Donegal is not the 18th-best course in Ireland. Period.
Donegal is a solid, unspectacular design. It is long. That might be it's defining characteristic, and something the folks in the pro shop are proud of. I was informed before my round in July 2019 that one of the holes was being lengthened by about 50 yards, because apparently 7,456 yards isn't quite long enough.
There are some positive things I can say about the course. First, it has a driving range, which isn't a common feature in the northwest. Second, there are a few interesting holes, especially when you reach the high point of the property and hitting down to the fairway like you'll find at the par 5 8th. Also, I thought the landing areas at Donegal were more generous ... and the rough less penal ... than some of the other courses in the northwest (like Portsalon, for example).
If I was planning a return trip to that area, I would put Rosapenna (both courses), Narin & Portnoo, Co Sligo, and Strandhill ahead of Donegal. I wouldn't turn down a second round at Donegal, but I wouldn't go out of my way to play it either.
Date: January 22, 2020