Relatively remote resorts like Bundoran became fashionable places to visit at the end of the 19th century when newly built railway lines made it easy for people to travel from the centres of population to the fresh air of the seaside for some rest and recreation.
Railway companies were quick to cash in on the holiday traffic and many destinations had huge hotels constructed to cater for the incoming customers. Of course, the land adjacent to these hotels was also utilized to keep the hotel customers occupied with healthy outdoor sporting pursuits like golf.
And so Bundoran, through the Highland Railway Company, came to be the location for the 111-bedroom Great Northern Hotel in 1894, and with it came the first 9-hole course designed by a Scotsman, G. L. Baillie, who had associations with the Royal Belfast Golf Club.
It was extended ten years later to an 18-hole layout by Cuthbert Butchart from Royal County Down before the legendary Harry Vardon remodeled the course in 1927 when he repositioned greens, replaced tees and added new bunkers.
Another famous Irish golfer with connections to Bundoran is Christy O’Connor Snr who was the professional from 1951 to 1957. The story goes that Christy was playing in a four ball with three members when one asked him what club he had used at the 230-yard par three 13th hole. When Christy replied that a 3-iron had been used, the member proudly informed the others that he had only needed a 4-iron to reach the green. At this, Christy pulled ten balls out of his bag and proceeded to knock every one onto the green with a different club!
Situated to the south of Donegal Bay where the mighty Atlantic rolls in, and surrounded by the imposing Dartry and Ben Bulben Mountains, Bundoran enjoys a fantastic location. It is a very wide, open course – where the wind is its primary defence – with holes routed in two loops over a large crest of cliffs on the seaside.
The principal charm of Bundoran is that little has changed over the years and if you like your golf simple and uncomplicated then this is the place for you!