DonegalLaghey, County Donegal
- AddressDonegal Golf Club, Murvagh Lower, Laghey, Co. Donegal, Ireland
- Championships hosted
The Murvagh peninsula jutting out into Donegal Bay is the home of Donegal Golf Club. It’s an enchanting and isolated setting for a big links course. The panoramic view across the bay is sensational, with the Bluestack Mountains providing a dramatic backdrop.
The prolific architect, Eddie Hackett, laid out the course in 1973 and Murvagh is considered to be one of his finest creations. Hackett was given a naturally rugged and crumpled piece of links land to play with and he used it well to produce a monster championship-length layout. Thanks to Pat Ruddy, Donegal now measures a mighty 7,450 yards from the back tees and we recommend that they be left well alone for the pros or for the very low single figure handicappers.
Donegal’s layout is configured in two elongated loops of nine holes. The front nine runs anticlockwise and the back nine runs clockwise, sitting inside the outward nine. The first four holes are fairly ordinary, feeling inland in character, and then at the 185-yard par three 5th, we enter dune country. This one shot hole, called “Valley of Tears”, is a brute. A semi-blind tee shot to a narrow plateau green, we must make sure that we select the right club to traverse the valley and the bunkers in front of and below the raised green. The next three holes are stunning where the fairways rollercoaster up and down, flanked by huge shaggy sand dunes. At the turn, we are faced with a thrilling back nine, including the 12th, a monster par five, and the sadistic par three 16th, measuring nigh on 250 yards from the back tees.
There is no doubt that Donegal at Murvagh is a very challenging links course and it should be up at the top of the must-play list for any serious golfer.
Around 1992, Pat Ruddy was commissioned to update the original Eddie Hackett-designed layout here at Donegal Golf Club and the work spanned a number of years. Pat has kindly provided the following update for us:
"Hole 1… a totally new green running across the inward shot rather than with it. This to lay a premium on the club chosen coming in (good to do at a par-5)... and then I sculpted a front bunker into a dip at mid-point with pin levels left and right sweeping down into it.
Hole 2… new fairway bunkers at left pinch the tee-shot a little and bring the natural out-of-bounds on the right into play for those seeking to get closer to the green. The green itself is totally new… raised by 2-feet or so at the front and 5-feet or so at the back thus allowing for deep bunkering front and sides. The green is angled right to left to reward those who take-on the boundary off the tee.
Hole 4… totally new tees, fairway with bunkers and a new green running left to right with bunkering at front right. All arranged to give strong golf images off the tee, the old set up was a wee bit blind, and it is a vastly improved hole.
Hole 5… new tees to add length and offer differing angles on a classical par-3 to a shelf green.
Hole 9… a totally new green (the first job I did there) and fairway bunkering. The green was moved back and to the right to tease the tee-shot and allow bunkering to impinge on the approach.
Hole 10… new championship tees.
Hole 12… a new green with stronger bunkering; newly conformed fairway with strong bunkering for the tee-shot; and the approach to the green rumpled and bunkered.
Hole 13… another brand new green slightly raised to provide for run-off chip areas and for deeper bunkers.
Hole 14… bunkering for the tee shot and fairway elevation changes to slow the drive, a lovely (if I say so myself) meandering stream brought into play in horse-shoe shape in front of the green (inviting golfers to gamble into the horseshoe if they really think that one club less for the third is all-important at this par-5 and a totally new green raised, tiered and bunkered.
Hole 16… bunkered the green at this par-3.
Hole 18… cut a V-valley through the hill to remove blindness off the tee; shaped and bunkered the fairway; and provided a lovely gallery green with very nice bunkering just under the clubhouse windows.
That makes 11 holes heavily revised, refurbished and modernised. It is a remarkably different and better links than before but the analysts seem slow to realise what has happened as the club is not of the boastful type and hasn't broadcast the good news as others might. It was already one of Ireland’s finest but now I feel it is into a brave new place and I fancy that Eddie Hackett would be pleased enough with his co-designer!"
At the start of 2017, Pat Ruddy sent this:
At Donegal, the 17th has been modified and revisions made to the par three 16th, which was a very difficult hole for club players with a minimum measurement of 203 metres. The championship tee remains intact but new member tees have been constructed forward and to the right (to give a lovely new angle) at 160, 165 and 170 metres, with a new greenside bunker on the left balancing the removal of force with a little intrigue and skill.
The club has hosted a number of provincial and national tournaments down the years. In addition to our featured Irish Women's Close championship, Donegal has staged theIrish Men's Close championship, the Irish Senior Amateur Open, the Ulster Boys' AmateurOpen and the All-Ireland Finals of Cups and Shields.
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Eddie Hackett is regarded as “the father of golf course design” in Ireland, though he never formally trained as an architect and only became involved in laying out courses when he reached his late fifties.
Narin & Portnoo