffin, plan a trip now- you won`t want to leave.
August 19, 2007


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