Ireland has many golf courses set in mature wooded estates – most with castles now operating as luxury hotels – but Ashford Castle’s lovely little 9-hole layout in County Mayo is among the very best (though relatively unknown) of these parkland layouts.
The castle at Ashford dates back to 1228 under the de Burgo family but the estate has changed hands several times over the centuries. Latterly, Sir Benjamin Lee Guinness extended the estate to a colossal 26,000 acres in 1852 before Noel Huggard transformed the castle into a luxury hotel in 1939. John A. Mulcahy then purchased Ashford Castle in 1970, doubling its size and developing the gardens and grounds.
Part of that development led to the transformation of the deer park into a 9-hole golf course as designed by the renowned golf architect, Eddie Hackett. In 1974, he routed the holes through woodland of oak, beech and chestnut trees, creating a 2,896-yard golfing gem. The course is kept in immaculate condition from tee to green and is a real joy to play.
All the contemporary Irish golfing greats have played here, as have a number of prominent American Ryder Cup players – Tom Watson has the 391-yard par four 3rd named “Watson’s Way” in his honour.
The 384-yard par four 5th, called “The Island” is so named because one can allegedly see 365 islands on nearby Lough Corrib. It was also on this hole that a scene from the famous John Wayne film “The Quiet Man” was shot.