The short but nonetheless scenic journey that one embarks upon turning out of Sligo and towards “the point” (as locals refer to it) is a very similar setting to the one experienced when travelling to several other Irish Links courses, whether it be along the River Boyne en route to Baltray, alongside the Liffey when coming from the city towards any of the North Dublin Links or when you leave the hustle and bustle of Belfast and head for the serene setting of RCD. All of these instances have a similar feeling of escaping the real world and heading out to the links for the day.
Co Sligo Golf Club or Rosses point as it is affectionately known enjoys and will continue to hold a proud distinguished position in Irish Golf. Host to the annual West of Ireland Championship each Spring, this is the first big event of the year for the elite of amateur golf and much the same way as the Masters does for its professional counterparts, the West signals the real start to the golfing year.
The first tee stands alongside a clubhouse which although modernised in recent years maintains a distinct link to the olde world with its mock Tudor front overlooking the club’s vast practice putting green. The opening four holes really allow the player to find his swing and put some good numbers on the board early, for plenty will need to be kept in reserve for what awaits. The 3rd is a tempting par 5, the type of hole which I always feel is well placed at the start of a round allowing the stronger player a chance of an early birdie while also not “beating up” the weaker player too soon after the start. The 4th is a very well designed short hole with a great plateau green only receiving the sweetest of strikes. Upon reaching the 5th tee, one must take stock and appreciate what they are now experiencing, one of the most awesome views in Irish Golf. Some 200ft below the level of the tee is the fairway, to the left are the crushing waves of the Atlantic, beyond on the horizon is Ben Bulben and while atop here the golfer can see for miles beyond. Now if you forgive me I will turn back to reality! As from this point on the course just gets better and better.
Rosses point is home to some of the best par 4’s this author has ever witnessed, encompassing a blend/mixture of 2 shotters that I have encountered at few other places. The 7th is stroke index 1 and requires a precise tee shot to find the fairway and then a high soft landing second shot to green sloping from back to front towards a Burn, not too dissimilar to the 16th at Turnberry, which guards the green like a moate would a castle. The 8th again requires your best power fade to achieve the desired angle to the green, which is situated at an angle to the fairway which really gives meaning to the placement of the tee shot. The 9th, 10th and 11th form a great loop of holes(a short par 3, a short par 4 and a medium length par 4) which bring you back to the 12th tee. From here on in you are set to begin what I feel truly ranks alongside any of the finest finishing stretches in the world.
The above mentioned par 5 plays directly back towards the ocean and sweeps right to left and then back slightly to the right with a blind second shot and perhaps the best route of attack by running the ball on to the green as anything long is nothing but trouble! The 13th is my pick of the par 3’s played over a corner of the beach to a green guarded by deep bunkers, which lies below the level of the tee, brilliant but at the same time brutal! Holes 14,15 and 16 all play in the same direction parallel to the ocean and again as at the loop of 9,10 and 11 they are three holes(two par4’s and a par 3) of different nature but equal merits. If the previous 5 holes have not already taken your breath away then you will surely be speechless by the time you reach the 17th green(maybe the best par 4 in the Island of Ireland, alongside 11 at Ballybunion, 13 at RCD and 7 at the European). The view from the tee is beautiful but at the same time terrifying! At the end of the fairway is a ridge/bank of scrub and rough, your tee shot must be short of this or if long enough to the right. From here the hole bends right to left and sharply uphill to a green nestled between the sandhills, again the view from the green is spectacular.
All the way home one question bugged me, what does Rosses point not have, that other courses ranked above it possess. The 18th for some can be a let down, but efforts have been made to improve this by the construction of a new back tee which will make the carry longer and the second shot much tougher and also some may find fault with the opening, particularly the 1st and 2nd. Outside of this I was left scratching my head. Rosses point of course receives recognition but I feel it is deserving of so much more and should be a “no-brainer” on anyone’s North West Ireland must play list. This is a tremendous golf club, one where the traditions of the game are upheld but at the same time things do not standstill as improvements to the course are frequently being made under the watchful eye of the club’s director of golf, who it is plain to see does his job a tremendous service, put simply Rosses point is a club I would love to be a member of as it encompasses all that I love about golf. 2011 is a very busy year for Co Sligo Golf Club as they play host to the West of Ireland Championship, The Irish Mens inter-provincial’s, the Men’s Home Internationals and the 2011 Carr Mara Trophy, a very fitting venue and I wish them every success!
Date: June 01, 2011