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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Reviews for Ballyliffin (Glashedy)

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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: 8.7 out of 10 Reviews: 37
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Javier Pintos
We played both courses in consecutive days, Old on a Tuesday and Glashedy on a Wednesday on this really fantastic 36 holes facility.Ballyliffin (Glashedy) Golf Course - Photo by reviewer Again I was honored to play with Paddy the captain on Old and with my irish friends from North and West Coast Links on Glashedy having a great fun match which of course we lost to the locals, but all together it was a great experience. We had a decent weather day, with some short showers during the round but it was fine. The course is totally different from Old, as this one was completely built will the other was just mowed and bunkers placed, which makes it more “natural”. The views are as good as you can imagine, make it the very best when you are at the top of the hill where 7th tee stands: a great downhill par 3 with water in front which is the signature hole and where calculating distance is extremely difficult. First 6 holes are great, specially par 5 4th and par 3 5th in the direction of the Glashedy Ballyliffin (Glashedy) Golf Course - Photo by reviewerRock (similar of Ailsa Craig in Turnberry) and then going back for short and trick 6th, a real jewel. 8-9 go back to the very nice club house before getting away on short 10th. The back 9 are tougher than the front and where you will find many tough holes even the short par 3. 15th is a monster par 4 (into the wind and rain it was driver and 3 wood just reaching the green) and 17th is a very demanding par 5 which usually plays into the wind. The hole back home is a very nice dog leg right where the tee shot needs to be extremely accurate. A very nice experience, a great course and a fantastic club house make it a worthy experience to make the ride up to here. And the presence of Glashedy Rock reminded me a little bit of my loved Scotland!
December 18, 2014
8 / 10
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Peter Teague
I have played Glashedy 5 times now and have to admit that it is one of the great golf courses in the North west of Ireland. Beautiful fairways and excellent greens that can run extremely fast. I played the course in late September 2010 and on the day they were officially running at 12 on the stimpmeter which for a mid handicapper like me was pretty scary. This course along with the equally brilliant Old course makes for an excellent destination for anyone playing golf in the area. The only small negative I have about Glashedy is the small pond at the front of the downhill par 3 7th hole. It doesnt take away from the course but I just thought that it didnt quite fit in with the rest of the holes but this is a very minor detail. This was definately my favourite course in the area until I played Sandy Hills last week and in my opinion it would just about have the edge over the two Ballyliffin courses.
October 03, 2011
10 / 10
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Lee Abbey
An already excellent course has had significant bunker work added to it this year. When I played in April they are still bedding in but will add some real definition (and distraction) to a great set of holes. It’s almost pointless describing individual holes here as you have to go to Ballyliffin to appreciate the whole package of both the great courses and the even warmer welcome. The Glashedy and Ballyliffin deserves to be at the top of your tour list for this part of Ireland.
May 01, 2011
10 / 10
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Simon Bale
I played this course on a Monday morning in mid March. The course was immaculate and the greens were true and fast. Be warned of the par 5 13th, which was a tough test for all 4 of us, despite an inviting tee shot. We managed only one point from our fourball (gross 7). The green slopes heavily from back to front and right to left, with a bunker on the front left that feeds from all angles of the green. This course is certainly a true test of links golf, with excellent greens and great design.. If the wind blows only the most accurate and inventive golfer will shoot handicap
March 30, 2011
8 / 10
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Goffy
I’ve been lucky to play several courses in the Co. Donagal area and the two at Ballyliffin are right up their alongside the best. Without doubt the Glashedy is tougher than the Old but if you choose the right tees it’s still a fair test for most golfers. The bunkering on both nines is excellent and the greens were very good for this time of year (mid March), they must be an absolute joy in June. Overall I cannot fault the Ballyliffin experience, everyone we met was warm, friendly and enthusiastic and seemed genuinely grateful that you had come to visit them.
March 30, 2011
8 / 10
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Ken Ward
Ballyliffin in the wind may be the hardest course I have encountered in Ireland. The clubhouse is welcoming but beware of the course in all but the calmest conditions. As you walk up the path from the 6th green ,you have no idea what awaits you on the 7th tee. The wind will make it difficult even to take a stance, as you look down to the relatively short par 3 below. The last time I played the course on a truly miserable day, I watched my son , who routinely hits 325+ drives, hit driver to the middle of the green-a downhill shot of 170 yards. I don't think the routing compares to Sandy Hills but this is a don't miss course in Donegal
December 18, 2010
8 / 10
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Joey Chase
Played Ballyliffin last week along with several other great tracks. I was overwhelmed by the expanse of linksland there is here. It seems to go for miles! The setting is really spectacular, with the sea on one side of you and the mountains on the other side. Quite a tough cookie though. I really want to return after the bunker program is completed as I found the bunker on the back to be much more visible and as a result more attractive to my eye. I think they are taking the right steps though as many of the bunkers on the front were completely hidden from view. I really did love the course though and am excited to return! Joey
October 10, 2010
8 / 10
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Jim McCann

Five and a half years after writing the first review for the Glashedy on this website, I returned to play the course again as I’m a big fan of the two returning loops that head into the dunes then return back to the clubhouse like two big wave formations. A good 15-minute chat with head green keeper Andy Robertson – now there’s an enthusiast for his work if ever I met one on a golf course – put me in the picture about current course developments before setting out on my round.

The front nine were much as I remembered them, rising into the dunes from the clubhouse then plunging back home from the 7th (with two all-time favourite bunkers fronting the 2nd and left of the 5th) but the changes on the back nine came as a bit of a shock to the system, despite the advance notice given. For whatever reason, a decision has been made to dramatically beef up the bunkering with large revetted bunkers sited along the fairways.

Although most of them work well as target points off the tee, some appear penal in their placement. Perhaps when the front nine are given a similar treatment this winter, the severity of the sand challenge will even itself out, giving the hazards a more balanced feel – I sincerely hope so because the fantastic 36-hole links complex here deserves all the acclaim it has received in recent times.

One thing’s for sure; the Ballyliffin club committee is not resting on its laurels as it continues to develop both courses for members and visitors alike.

Jim McCann

April 08, 2010
9 / 10
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Pat Ruddy
May 11, 2010
Hello Jim I share your enthusiasm for golf in Donegal. It has been my privilege to work at Ballyliffin, Donegal, Portsalon and Rosapenna and I feel sure that the county is now the strongest golf county in Ireland one of the strongest golf destinations in the world. And definitely the greatest value as the Donegal men do not believe in charging modern prices for the golf! I mean, where else will you get to play four great links for less than €250 in total and with the US$ and the £-sterling both buying so many € today! Regarding Ballyliffin. What a miracle of a golfing town! Two great links for a population of less than 1,000! You are right regarding the present surprise element of the bunkering on the back-nine at Glashedy.... "when the front nine are given a simlar treatment this winter , the severity of the sand challenge will even itself out, giving the hazards a more balanced feel...." Obviously so! We rebunkered the back-nine last Winter and the plan is to rework the front-nine this coming winter. We worked on visibility and definition. Clearly achieved. We worked on positioning of the fairway bunkers to engage with the modern elite player while ensuring that 85%-plus of the average club golfers would not be attacked by the new hazards while enjoying their guidance around the links. I am happy that those objectives have been met .....so, while they look penal they are not so. Of course, when one approaches a green the hazards there are in play for all. But a majority of the most modest golfers have the hearts of lions and enjoy when they overcome a challenge. Of course, the challenge of links bunkers can be varied easily as they are sitting on sand with no artificial drainage beneath. The floors can be raised or lowered to meet the season (e.g. to avoid sand blow in Winter you may remove some sand to drop below the wind) or raised for Summer holiday play; and they can be deepened for championship play. A links such as Ballyliffin is similar to the most glorious musical instrument which can be played in many ways golfwise and architecturally and golfwise .... a grand piano with many chords and keys available ... a king in the orchestra! I hope to live to see Donegal take its rightful place in world golf. Meantime, let us enjoy it while it is unspoiled and undiscovered .... SSSSHHHH, tell no one. Pat Ruddy 
marcus
May 11, 2010
How reassuring to know that Pat Ruddy is a contributor to this wonderful website - we all think we know what to look for in a golf course - this man really knows. Thank you for your golf courses Pat. Extra kudos to the top 100 team!!!
Jeff Kimbro
Played the Glashedy Course at Ballyliffin in the spring with my father and truly enjoyed the experience. The clubhouse was more modern and had a staff that was very cordial and friendly. We played the course on a very nice late morning with not a lot of wind. This is not a course that allows for errant drives. The fairways are very tight and extremely fast. I/We hit a couple of Drivers early and realized that this is not the way to play the course. Low hooded 3 irons are more than enough off the tees and keep a lot of trouble out of play. It has a number of nice elevation changes in the middle of the round that provide some excellent views. Be wary of golfers that are on the other course. Thereare some holes where the two courses play side by side (especially holes 7-10) and some errant shots can cause some damage. The course was in excellent condition, having just hosted a senior tournament. We truly enjoyed playing Ballyliffin (Glashedy).
January 23, 2010
8 / 10
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Neill Finlay
Totaly awsome golf course with spectacular views. I Last played the new course on the 16th of october in splended sunshine the greens were fast with an superb playing surface to have a golf course this good at this time of year is a true credit to andy and his staff (not to forget milly)and to finish of the day having a superb meal in one of the finest club houses i have had the pleasure of visiting.Dont miss the chance to play a real golf course.
November 02, 2009
10 / 10
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