Ballyliffin (Old) - Donegal - Ireland

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


  • +353 (0) 7493 76119


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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 a 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.

In Pat Ruddy’s book Ballyliffin: Golf’s Great Twin Miracles, the author details changes that were made to the Old course when the Glashedy was built: “We did not make any changes to holes 1-6 but we created a new par-3 7th and a new par-4 8th to allow the old par-3 9th, which ran alongside the car park, to be eliminated. On the back-nine we had nothing to do with holes 10-12, 17 and 18. But we made a lot of improvements besides.

We created a glorious entirely new par-4 13th running up a valley that had been an unused flood plain. The old 13th [now the 14th] played from a tee near the now 12th tee on Glashedy links and we realigned the first half of the fairway onto higher ground. We regretted having to eliminate the old par-4 14th… we compensated by creating a smashing new 15th which is a downhill dog-leg right to a really exciting green. Our final input on the Old Links was an even more important one at hole 16 which was a problem hole at the time... the hole now has much more variety and many more playing options”.

Ironically, the renovation work that Pat Ruddy had originally been brought in for (before a decision was made to build a second course) was assigned to the Faldo Design team in 2004, when they added new revetted bunkers and new ‘Faldo’ tees, in addition to enlarging a couple of greens.

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)

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Description: The Old course at Ballyliffin Golf Club 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. Rating: 8.3 out of 10 Reviews: 22
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peter kelly
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
10 / 10
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Jim McCann

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
9 / 10
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Patrick McGarey
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
10 / 10
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simon freeman
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
10 / 10
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W
Older in style than the Glashedy, but that’s exactly what one would expect. I’m really not sure which of the two I prefer, but I certainly recommend you play both courses. I played the course in driving rain but still enjoyed myself immensely. Old fashioned links golf is the best form of golf imo and that’s just what the old course gives you. The clubhouse is good, the staff are friendly and I can’t wait until I go back again.
July 05, 2007
8 / 10
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Cédric
I didn’t find it as interesting as the Glashedy but very good anyway. Much shorter but probably more difficult, especially because a perfect tee shot doesn’t guarantee you of a good lie on your second shot. Indeed the fairways are pretty hilly. But definitely a good test.
September 05, 2006
8 / 10
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Jake Thomas
Wow! There was some dispute in our group over which the better course was between the Old Links and Glashedy. For me, the Old Links just shaded it, but this is probably because I played (and scored) better - but I prefered the old fashioned humps and hollows on the rolling fairways. It has (unsurprisingly) an older feel than the Glashedy, and like it's younger brother, holes are constantly turning direction so you have to think about every shot. Not surprising that Faldo wanted to buy the place - and once the work is complete, it will be even better. Excellent value for money (you can't beat a winter rate of 30 Euros) on a testing but fair course - which shows its teeth when the wind blows. The warm Irish welcome and food in a great clubhouse - with stunning views is a great place to unwind over a pint of Guiness and review where your round went horrbly wrong.... A must-play course. I'll be back!
March 27, 2006
8 / 10
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This already intriguing and excellent course will undoubtedly be improved by the Faldo design. Upon completion of same, this is a test of golf that should be tried by golfers of all handicaps. Indeed the improvements to the back nine should allow the Atlantic Ocean to feature all the more prominently in the experience.
October 27, 2005
10 / 10
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Keith Baxter

I thoroughly agree with the closing paragraph, the Old is a course for the purist. It's far more traditional and to an extent, far more engaging than the Glashedy. Although I think there's a delightful and complementary mix between the two courses. I've never seen fairways like the Old...they make the fairways at St Andrews Old and Rye look tame. The Faldo work was taking place when I played and there's no doubt that this will be a much-improved course once it's completed. Look out Glashedy, in time to come, the Old might well upstage you.

February 09, 2005
7 / 10
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Andy Newmarch
The Old course and the Glashedy must be held in high regard as a collection of 36 holes of fine links quality. Standing on the first tee it appears as if a hundred elephants have been buried in the fairway – humps and hillocks as far as you can see. The terrain of the Old is everything – up and down, left and right in every direction possible. Playing the course your stance will be awkward and varied just like the wind especially on the run of holes from 13 to 17 next to the Atlantic. Nothing bad to report about the Old course – a little easier than the Glashedy but no way a pushover – Oh by the way a man named ‘Faldo’ is adding to the Old course with his subtle changes and when complete Ballyliffin will have the finest 36 hole links collection around. Had a ‘lucky’ round here and managed 7 better than handicap – what a place to equal your PB. Make the trip and play here you will not be disappointed.
February 01, 2005
8 / 10
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