In February 2013, golf course architect Ally McIntosh kindly provided us with the following comments on his latest creation, the 9-hole Kilmore course at Carne Golf Links:
A new nine holes through some of the most dramatic dunes at Carne was first tabled in 2004. In conjunction with course director Eamon Mangan – who has overseen developments since the original eighteen was built – an initial routing plan was prepared by architect and club member Jim Engh. Some early works were undertaken but these were halted in 2007 and towards the end of 2010, the course committee engaged me to take a fresh look at the possibilities which were immediately apparent and incredibly exciting.
Whilst Eddie Hackett used the rolling inland ground for his front nine, our small team had the spectacular sand hills adjacent to the existing back nine from which to create the new holes. As with those before us, our overarching philosophy was always to use the natural features of the land wherever we could. Budget necessitated this but it would have been criminal to do anything else with the wild landscape that we were presented with.
Because of big elevation changes, one of the main challenges was to keep the course as compact and walkable as we could. This has been achieved and we have deliberately left many unique shots and options that are more typical of a bygone era. Amongst a few heart-in-mouth blind shots, there are a good mix of green sites – some undulating wildly, some a little flatter – and a huge variety in the type and length of holes.
The par threes at the 2nd and 7th are particular high points, the former playing semi-blind in to an amphitheatre surrounded by sand-scarred dunes and the latter playing over a huge chasm to a gorgeously framed green in the distance. The 1st hole is a rollercoaster par five that in many ways mirrors the Hackett 18th, and the 9th hole is a long two-shotter played from an elevated tee over fantastically rumpled ground; an amazing finisher which was just lying there waiting to be discovered.
The new nine will open as a stand-alone course in August 2013 and once the conditioning is up to the standard of the existing eighteen, there is a tantalising opportunity to mix it with the current back nine in a routing that will become the biggest scale dunes golf course to be found anywhere in the world, an adrenaline injection from first shot to last. We hope you have as much fun playing it as we did designing it.
Update May 2017 – We suggest you check ahead with the club to find out whether or not the Kilmore course is open for play, as it is currently closed for improvement works. We have not as yet been advised of the re-opening date.
Another nine holes have been added recently and christened the Kilmore loop. These are routed through some of the wildest terrain imaginable and are on the brink of playability in places. The towering dunes on the 5th hole could be the highest in all of golf – for sure they trump the ones on the Hackett course. Click the link to read more… Ireland – any decent golf on the West Coast?
Five years ago, when I was last in Belmullet, there was talk of a new nine being laid out by American architect Jim Engh among the towering dunes adjacent to the existing 18-hole Carne layout. Sadly, for whatever reason, the intended construction of the new holes never quite materialized – until last year, when Ally McIntosh brought a modified layout into play.
Let me just say that if this new 9-hole circuit is meant to be a “toned down” version of the original course that never quite found favour then God only knows what Engh’s radical design must have looked like because the layout that’s eventually seen the light of day is as wild and tempestuous a track as I have ever played - with the only concession to normality found on the 1st and 9th, leading from/to the clubhouse!
In between those opening and closing holes, golfing convention is largely stood on its head as the links swoops and soars in and out of the sand hills in heart stopping fashion. There’s much to commend on every hole but the heroic par threes at 2 and 4 are particularly strong, whilst the greensites for the par fours at 6 and 8 have been beautifully sculpted.
The Kilmore course is EASILY the best 9-holer that I’ve ever played and I doubt if I’ll ever play one that’s better.
From a purely aestetical point of view I agree that this is the most dramatic nine holes I have ever seen! However, during our recent visit, the greens on this 9-holer were in such a bad shape it made no sense to putt on them and if you missed the fairway the ball was almost certainly lost. Until this changes, better walk these holes with a camera than a golf bag!
Unfortunately the Kilmore course is now closed for the remainder of at least 2017. On my visit last week the staff explained that there was simply not the economy at the moment to sustain both the Hackett 18 and the Kilmore 9 to the condition that they want. From what we could see the course is still mown, but not much more maintenance than that right now. Let's hope the economy works out!
I always enjoy your reviews. Can you tell me if the Kilmore 9 is open for play these days?
Martin, I can say that this time last year they were planning to bring Kilmore into play last/this year.
Would justify a return visit; just back from the awesome Cruden Bay which seemed smaller than I remembered due to having visited Carne.