Ballyliffin (Glashedy) - Donegal - Ireland

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


  • +353 (0)7493 76119

  • John Farren

  • Pat Ruddy, Tom Craddock

  • Gareth McCausland


Ballyliffin is Ireland’s most northerly golf club, located off Tullagh Point on the Atlantic edge of the Inishowen Peninsula. It’s difficult to pin a date on the earliest origins of the game of golf at Ballyliffin, but it is clear that the Ballyliffin Golf Club was founded in 1947. The Glashedy links is, however, much, much younger.

In Pat Ruddy’s book Ballyliffin: Golf’s Great Twin Miracles , the author writes about how the Glashedy came to be built: “In 1992, Ballyliffin came back into my life with a telephone call from the club asking whether I would be interested in looking at their links with a view to improving the bunkering and perhaps suggest some other possible improvements.

My late pal and partner Tom Cradock and I would visit them within a few weeks. When we got to Ballyliffin and I saw that the club had almost 400 acres of beautiful dunesland it was my turn to swoon. What a great place. What a great opportunity to build another great golf links. But we had to move fast because of upcoming restrictive planning laws.

‘Forget about bunkering the links you have,’ I urged, ‘let’s build a world beating second links. We can get back to bunkering your existing links later.’ Timing is everything in this life. I had just opened my own links at The European Club at Brittas Bay and I had learned a great deal in the process and not just about growing grass on sand.

I had learned how to qualify for a government grant. I knew that environmental labels were being placed on linksland and that the planning laws were about to be changed and make the creation of new golf links almost impossible. The Ballyliffin men listened as I told them to get to Dublin and see how, at that very moment, red lines were being drawn around their land by conservationists.

They got active politically. They got the best consultancy advice. They formed a company. They went at it and got a grant of £315,000 which was a huge sum of money at that time and it was a massive boost to a club which had never gained any type of grant previously! Now the game was on. Nothing could stop the inevitable now.”

Work started in spring 1993, and after significant earth-moving, the Glashedy links (pronounced Glasheedy) – named after the Glashedy Rock, Ballyliffin’s equivalent of Turnberry’s Ailsa Craig – opened for play in the summer of 1995, to much acclaim.

Pat Ruddy returned over two winters in 2012-13 to oversee the revetting of all the bunkers on the Glashedy. This work was done in-house, led by head greenkeeper Andy Robertson, who joined the club from Sunningdale in 1998.

Ballyliffin is often described as “the Ballybunion of the North” or “the Dornoch of Ireland” and the reason is simple; all the aforementioned are set amidst towering natural sand dunes. This youngster is no exception, except that the Glashedy links has been flattened out, ensuring that the fairways are relatively even and capable of hosting a championship... there's a parallel here to the fairways of Royal Birkdale.

The Glashedy routing is intertwined with the Old course, the holes weaving their way through the wild dunes. It’s a supremely challenging golf course which stretches out more than 7,200 yards, with nine brutal par fours in excess of 400 yards. You really do need to be on top of your game to play to handicap. The huge greens, with some frightening undulations, are well protected by bunkers; three putting can be alarmingly frequent.

The Glashedy links is certainly good enough and long enough to hold important championships and already it has hosted the North West of Ireland Open. It would be fascinating on a windy day to watch the very best professionals stretched to their absolute limit on this wild and challenging links course. Surely the Glashedy links must be a contender for a future Irish Open Championship.

Pat Ruddy provided the following update at the start of 2017: "Upgrade work has been carried out on the Glashedy course, where a bid to host the Irish Open is in the offing. New additions include championship tees (adding 40 yards and slightly angled lines) on the 2nd and 9th holes and new fairway bunkers on the left of the 1st and 3rd."

On the final Sunday of the 2017 Irish Open at Portstewart Golf Club it was announced that Ballyliffin's Glashedy course would stage the 2018 Irish Open, which Scotland's Russell Knox won after beating New Zealand's Ryan Fox in a play-off.

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Description: Ballyliffin Golf Club is often described as “the Ballybunion of the North” or “the Dornoch of Ireland” and the reason is simple; all the aforementioned are set amidst towering natural sand dunes. Rating: 8.6 out of 10 Reviews: 42
TaylorMade
Mark White

Ballyliffin Glashedy is a championship golf course which is why it was chosen to host the 2018 Irish Open. Due to its irrigation system, it is always kept in excellent conditioning.

The course has many fine qualities including its conditioning, it plays firm and fast, it is well marked for distance, it is fair, and it is playable. With the exception of the finishing hole everything is right in front of

Of the courses designed by Pat Ruddy it could be a spirited discussion as to which is his best. For me it is a discussion of three courses: Ballyliffin Glashedy, Rosapenna Sandy Hills, and The European. For me I likely favor Ballyliffin narrowly over Rosapenna. Neither of those two can offer the highs of the best holes at The European, but for me the other two are a bit more consistent in their offering. All three courses do a masterful job of having a routing that suits the available land. However, at Rosapenna Sandy Hills when the wind is howling the course can be overly difficult taking away some of the joy of playing it. The land often rises and falls so quickly at Rosapenna that there can be guesswork too many times and bad strikes get compounded by having blind recovery shots. Although Glashedy plays between the dunes, it’s main punitive features are its length and the bunkers which are often deep and with steep faces.

The bunkering is well thought out at Glashedy both as to placement, size, shape and depth. They are also varied, sometimes surrounding the entirety of the green, or a single one perfectly placed, or a collection of three. There are a few “hidden” bunkers such as the back right on the par 4 fifth.

All three courses sit in a beautiful seaside setting although only Glashedy adds views of nearby mountains. The location of each certainly add to the joy of playing the course.

Ask me on another day and I would likely reverse the order.

I played Ballyliffin Old the day before and while I liked the course, I did not find a memorable hole. At Glashedy I found four:

- the sharp downhill par 3 seventh from an elevated tee with the pond of its right side and four surrounding bunkers.

- The sharp dogleg right short par 4 sixth for its setting below the dunes and the angled green to the right with three perfectly placed green-side bunkers.

- The par 5 thirteenth with another fairway set below dunes, a fairway that goes up and down and it climbs to the green set on a high point, with a nasty front left bunker that swallows any balls hit weakly to the front left due to the slope. Finally I admired the three back bunkers. I might forever lament under clubbing into the green and finding that front left, deep bunker. My putt to save par was two revolutions short.

- The dogleg left par 4 longer fifteenth where the bunker placement at the turn of two bunkers left and two scattered bunkers down the right get one’s attention. Yet the real danger is the collection of three bunkers on the front left and a right center bunker. I loved the shape of the green.

The other holes are good with many sitting on slightly raised greens with false fronts.

We felt the front nine was very good while the back down was not quite at the same level. In particular, we did not like the finishing hole which tempts one to cut the corner of this sharp dogleg right, yet plays easily enough from any ball placed between the fairway bunkers. I did not favor the short, downhill par 3 fourteenth with a deep front central bunker and another “hidden” central bunker at the rear. If you are short on your approach you will fall down the face of the green far away to have a blind shot of perhaps eight-ten feet high.

Ballyliffin should be a must play for any golfer who is coming to Ireland and has played the bigger name courses. Both courses are worthwhile with the Glashedy being more special due to its championship qualities.

May 22, 2022
7 / 10
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Neil White

The ball sailed through the air majestically, dropped just in front of its target and rolled towards the cup. Surely not… could it be a hole on one on the Glashedy’s fabled 7th?

Sadly, not but my playing partner was so convinced of glory I thought he might do himself a mischief.

The 7th is one of the great par-threes. Downhill, with a menacing pond front right, bunkers central, a dune to the left and a grassy mound to its rear.

We had been warned to club up and my five-iron tee shot skipped through the green by a couple of feet before I witnessed my pal’s assault on glory.

The Glashedy is the perfect environment for golfing heroism.

Even as early in the season as the last week in March, it was in magnificent condition with wonderfully maintained, tight fairways and greens which were truer than I have witnessed so far this year.

But, boy, was it cold with the wind blowing off the Atlantic and temperature so low that we were told that the staff were expecting to close the following day because of frost.

That was my excuse for a very slow start.

The opening par-four is pretty straightforward, requiring a central drive to avoid bunkers and an approach feeding in from the right. I found the bunker on the left and failed to extricate myself.

The second was even worse as I ploughed my tee shot over the fence, out of bounds down the right. Fortunately, step ladders allowed me to retrieve the ball which I had played all week on our tour of Northern Ireland and Donegal.

Rewards come from very careful course management and that the wind can be a negative if it's behind as well as into the face.

I found the latter out with the par-three fifth. The greens staff watched on as we dithered over club selection for this downhill beauty with the sea at its back.

I went too long with mine but, thankfully, the ball stayed up, while my compadre took a similar option and found one of the three bunkers on the right of the green. His follow-up arrived in the sand trap on the opposite side.

The sixth was one of my favourites and when the tide began to turn.

This is a curving par-four with grassy hills on either side and an unexpected crater on the right. The obvious route into the green swings in from the left where a bunker awaits.

A feature of the Glashedy is that fairway and greenside undulations feed into the sand. My bunker play improved as the day went on because it damned well had to.

Glashedy has a few brutal holes and the one which caused us most pain was the 575-yard 13th - against the wind and uphill.

With a small landing strip from the tee and mounds on either side of the fairway, sand

aplenty and a perched green, it is almost impossible to avoid trouble. I played only one poor shot and recorded a seven.

It is followed by a downhill, downwind par-three where correct club selection was imperative. In this case, two fewer than would have been the norm found us both on the dance floor.

The run-in on the Glashedy is exhilarating and tough.

The 16th is a long bending par-four going out towards the Atlantic, the 17th is a wonderful par five alongside the sea into a green which has the backdrop of white houses dotted across imposing hills.

The finale is where my compadre became Jordan Spieth for a moment. As his approach to the dogleg par-four was pulled into the greenkeeper’s complex.

The ball was resting on grass and, consequently, in play, but against some agricultural implements. He clambered over a dune, took relief and blazed the ball back over the hill to a spot just off the green.

It was a lesson not to go offline on the Glashedy and that is not always easy when the wind blows.

Nevertheless, the overriding thoughts were of the staggering beauty of the course and its fabulous condition for the end of March.

No wonder it is one of Nick Faldo’s favourite links.

March 31, 2022
8 / 10
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T P Dean

Like the Ailsa at Turnberry, the Pat Ruddy designed Glashedy links is named after the large rock out at sea.

The Glashedy is regarded as the younger, yet brawnier sibling of the Old and provides a more fearsome test. The course is grander and bolder than the Old course and would have required greater expense and substantial earth movement to create it, but the outcome is a fantastic challenge and a collection of holes that creates some excellent variety. The greens are also larger and the individual holes themselves more memorable.

The wow moments at the Glashedy take place in and around the large dune system at the part of the property furthest away from the clubhouse and it’s easy to see why it was chosen as the Irish Open host a few years back. Ballyliffin has recently become overshadowed by neighbouring Rosapenna as the links resort of choice in Donegal, largely due to Tom Doak’s new course at St Patrick’s. And unlike Doak designed courses which focus on strategic design, the bunkering laid out at the Glashedy is more of a penal design with pots located on either side of the fairway on various holes. The club is going through a bunker project right now though, so it remains to be seen whether the final outcome retains the original bunker locations.

That being said, despite the hardy nature of the course, it’s still a spectacular routing. The first three holes wend their way towards the rocky ground away from the clubhouse and escort you towards the large dune system through which holes 4 to 7 play. 4 is then a wonderful par five hole with a rise and fall to the fairway ahead of a dip in front of an isolated and raised green. The green is then framed with a low dune and there’s a large revetted bunker protecting the front right of the green.

7 is the course’s signature; a drop shot par three with the green located next to the pond and low-lying wetlands. Design-wise, it was far from my favourite hole on the course, but the views from the tee really make the hole. Turning towards the back end of the front nine, you’ll observe that both the Glashedy links and Old course return back to the clubhouse at the halfway point. I often wonder what compromises are made in the design when nines are forced to return in this way, but I could see no signs of the 9th being shoehorned in to achieve this at what was a fiercely bunker protected and climbing hole to the green.

That large dune system mentioned earlier makes a reappearance between holes 13 and 15 which are all once again highly memorable holes. 13 is a rugged test that takes you to the most elevated point of the course through a valley between the dunes. This is one of the holes where the momentum pleasantly builds as you approach the green. But my pick of the Glashedy’s eighteen came at the next, the 14th, a long par three into a green that’s rotated at 90 degrees such that its width is greater than its length. It’s also a beautifully shaped green with the ground falling away gently to the right in such a way that it has the potential to spit your golf ball from the surface. After the 15th, the course returns to lower lying land with more sturdy holes in play to close out the round.

Ballyliffin’s Glashedy course is one that has the potential to test the best and the Irish Open would benefit from seeing the course return to its tournament rota, rather than the strange move to parkland golf that the organisation have made in recent years. In the meantime however, Ballyliffin has two excellent layouts that would enhance any golfing holiday itinerary to this neck of the woods.

January 23, 2022
8 / 10
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Nicky

An amazing course, but fair, this is Irish links at it's finest and I can't wait to go back, some of the par 3 holes are breathtaking

November 08, 2021
9 / 10
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Doug Roberts

Ballyliffin offers up two very good courses. I had the opportunity to play both in August of this year. Both are nice but Glashedy caught my fancy just a little more. The course approaches the dunes with closer proximity and has a routing that creates a bit more drama. Conditions are excellent. There corridors of play are wider than one imagines. While the fairways aren't flat they are less rumpled than the Old. Great spot for a visit and a must play.

September 19, 2021
8 / 10
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Ed Battye

The terrain for golf at Ballyliffin – located at the remote tip of the Inishowen Peninsula where mountains, dunes and sea merge together – is the stuff of dreams. Expansive linksland stretches for an eternity on what is a lunar landscape ideal for exceptional golf.

It is actually quite surprising, pleasingly so, that we have two different and distinct golf courses routed across what appears to be similar ground. The reason for this is clear; the Glashedy was largely sculpted by machine whilst the hand of man is mostly responsible for the Old. Each layout is structured in two loops of nine, therefore we have four starting points from the plush clubhouse.

Thanks to a lot of earth moving the Glashedy course is able to take a dramatic routing across the dunes and although the fairways are generally levelled they have created a wonderful balance between old school and modern links golf where the plunge, rise and then often fall again.

To say it is a modern championship links course – which it effectively is – is to do it a little bit of a disservice though because the mix is just about perfect and it doesn’t feel this way to the naked eye. The creators have achieved a wonderful coherency between the movement in the land, undulations and dare I say ‘fairness’.

The fairways and just wide enough and the fairway bunkering is spot on to challenge golfers of all abilities and often sucker in the better player.

In terms of quality between the two courses there is not a lot in it. My own preference is for the Glashedy but I could easily be swayed the other way after subsequent visits. The main point to make is that if you go to Ballyliffin, and its spectacular setting, then it is essential that you play both courses.

Ed is the founder of Golf Empire – click the link to read his full review.

November 04, 2019
9 / 10
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Peter Wood

The dunes at Ballyliffin are extensive and seemingly perfect for golf. The Glashedy course winds through large dunes, most of which are set back a little from the coast. It is a grand setting for what is essentially a championship golf course – it has the length and mettle to test even the best.

The site is brutally exposed to strong sea breezes, and Ruddy and Craddock have gone to town on the Ballyliffin (Glashedy) Golf Course - Photo by reviewer placement of the wonderful revetted pot bunkers which protect the greens, and fairways off the tee.

The routing cleverly exposes the golfer to crosswinds, downwinds and winds against- constantly asking questions on the golfer’s ability to pick the right line and control the flight. I found myself constantly aiming at the pot bunker on one side of the fairway, and allowing for the cross breeze to bring the ball back to middle. The good players would consider playing short or long to miss the fairway bunkering either side, but the hacker is a sucker for punishment!

With strong winds and firm greens it is a challenge to hit and hold greens, and all fall offs lead to trouble!

While the terrain has wonderful wild dunes, the contouring of the fairways is a little subdued – a little like the look and feel of Birkdale or Trump Aberdeen.

The course is known for its strong start – the first three holes are strong longish par 4’s. Strangely the course only has 3 par threes, but they are all impressive.

The Glashedy Links is a true championship course set in a perfect links golf setting. To be sure!

Peter Wood is the founder of The Travelling Golfer – click the link to read his full review.

September 25, 2019
7 / 10
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Fergal O'Leary

Expectations were high given the upcoming Irish Open and the many positive reviews associated with the golf club. The course starts out with a string of tough par 4s moving away from the clubhouse, but they showcase how penal the course will be. The bunkers (as they should be) are true deep hazards which essentially eliminate making a par if you find one off the tee. The course doesn’t give you many chances to score or make birdies, and in places feels like a slog – especially with how punishing the bunkers are.

The surrounding scenery and coastal beauty is obviously outstanding, but the spirit of the holes themselves didn’t offer up the same charm for me personally.

May 31, 2018
6 / 10
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Dan Hare

We played Glashedy yesterday in even stronger winds than the previous day, up to 40 mph. We nipped out early thanks to the friendly staff to take advantage of the lovely sunshine and had a great fun game of golf in very challenging conditions. I very much doubt that human hand will find either of the golf balls that I attempted to drive on the 4th with the wind blowing from the left. A relatively gentle start introduces you to a clearly modern links but with the sense of fun retained. The views are amazing from the upper ground with a great sense of isolation. The par 3's were all downhill leading to some peculiar shot making. Would love to return on a better day, the closing stretch into the teeth was a zig zag grind, bringing to mind PG Wodehouse's description of an Atlantic Convoy avoiding U-Boats. A great place to stay for a couple of days and enjoy 2 very good golf courses which we couldn't split on ranking.

April 18, 2018
8 / 10
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Dave Palmer

Just back from 36 holes on the Glashedy and Old is there any better setting in golf? absolutely magnificent 2 days of golf mountains, sea, rainbows and of course spectacular golf holes everywhere! The welcome as always was legendary from the young ladies in the Pro Shop to all the staff in the bar and the tremendous and welcoming starter sincere apologies for not remembering his name it must have been the black stuff! I have played golf all over Ireland during the past 25 years and Ballyliffin is without doubt the best 36 holes of golf in Ireland no contest. If you combined the best holes on the Glashedy and Old you would have Ireland's number one golf course. This is a very special place and if you are a links lover this is the ultimate links experience do not miss it. Wishing the club every success with the Irish Open in 2018 a great recognition for the best 36 holes on the planet!

November 25, 2017
10 / 10
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