First opened for public play in 1971, the links course at Donabate lies along the east coast of Ireland, next to a more well-known golfing neighbour, The Island. Owned by Fingal County Council, it’s a pay and play facility that’s maintained and operated by Carr Golf, who also manage Castleknock for the same local authority.
The course itself is over a hundred years old, with the original holes set out in 1906 by employees of nearby Portrane Hospital. This layout was expanded to a full 18-hole course after Donabate Golf Club was established in 1928 but the club relocated to its present location in 1939, leaving behind a group of golfers who preferred their golf to be of the links variety.
Corballis Golf Club was then founded and it functioned up until 1968, when land was acquired near Swords and the club reformed as Forrest Little Golf Club. Its old 86-acre site was sold for £95,000 to Dublin County Council in 1971, which saw the formation of Dublin & County Golf Club but it too moved away from Corballis to become near neighbours at what is now Balcarrick Golf Club.
The County Council redesigned the layout in 1979/80, removing some of the blind holes and the course was closed for two years as new tees and greens were introduced. Fingal County Council then took over ownership of the property in 1994 and ten years later, Corballis Links Golf Club was founded. Ron Kirby from Bates Golf Design Group was called in soon after to upgrade the layout.
Old holes 4, 13, 14 and 15 were lost, replaced by new ones along the coastline at holes 4 to 7, so that the course is now laid out with five short par fours, seven par threes and only one par five – with that rather unique configuration, it’s no surprise to learn that the course plays to its par of 66 over the short distance of 5,114 yards.
There’s still a fair smattering of old-fashioned golf design here amongst the dunes, with several narrow fairways crossing over each other and blind tee shots to be played, but there’s no denying either the quality of the greens on this track or the fabulous views out across the Irish Sea to nearby Lambay Island.
Highlight holes include the longest par four on the card at the right doglegged 3rd, where the fairway runs along a valley between dunes, the new par three 6th and its two-tiered green, the doglegged par five 12th, with out of bounds running along its right flank, and the par four 14th, which is played along the beach from tee to the green.
Corballis is something of a love it or hate it course - I am in the love it camp. This is a short course and breaks plenty of the 'rules' with regard to par and length, but if you can leave that baggage behind, and just take this course for what it is you will have a great time. It's a municipal course, so facilities / distance markers etc are limited. It's no harm playing this with someone who knows it first as there are some blind shots and hard to pick the best route to the hole sometimes. However, it's this variety which is the appeal here. Quite a few of the holes have no 'best' way of playing it and may well depend on the wind on the day. This is proper links, and its the same terrain as the Island next door, just shorter and quirkier (people might think it's not 'fair' in places). You can leave driver in the bag for all but 7 holes, but this course rewards shotmaking and creativity. Embrace the fun!