Cruit Island is considered by some to be one of the best 9-hole golf courses in the world. It is certainly one of the most scenic courses in Ireland. Overlooking Arranmore and Owey Islands and with Mount Errigal as a backdrop, Cruit (pronounced Crutch) is located near Kincasslagh in The Rosses, County Donegal. Tucked away in this north west corner of County Donegal, this is about as far off the beaten track as you can get when searching for a “hidden gem” course.
And yet, incredible as it might seem, Donegal International Airport is just a few miles away at Carrickfinn, allowing visitors from the UK to fly directly to the remote west of Donegal, avoiding the less than perfect road system!
The nine holes of Cruit Island were only created in 1986 (by Michael Doherty, the professional at City of Derry Golf Club) but they feel like they have been in play for many years more with their wild and windswept look. The views from the cliff tops are simply stunning and the sound of the sea is ever present as the Atlantic crashes in relentlessly on the rocks below – this is raw, elemental golf from a bygone era played in a new century.
The land for the course was originally leased from Dr. Seamus Hegarty, Bishop of Raphoe and was subsequently passed on to the current landlord, Paddy Forker. A very comfortable clubhouse was built soon after the course was first opened and this has served both the members and the growing number of golfing cognoscenti who make their way to play the course as its reputation widens.
The club is proud of their claim to being one of the first clubs in Ireland to offer full membership to ladies. In fact, they went one better by becoming the first Irish club to have a lady as President when Eileen Oglesby was elected to the position in 1994.
Cruit Island is 2,809 yards long with seven par fours and two par threes, one of which, the 150-yard 6th, is the spectacular signature hole, played along the cliff edge. The first two holes are stiff openers, both measuring over four hundred yards in length and the other par three is no pushover at 213 yards.
Mention must also be made of two golf competitions involving two of the area’s most favoured sons – Packie Bonner, the ex-Celtic and Ireland goalkeeper has an Open in July and Daniel O’Donnell, the popular Irish singer, hosts another Open in August. Cruit Island is well worth the visit, whether you choose to participate in either of these Opens, or just turn up on a day when you’re looking to play golf for fun.
On the afternoon immediately after playing Narin & Portnoo we were strongly recommended to do this one and it was a very good advice. We drove 35mins to arrive to an unreal piece of land where a small Club House, a very warming Lady Captain and a strong wind plus some rain gave us the welcome to this surreal experience.
It is a 9 holes course with 2 sets of tees which can be easily done into 18 but due to the distances you drive here I would recommend to do it combined with N&P in a full day trip from Rosapenna.
The course has some crossed paths, entrance lane goes by 1-2-8-9 which makes it quite dangerous from cars crystals but luckily no ball came near to us.
It was in very good shape, greens rolling very good and the elevated Club House provides the perfect spot for a Guinness after a wild round of golf.
The piece of land is a sort of Península with high cliffs which offer not only breathtaking views but some heroic carries. The Design is not something special but would I change it? No, leave this piece of art as it is and enjoy the ride.
There is no one hole not to highlight but I would put 6th over the cliff and with a backdrop over the green as the best picture of the day and the bravest shot to hit. But also loved 3rd downhill par 4 with the green place close to the water and makes it an awesome look.
Will it host a Top Championship? Definitely no! Is it great? ABSOLUTELY, one of the best surprises the GB&I have put in front of me.
I recognize that an occasional blind hole can be attractive but few would argue that blind is a superior design. On all but the par 3s at Cruit Island, a blind shot is encountered. And the green complexes are not particularly interesting either.
The views are indeed spectacular, but no more so than at other Donegal courses. Moreover there are equally good or better views (albeit without golf) that do not require a 4 mile drive down a one lane road. If it’s good golf you’re after, there are a number of superior alternatives in the vicinity. If it’s scenery you’re after, the same is true.
Great opening & closing sentiments.
Mind is now racing with inappropriate analogies for blind holes.
How does Cruit Island rate compared to the other notable 9 holers you’ve played?
I was told that the drive to Cruit Island is harrowing. After playing Narin and Portnoo in the morning, following lunch we made our way towards Cruit Island lamenting as we passed the sign pointing to Donegal Golf Links that we did not have time to stop and see it.
After the turn off the main road we expected to arrive at the course within a kilometer or so, but in reality it’s another 4 kilometers on a single track bumpy road. I felt as if we were going to drive beyond the furthest part of Ireland, but after another turn I decided we would need to go even farther.
The drive is harrowing and I would tell everyone to be patient to get to the clubhouse which has a spectacular view, although I do not recall any outdoor seating.
So is the drive there and back worth it? Absolutely. The views from the course alone are worth it.
Cruit Island is special. For me it is possible for it to be considered among the ten best nine hole golf courses in the world, although I have not played enough of them to truly make that statement. For me the Dunes club and Whitinsville in the USA are better. It is not a consistently challenging golf course. Several of the greens are not particularly interesting. However, when it comes to naturalness and fun it is at the top. One will go down on one, then sharply up to the second tee, then down and back up to the second green, then steeply down on three, then back up on four, then quickly down on five, finally level on six, then up the hills on seven, level on eight, and finally the last 100 yards of nine is down. All the while one is working around this peak of a dune/hill in the middle of the course. From the third through the seventh you are playing along the coast line. Nine finishes against the coast line.
Many of the greens are smaller than you might find elsewhere, but are in keeping with a course that is only 2570 yards long. However, with the exception of the first and sixth, they are beautifully contoured.
There are not many bunkers here but they are well placed such as the three fronting bunkers at the greens of the third and fourth holes or the five bunkers before the green on the sharp downhill fifth.
Sixth features a forced carry over a chasm next to the cliff drop off with the hole measured at 137 yards.
Only the eighth is boring. It is a long par 3 of 195 yards which for us played into the wind. There are no bunkers and it lacks any visual appeal after what has come before it.
My favorite hole was the fifth due to the way the green was set against the side of the hill as well as the dramatic land forms to be traversed as one’s ball tumbles down. My second favorite is the seventh going uphill with a huge hill right to be avoided.
The only difficult hole is the first if the wind is blowing in your face on this sharp dogleg right.
We had a windy day, but one that we was told was only slightly higher than normal. The course was somewhat busy but mainly two players at a time. We went around in 1:40 with only once being held up which as at the final hole.
I really enjoyed Cruit Island. If one is anywhere close to it, they should go to experience it one time.
It’s more than ten years since I last set foot on Cruit Island and I was glad to do so again last month after visiting the new St. Patrick’s Links earlier in the day – now there’s an epic course to compare and contrast against this delightful little 9-holer!
Still, they both have their place in the natural golfing order of Donegal and there’s plenty of room for the mighty and the more modest to co-exist in the same county. It does your soul good to reacquaint yourself with places like Cruit Island from time to time, even if it’s just to confirm that without a decent landscape you have no good golfing ground.
I was delighted to see the unsightly overhead power cables that used to run through the property have recently been removed, which makes things look a lot better than before. Even on a dull, overcast and largely inhospitable afternoon, a round at Cruit Island is always worth the effort it takes to get there, even if the satnav plays up again on the way!
Credit to the designers and members of Cruit Island for creating and managing a golf course in such a beautiful and remote spot. As other reviewers have remarked the sea, beaches, mountains and landscapes are all in view from every hole. It was exciting to play the first nine and find out where the greens and fairways were. However by the second nine the main and only major criticism in my mind was clear. It's just too short. Even on the card the length is not long. This is reduced even further by many of the tees being elevated and long down slopes helping the ball roll further - 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 5th, 9th. Please do not mistake this for someone boasting about how far they can hit it. I'm just being frank for the benefit of those who haven't played here. It will always be enjoyable to play a course like this but unless or until it is made longer the slope and test of golf will remain low.
I'm not sure there is a course in the world I could compare to Cruit. It is as raw and rugged a layout as you'll ever find. If pristine conditions, pure greens, and well-maintained bunkers are your thing, you'll rate Cruit a 2. If you appreciate golf in its purest form, you'll rate Cruit a 6.
I played there in summer of 2019 on a day when the wind was blowing 40 and intermittent showers had rain coming down sideways. It was warm and I had great rain gear, so it was actually quite fun. And because the weather was so extreme, I had the course to myself. Literally.
As has been pointed out in other reviews, Cruit is not perfect. The 8th, in particular, is weak ... a long, flat par 3 with power lines running the length of the hole. But prior to the 8th, you have a run of exhilarating and often ridiculous (in a good way) holes. The par 3 6th is everyone's favorite, but the tee shot at 7 is even better.
Cruit is the kind of place you can jump on in the late afternoon and have an absolute blast. Similar to what the Sheep Ranch used to be at Bandon, although more of a formal course than that was. But the same atmosphere. Pure, natural golf.
Cruit Island is located on a remote island near Kincasslagh in north western County Donegal, Cruit Island is regarded by some as one of the best 9 hole courses in the world. Whilst I would not necessarily agree with those lofty claims, I do think it is one of the most scenic and fun courses anywhere.
The course measures 2,809 yards from the tips, and has seven par 4's and two par 3's. So it is a short course, but in reality the length is almost irrelevant due to the constant elevation change, numerous blind shots, and ever present wind. The landscape is wild and windswept, with gorgeous panoramic views of mountain, islands and sea. The rocky shoreline adds to the drama with white spray flying high off the rocks as the waves crash on shore.
From a golfing point of view there are some disappointments – after a spectacular blind opening tee shot over massive dunes on the first hole, the approach shot is uninspiring, and has the entrance road running through it. The par 3 eighth hole which measures 213 yards is basically a flat hole, with a flattish green set under power lines..
And the tee shot on the final hole is lined up over the same entrance road- it's a scary prospect for both the driver, and the person using the driver.
It's easy to be a critic! However the positives outweigh the negatives. The par 3 sixth over the rocky inlets is an all world hole.
Peter Wood is the founder of The Travelling Golfer – click the link to read his full review.
If there are golf courses in heaven I suspect they will be very much in the spirit of Cruit Island.
Reaching this remote course, set above the wild and rugged Atlantic Ocean on the very edge of Ireland, is almost as dramatic as the course itself. A single-lane track, with minimal passing points, is used for the last several miles of your journey to reach this unbelievably beautiful and unspoilt part of the country.
For those familiar with Durness in the Highlands of Scotland there are strong similarities although I think Cruit just pips it. The view and setting of the links itself leaves you speechless.
The driveway through the course, where you must beep your horn to warn out-of-sight golfers about your presence, gives you a glimpse of the undulating course but the real magical stuff is hidden from view and saved for later.
I must admit when I arrived at this outpost I wasn’t expecting much activity. If I had been the only soul there, with an honesty box to deposit my green-fee in, I wouldn’t have been at all surprised but to my astonishment the clubhouse was busy and there were plenty of golfers on the course. Indeed a 5-ball was just heading out as I parked up!
Not that it is about the golf holes the best I can describe them in short would be something like; the 1st is ‘up and over’, the 2nd is ‘down and up’, the 3rd is ‘over and down’, the 4th is ‘up and then up a bit more’, the 5th is ‘over then falling right’, the 6th is ‘over the sea’, the 7th is ‘ epic along the coast’, the 8th is ‘ho-hum’ and the 9th is ‘blind then hopefully over’.
That clearly doesn’t do each one justice and whilst each hole may not be out of the top bracket the experience of playing here certainly is. It’s the sort of course where you just need to grab a small carry bag, throw in half-a-dozen clubs, a couple of balls (maybe a few more to be on the safe side) and just go out there and have a blast.
By my own admission Cruit (pronounced “Cruch” as advised by a local caddy at Rosapenna the day before) isn’t really a reviewable golf course, it’s certainly not rankable! It’s one of those special places where all that sort of irrelevant stuff becomes immaterial. But hopefully I have painted a good enough picture for you to want to go and visit and experience it for yourself. You should... and that is all that really matters.
Ed is the founder of Golf Empire – click the link to read his full review.
The beautiful, wild drive over the bridge certainly sets the scene nicely for the golf course. Hard to describe, other than to echo others' observations of the amazing variety of views from all parts of the course - on a sunny day like ours it is superlative. The greens were excellent, none of the blind shots too confusing, and the staff were very helpful and friendly. Maybe the 5th could be softened to reduce lost balls, but other than that keep it as it is and enjoy its quirky individuality, much as you should other fun but good courses like Durness, Traigh, Shiskine, Glencruitten and Anstruther.
Glad you enjoyed the unique experience that is Cruit. We have just had a great stretch of fine weather and if you can find a better place to experience golf as natural as this I’ll be more than happy to invite you back for a round as my guest.
Just came back for this year's trip to Donegal. Despite also playing the scenic and wonderful courses at Ballyliffin, Rosapenna, Narin&Portnoo and Portsalon, it is the crazy golf and breathtaking scenery at Cruit Island that our little group will remember the longest. Pick a clear day, only use the scorecard for navigation the first time....and do not forget to take lots of pictures! Almost impossible and irrelevant to rate as a golf course only.