The European Club is located in the garden of Ireland, between the coastal towns of Wicklow and Arklow, about 30 miles south of Dublin. It’s Pat Ruddy’s creation, which opened for play in 1993, and he and his family have stayed here ever since. This was a unique experience, a 20-hole links set amongst rugged dunes, until the 20-hole configuration was replicated down under in 2010 at Barnbougle Lost Farm.
Ruddy’s continued involvement with the European Club will no doubt only improve matters; the course is evolving and he will be there to help it on its way. We are especially pleased to see that a charming burn has replaced the out-of-place lake in front of the 18th green. It’s an old adage to say that many of the holes look so natural that you’d think they’d been there forever, but it’s true. Ruddy has done an equally good job here as that of Kyle Phillips at Kingsbarns.
This is an inspiring place to play golf, huge dunes provide tremendous definition and the Irish Sea is very much a backcloth. It’s a bit of a monster too; the 18-hole layout stretches to more than 7,000 yards, a challenging par 71. Two par 3s (7a & 12a) make up the par 77 20-hole layout and they are definitely worth playing, making a refreshing break from tradition.
There is no doubt that Ruddy has a sense of humour – the scorecard is full of witticisms, even the green on the par four 12th is humorous at over 125 yards long, with any three putt being an achievement. This is an enjoyable and memorable course. Many of the holes are varied and capture one’s attention and there are some great holes too.
The 7th (stroke index 1) is a long 470-yard par four, it's ranked in the world's best 100 holes and it's set on a sandbank that runs through a bed of reeds. A burn runs along the right hand side, beyond which there's a hundred acres of unspoiled land without a building to be seen. On the left are towering dunes, a marsh filled with reeds and more sand dunes by the green. Brittas Bay shimmers behind the green. The 13th – four evil bunkers on the left-hand side and the Irish Sea on the right – amply protect this very long 596-yard par five. The 14th is an arresting par three, measuring 165 yards with a plateau green shielded by huge dunes.
This is an absolute must-play golf course and quite likely one of the last links courses to be built in Ireland.
Pat Ruddy kindly provided the following update at the start of 2017:
At the European Club, I have my notebooks under constant review and there are always things that could be done and things that should be done. Each winter, and on all my review projects, I take and advocate a "steady as it goes" approach for many reasons, including not disrupting the life of a links to an extent that the oldest members will have their final years upset too much. We have a 20-hole course so I can work at two at any time and still have eighteen in play.
We’ve just finishing remodeling greens at holes 9 and 10. The green on the 9th was very nice with swerving, curving mounds eating into the green left and right at mid-point but they’ve been reshaped and softened, with the introduction of several extra small and almost imperceptible swings to add great intrigue to the running approach. The green on the 10th is somewhat the same so I have softened a mound on the right side of the green and enlarged the back right pin position which is the strongest on the green. The pin can now go two club lengths further right and demand a more nuanced approach.
I’m thrilled with these changes as they look great and should play great for the Irish Amateur Close Championship here next year. When we had the Close here in 2006 it produced a great winner in Rory McIlroy, with Shane Lowry caddying for his opponent in the final!”
A unique course which is quite differentiated from the rest of the Top 100 (or at least the 20 courses on that list which I have been fortunate enough to play). 20 holes, golf carts, etc. I have to say that I enjoyed my round here more than the other reviewers seem to have (and the the US visitors that I have brought here have always liked the course). Expertly manicured and really distinctive with no apologies for trying to stand out. I do believe that the course does have one flaw which is that it is too hard. For high teens handicappers, it is hard to score substantially below 100, and for your typical golfer with between a mid-single and mid-double digit handicap, there are not enough opportunities to recover from a subpar (but not disastrous) effort. Despite that, at under an hour from Dublin airport its a very worthwhile trip when in the area and a memorable experience that stands out amongst the other courses in the UK&I
This is a golf course I really want to rank higher than I am going to rate it because I adore what the owner and designer, Mr. Pat Ruddy, has done to not only build and live his “dream life,” but also to share his golf course a small membership but a much larger audience of visitors.
Many reviewers have given The European Club the coveted six balls, or somewhere in between five to six balls. I cannot get to those ratings although I very much want to.
I will get my negative comments out of the way so that I can focus on the positives, for which there are many.
I do not like the burn on the 18th (nor did I like it when it was a small pond). For a course that was selected due to the location of the land, I do not believe something unnatural to the area should have been added.
I do not like the sleeper ties/railroad ties. They are more appropriate for the golf courses located in the Low Country or Florida in the USA. At The European Club I find them too “easy” to recover from as there is a helpful tilt to most of them so that one is nearly certain to get out of them even with a slightly thinned shot. As for other reviewers commenting on ricochets that cause their balls to end up in the rough and possibly lost, I did not find that to be the case. Nor did I worry about a ricochet of the ball back towards me. I realize Pete Dye used railroad/sleeper ties on his courses throughout the Midwest of the USA, but I find them out of place in Ireland and the UK.
I wonder whether building these types of bunkers is a cost measure or something Mr. Ruddy personally likes. Having just played Secession GC in South Carolina, I was amazed at their pot bunkers which were constructed by recycling the artificial turf used in football stadiums in the UK. At Secession, these bunkers look like typical grass-sod based pot bunkers, but are not. In addition, the bunkers at Secession have survived two hurricanes and repeated flooding from tropical storms/high winds. I do not know the cost of building them (I should have asked), but as I played my round with the course superintendent I did learn that they expect them to last more than 100 years with the maintenance being only replacement of sand and raking. In looking at the other reviews, it appears more people do not like the sleeper bunkers versus those that do. They are different and not what one expects on a golf course in Ireland, but maybe Mr. Ruddy just wants to add a bit of whimsy to his course.
The third item is whether the routing was the best for the land. Certainly Mr. Ruddy has experience from his previous designs and has constructed a fine routing with many memorable golf holes. Much like Old Head, however, I find myself wondering whether the routing could have been even better or whether there are restrictions in the land that I did not take the appropriate time to consider. I do know that I wish the tenth was not between the first and the ninth. For me, the difference in the land is enough to have put the ninth where the tenth is and vice versa. There are a few other areas where I thought there were better green sites or perhaps a hole could have better utilized a dune. The back nine is over 420 yards longer than the front from the championship tees. This reminded me of Cherry Hills in Colorado where one nine plays easier than the other. Part of the difference at The European Club is due to only one par 3 on the back nine as well as the front nine has different terrain. The front nine alternates going towards the water and reversing course; could it have started in the direction left of the clubhouse moving down to the sea or would that have eliminated twelve and thirteen? That is why I wonder.
Is the course is overly difficult, even on a relatively calm day? Does the course provide enough chances for recovery from a bad shot? Or is it a course that once you have hit a bad shot, you are doomed to suffer until you eventually hole out and get to the next tee.
There is an odd placement of small trees scattered either in the fairway or too near it which I suspect is to add to strategy or increase the difficulty. I found them annoying from a visual perspective. The seventeenth suffers from the small trees in the fairway down the right side. I am aware of Mr. Ruddy’s quotes regarding the difficulty of his course, “we make no apology for the fact that the inept and thoughtless player may suffer on our links. It was not created for such players.” And a second one, “If you choose your tees unwisely….please call it suicide rather than murder.”
I chuckle at those quotes but I do wish there was a set of combo tees around 6450-6550 yards. The course goes from approximately 7500 to 6800 to 6200 to 5400 yards.
On the positive there is the fine routing. Despite my third item, it is obvious Mr. Ruddy built a challenging, interesting and visually appealing course due to the many terrific holes that are there. He takes advantage of the views and the hills very well, working his holes through the dunes, finding land for the elevated tees, creating uphill and downhill tee shots or approach shots. For the most part his greens are located in sheltered spots where the land presented itself or in the open along the coastal holes. The green sites he created are ones that makes one think hard about the club to choose and where the best landing spot might be. Sometimes it might not be wise to attempt to get all the way to the green in regulation. I would not change much of the back nine which has that lovely long stretch of land near the Irish Sea so perhaps it is unavoidable.
My favorite part of the golf course are the greens themselves which are interesting and rarely overly done. They are large or the appropriate size for the hole. I think the greens are the strength of the golf course. I love the 125+ plus green on the twelfth. My complaint of it, though, is it should be hole #12A and be its own par 3 but with a putter. Obviously, I am joking about that. I do love it because it is unique. At the double greens on the Old course at St. Andrews, one is likely never to have a putt over 75 yards. Here a putt of 125 yards is possible. It’s quirky, but it’s unique and fun even if it rarely happens.
I like the signs on the course referring to famous players or top 500 holes. I find they spark curiosity as to why a hole is named for a certain player and because the holes are good, they deserve a sign. I contrast this with Waterville that has notations on two of the weaker holes on the golf course.
The first hole is a nice starting hole, well bunkered and with a good green, but one is introduced to the sleeper bunkers.
Two is a short par 3 that does not offer much except for the bunkers fronting the green. It is the second fairly easy hole.
I like and don’t like the third hole. I dislike it because of the number of sleeper bunkers and I do not like how the fairway runs out. I do like the shape of the hole, the length of this shorter par 5 as well as the view that awaits you as you near the green.
The fourth reverses course from the third which makes the third a bit of a tease hole. One plays uphill with the fairway nestled between small rises on either side. There is ample room in the fairway. The green is well protected in the front although I am annoyed by the sleeper bunkers.
Five is a mid-length par 4 with a wider fairway that is for me the least attractive hole on the golf course. However, it does have a fine rumpled green at the end.
The slightly long par 3 sixth hole has some oddly placed bushes in front of the tee but well short of the green. They are pretty but do not make visual sense. Perhaps the largest bunker on the golf course is near the front right of the green. It’s an okay golf hole.
Like many other reviewers, the seventh is not my favorite hole but I like it. This long par 4 of 475/445 is likely the most difficult hole on the golf course with the ever-present possibility of out-of-bounds or a lost ball on either side for the tee shot, continuing down the right almost to the green. Marsh is also left and pinches out a bit into the fairway but does eventually end well short of the green. Does this hole deserve to be in the top 500 in the world? Yes, it is difficult but it is fair as even the shorter hitter has a good chance at par on this hole.
Hole 7A reminds me of a hole built for a par 3 course such as the Mulligan course at Ballyneal or at Colorado Golf Club. It is a short par 3 and nothing more than a pitch. The green has a nice slope left to right and a sort of a bowl in it. I have played a hole like this many times.
Eight is a lovely mid-length par 4 slight dogleg right with a lovely valley in the fairway well short of the green and another nicely shaped green.
Nine is a mid-length par 4 going back to the clubhouse as a slight dogleg left. As indicated, I wish it was routed where the tenth hole is and that the tenth would have played differently. The ninth would be longer and the tenth shorter which would have balanced the yardage a bit better for each nine holes.
The tenth is a good hole due to the green complex which is wonderfully slanted with fall offs in the right spots near the green, but I do wish it was a gentle dogleg.
The eleventh is a fine dogleg left par 4 playing between the dunes on either side as you work your way down to the coast. It is a pretty hole but I do not find this one to be particularly difficult.
The twelfth is likely my favorite hole on the golf course as you play along the bay with the beach to one’s right. The view from the elevated tee is amazing as it points you away from the large dune to the left just off the tee toward the beach on this slight dogleg left. There is a carry one must make but it is short unless the wind in howling in your face. As previously mentioned, I like the long green waiting for you at the end of the hole.
There is nice undulation to it as well as some good mounding aside it. As much as I appreciate the green, I like the placement of the bunkers scattered about the hole even more. This is a golf hole almost perfectly conceived and worthy of its recognition.
Hole 12A is one of the best holes on the golf course set perfectly against the mounds/dunes. It has a very good green on it. It is a pity it is not part of the regular rotation with the score there counting on the scorecard. Perhaps make the eighteenth a play-off hole only?
The thirteenth is an outstanding par five along the water. The bunkers on the tee shot are placed perfectly left and right as the fairway comes to a pathway off a bit to the right. The fine bunkering continues all the way to the green. There is trouble everywhere to the green on both sides of the fairway due to the vegetation left and right as well as the beach to the right with a few bunkers thrown in. This is my second favorite hole on the golf course which makes me similar to so many other reviewers in that they highlight the twelfth and thirteenth.
I don’t quite share the same high opinion as others regarding the par 3 fourteenth hole. It does have a nice back to front sloped green but I do not find anything really unique about it from a visual or defense perspective. It plays uphill over a valley with danger lurking on both sides due to the heavy grasses/vegetation. It is a nice hole but in my opinion, 12A is better.
Fifteen is a nice short dogleg left par 4 and the last hole with the coastline and beach to the right. The hole has five bunkers on the left for those trying to shorten the dogleg and has two near the front of the green. I found the fairway to be generous in width as you play uphill to another lovely well sculpted green with danger on the right due to a fall off and more vegetation/ferns.
Sixteen is a bit of a letdown with another wider fairway and an approach to the green that just does not catch my eye like so many of the earlier greens. The hole is well bunkered with eight but I did not find the fairway bunkers to be as much in play as perhaps for other players.
Seventeen is a very good golf hole and is a very fine hole prior to the finish. At this point the back nine has left you a bit breathless. Although I do not like the small trees protruding on the right side of the fairway, I do like how the fairway narrows and the setting of the green.
The finishing hole is one of the biggest let downs on the golf course as a par 4 that is both long at 470+ yards and also plays a bit uphill. I do not like the serpentine nature of the burn, the burn itself, nor the raised bunker at the back which remains me of the Iron Throne from “Game of Thrones.”
I can understand why The European Club gets such high ratings due to the views, the greens, three fabulous holes and five others that are really strong. It does however have five holes I do not think highly of while having some visual features I do not like. I do hope to play it again, but there are about 200-300 courses in front of it that I have yet to play. Perhaps if I return to play Portmarnock Championship for my “revenge,” I will make my way down to it. Despite my rating, I highly recommend that it be played more than once.
Wow! Mr. White knows more about my links than I do having spent 30-years working here. But good luck to him as he has fun. Just two points - He says he does not like railway sleepers as they are more appropriate to Florida. He finds them out of place in Ireland and the U.K. Of course, railway sleepers were in use on many classic UK links long before golf was started in the USA!!!! He does not like our burn on 18 saying "I do not believe something unnatural to the area should be added." Just as unnatural as the burns at hole 1 St. Andrews Old and hole 18 Carnoustie. This is a naturally wet corner, the clubhouse is built on piles as a precaution, and the water enters and leaves the "burn zone" per drain pipes. Of course, everyone is entitled to likes and dislikes and I am glad your reviewer was exercised so. But... it is not that easy to design or redesign a golf course while playing a game or two. Pat Ruddy
Thank you Mr. Ruddy for your response.
I do know of the history of the usage of sleeper ties on golf courses in the UK/Ireland such as the very large bunker named "Himalayas" at Royal St. George's, adding an interesting challenge such as the smaller "ryebrows" on Rye Old, the extensive usage at Royal West Norfolk serving both as defense but equally as important for protection against erosion, and their usage on many other very fine courses across Ireland and the UK. In my mind, sleeper ties are used infrequently as their primary purpose being to support/maintain a bunker on difficult land due to slope, or to maintain the bunker as protection against the natural elements of wind/rain/coastal erosion. One does not often see them on higher ground or next to a dune providing shelter.
As for the burn on 18 (formerly a small pond), managing an area prone to wetness/higher water table is always a difficult decision as to how to best manage it. For the Old course and Carnoustie, the burns are more natural in appearance due to being on lower land with their proximity to the sea.
I do note that other reviewers did not mention these are negatives.
Of course taking holes out of commission while one works on improving them is always a challenge. At one of my clubs, we took three out at a time. You were ahead of your time in building a 20 hole golf course.
I do not pretend to know the land and course better than you. What I like the most about your course is the routing which resulted in so many great/good golf holes.
I applaud you on designing and continuing to improve The European Club. Going back to your involvement in golf prior to purchasing the land and building your dream at The European Club up to the present, you have left a legacy to the game of golf that will endure forever. It is clear golf is your life's passion and you have lived it fully. Thank you for that.
Great that Pat Ruddy has replied to a user review of The European Club. Wouldn’t it be great if more architects did that to explain the context or thoughts behind their designs?
I like Mark’s point on the correct use of railway sleepers for bunkers. They are very prominent on the cape bunker at my home course, and indeed prevent the bunker from sliding - but I hadn’t really considered that fact before.
I do have to correct Mark on his assumption (in his response) that no other reviewers called out the burn fronting the 18th as awkward. Just looking at a few recent reviews, I did so, as well as “Cyril” (who called in a stream).
In the coming months I will be playing over both the Swilken & Barry Burns, and if they also feel incongruous I will call that out in any reviews I post. Unlike this review, it’s a shame I won’t be able to get an inside the ropes response from James Braid or Old Tom Morris
It's been several years since I played the European Club yet I've been to Dublin several times on golf related trips. To be fair I'd say I like it and it has some interesting holes but it's a borderline Top 100 course for me. For starters I'm not a huge fan of the railroad ties in the bunkers. It seems rather contrived and unnatural for a links. There are several good holes and a couple interesting par 3's that are fun to play but Ireland's links golf scene is so strong that I feel local courses like Portmarnock and The Island kind of overshadow the European Club. One thing that is great is the wonderful friendly service that is provided there. Also the property is very good land for golf. I'd call it a must visit when you are headed to Dublin for a golf trip and it definitely should be considered ahead of courses like the K Club and Druids Glenn.
I played the European in June 2019. Our first impression was surprising: no cars on the car park! We were told we could start whenever we want, there are only two other groups. The clubhouse is rather small and simple but nice and the food was good. From the starter we learned that the club has only 67 (!) members so that is probably why the clubhouse does not need to be bigger. On our way from first green to second tee a jaguar drove to us, a very well dressed man greeted us an went on driving over the tee box to another hole where he parked on the tee box. We were a bit surprised about that but we learned later that this was Mr. Ruddy who inspects the course every day like this.
The course itself is beautiful, with stunning views, lots of elevation changes, rather unexpected plants like many yuccas and agaves and the typical bunkers. Greens and fairways are rather soft compared to other links courses because the members prefer it that way. Never the less it always plays like a true links.
What I didn't like was the fact that for meall in all it seemed a bit too artificial and somehow over designed. The bunker walls with their railway sleepers, the artifical burn in front of the 18th green, the 20 hole layout (we were not allowed to play the two extra holes), the 127 yards green at the 12th, the more or less internal bunker at the 13th... just a bit too much. We also didn't understand why the 7th is the signature hole as there are better ones we thought and also the 14th, which is supoposed to be one of the best 100 holes in the world, was surely not the best on the course.
Never the less the course is a pure joy to play and the quality is superb and I am sure everybody will enjoy it!
The passage of time may be marked by a hairline that starts higher up for me and with the use of a buggy on Mr. Ruddy's part, but 20 years after I played the course for the first time, Mr. Ruddy is still there to see you off the first tee. If that doesn't put you in a positive mood to start your round, it only takes a couple holes before the sights will force you into one.
At the par 5 3rd is one of my favorite views in Irish golf, as the serpentine fairway leads you down towards the green and off beyond the Irish Sea and down the coastline. It helps it's a proper golf hole too. One of many on a course that plunges, climbs, and turns around some massive dunes. Some of the playing corridors here are amongst my favorite anywhere, creating that sense that you have the course to yourself, as you are shielded from other holes and players.
Then, when it isn't moving through those dunes, it's smack dab beside the beach, with a par 4 and par 5 that must be as close to the beach (in as much as it's in play) as any course that I have played.
Up the cliff and then a turn back into the dunes and a valley of fairway, eventually leads you to a closing hole that maybe isn't the most edifying way to end a round, but it hardly overshadows the fun and challenge that came before it.
And make no mistake, this course is a proper challenge in the way that Portrush is. If you are having a bad day off the tee, it can and will bite you. And for this golfer who has seen maybe one too many wide American destination golf resort the past few years, having the potential to get kicked up the backside now and again is actually fun.
Played this one quite recently and it was a walk but we were told beforehand they do like their dunes in Ireland. Glad we took one of their electric buggies because it saved my legs. Enjoyed our round and it was something different to the norm for us all especially the nice views and different greens. Sometimes a bit forced and not so natural if you know what I mean hole 14 or so and the stream on 18 compared to what I’m familiar with at least but in a few years it’ll probably settle down. Saying this we still had to think about the wind and where we put the ball and I played well for a change even though it wasn’t easy so that also helps with the experience! Ended up with 19 scores on my card and wasn’t alone as we realised afterwards that we’d definitely played 19 holes. Thought we might all be going senile at the same time but turned out there were in fact 20 holes so in the end we’d missed one. Clubhouse didn’t seem to match the course but green fee was cheaper than the other club Portmarnock we played that weekend. Cyril
Under the continued watchful eye of the owner, Mr. Pat Ruddy, the pursuit of the perfect golf links continues to be full steam ahead. Right from the first hole, this beautiful course will make you smile and eager to take on the challenge.
The carefully created holes will fill your eyes with grandeur, splendor, trials and tribulations. The first hole is tight and plays uphill all the way with no shortage of bunkers lined with those famous railroad ties. After a short par 3 second, the third hole is a downhill par 5 that really whets the appetite playing down towards the Irish Sea. Making a birdie early if you can as the par 4 4th hole takes the difficulty up about 10 notches as it’s uphill, tight and will take many prisoners.
Most of the holes are about avoiding the pot bunkers that have been perfectly positioned. The par 4 5th hole has another flurry of landmines that will swallow you up. The par 7th is celebrated globally and I agree that this is certainly justified. This par 4 is dedicated to the hard work of Mr. Arnold Palmer and is celebrated among the Top 500 holes on earth. It’s very tight and fraught with danger on both sides of the narrow fairway that feels like a pirates plank.
Nobody will argue that the back nine along the Irish Sea will take your breath away. The beauty will knock you over and it’s a testament to Mr. Ruddy’s vision of marrying up magnificence with ruthless challenge. Holes 12 and 13 skirt the water’s edge and will last in your memory forever. The 12th has the longest green in the world at 127 yards deep which is a sight to behold and the mighty par 5 13th from the back tees restores the art of three strategy shots to hit the dance floor. With the Irish Sea running all the way up the right hand side, it’s hard not to get distracted. The par 3 14th sits wonderfully in an amphitheater of dunes with enormous railroad tie bunkers that provide a visual threat before you take the club back.
Holes 15 and 16 don’t get enough credit. The 15th is uphill along the coast before the hugely strategic 16th turns you back around and dares you to navigate through a maze of bunkers. I always had a soft-spot for the downhill par 4 17th that plays inland through a V-Shaped valley of dunes. Arguably, the 9th and 18th holes look and feel the same, a comment I’ve heard from a number of reviewers which slightly hampers the sense of variety at the end of each nine.
In line with Mr. Ruddy’s strict preferences, there are no yardage markers on the fairways, just a few coloured poles that represent 100, 150 and 200 yards in. The course offers endless options to play the ball high or low, and with an infinite number of combinations to consider, the architect has created one of the most enjoyable walks in golf. The golf course is truly spectacular and you will not leave disappointed, especially if you get to spend some priceless time with the world-renowned hugely proud owner, creator and ruler of the land.
Pat Ruddy is one of a kind – and Irish golf wouldn’t be the same without him!
Some of the features on show here - 120 yard green at the 12th, horseshoe green at the 13th, sleepered bunkers, conspicuous burn protecting the 18th green - could split opinion, but don’t.
Almost all reviewers on this site (and elsewhere) seem to greatly enjoy them and so I’ll have to swim against the tide on this one (and have a long hard look at myself in the mirror). I simply found it a little contrived in forcing quirkiness or seeking authenticity.
Based on my limited experience, I didn’t feel this at other modern links like Castle Stuart or Pacific Dunes (I did admittedly get it at Trump International, but there it kind of fit in with my POTUS expectations and genuinely worked).
It was a shame to have to play the course the wrong way around due to frost delays. Like starting a book from half way, getting to the end, and then going back to read the first half. The routing was quite deliberate, so it felt we got our peaks too early in the round.
On a more positive note, I did enjoy the movement of the land, the sea views, and the banter with the starter was first class.
I had made a special trip to play here, so perhaps it was just the mood on the day or not enough Guinness the night before. It possibly didn’t help playing the same weekend as Portmarnock.
I’m still glad I made the visit though and if you haven’t played it yet, by general consensus, you should pay a visit - you will have noticed by now that you’ll rarely see anything other than a glowing review. Whilst The European Club is clearly not a marmite course for anyone else, it simply wasn’t my cup of tea
Agree with your sentiments BB (I also gave the European Club 4 balls). Played ok but just could not warm to it. Many have described EC as the best links in Ireland - they cant have played the Irish monuments.
The best links course in Ireland. Very much a hidden gem.
Questionable. Best course in Ireland... in your opinion fair enough. Hidden gem. Hardly. The European has been ranked in the World Top 100 for decades.
My wife and I had the privilege and pleasure of playing The European Club twice this past August -- once, in a torrential downpour with 30mph gusts -- the second time, days later, with the threat of even worst weather, but sun and light breezes prevailed (and we essentially had the course to ourselves on both days).
Three points to make. First, The European Club is by far the most complete golf course I've ever played in Ireland. Even as a bogey golfer, I can recognize and appreciate the combination of great links land, excellent conditioning, wonderful routing, diverse hole designs -- and the added attention-to-detail elements that challenge great golfers, but still create a manageable and memorable experience for the average golfer. Second, I absolutely love what I'll call "semi-blind" drives on several of the holes -- ones where you can kind of see and feel and know the landing areas (from the shot guide) -- but are challenged to decide to either layup and have a long second shot in -- or trust your swing and try to hit the perfect drive. Again, for the bogey golfer like me, to choose the latter and be successful in execution is extremely pleasing and rewarding. Makes you feel like a pro. And third, while there is everything to be said about the grand old links courses (the ones that Mother Nature carved out) -- and yes, the modern makers sometimes get it wrong (see St. Andrews Castle) -- when the modern makers get it right, boy do they get it right (I think of Kingsbarn, my favorite course in Scotland, short of the Old Course). Is it ok for me to suggest that The European Club is the Kingsbarn of Ireland (or Kingsbarn the European Club of Scotland :-)? I'm not sure how much earth Mr. Ruddy moved to create this masterpiece -- but I can assure you that the combination of his passion and love or the game, plus his golf and artistic talent, plus what God gave him to work with -- he got it just right. And btw, as a sidebar -- the only great concentration of links courses in the U.S. are at Bandon Dunes -- and The European Club, even more so than Kingsbarn, would be an absolutely complimentary and perfect fit there, in my humble opinion.
One final point to share. I promised I would not mention any of the staff by name, so I won't -- but needless to say they treated my wife and I like long lost family (dare I say like a "prodigal son and daughter," in the midst of the stormy weather of Biblical proportions that we experienced :-) -- sincerely and completely. The team created and gave to us, as gifts, the most memorable days of our vacation. Thank you. And while the green fee may be on the very high side -- if I ever have the opportunity again, I will return here first, before the Portmarnocks and Old Heads of the world. Don D