The course and hotel of the Galway Bay Golf Resort are located on former farmland beside Renville Park, near Oranmore, on the coast of Galway Bay. The course was built in 1993 with a 92-room hotel opening four years later. Christy O’Connor Jnr not only designed the course, he is a principal partner in the development and his brother Eugene was the golf professional.
Galway Bay has been described as “parkland by the sea” with a strong American design influence. Landing areas on fairways are wide and the generously sized USGA greens are not overly taxing. Mounding and artificial lakes are clear indications that substantial earth moving occurred during construction. If manicured tees, fairways and greens are high on your golfing priority list then Galway Bay is your sort of golf course.
There is said to be a number of old buildings on the site of the course; such as a 16th century copper mine located near the 13th tee box, historic stone huts behind the 16th tee and an ancient ring fort situated between the 2nd and 10th holes.
The 152-yard par three 7th may be the highest number on the stroke index but don’t think it will be easy to play. In order to reach the green – on the other side of a lake from the tee box – you will need to play a precise short iron over water. Too short and you are in the drink, too long and you will end up in one of the large back bunkers.
The 440-yard par four 12th is, at number 1, at the opposite end of the stroke index. It plays slightly downhill with a right dogleg in the fairway, after which the approach must carry a large expanse of water in front of, and to the right of, the putting surface. Discretion may well dictate a lay up with the second shot then a chip and putt for par.
If I had one word to describe this course, it would just be "soulless". It's not all bad, particularly when you get to the sea on the back 9 where there are some ravishing views of the bay. The conditioning is ok, with good greens, but the bunkers hardly had any sand in! Ultimately it just all felt too artificial and corporate.
And at 110 Euros it's far too expensive for what it is. Go up the coast to Co. Sligo, Enniscrone and Standhill, and play all 3 for 150 Euros - now that's value.
I played Galway Bay a couple of days ago at the end of a short 5-day trip to the west coast of Ireland. The course lies half an hour’s drive east of Galway city centre, overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, but the only links aspect to playing here is the ever present sea breezes, as evidenced by some of the wind-bent trees dotted around a spacious 300-acre property.
No, this is a superior parkland golf course, where you’ll find lush underfoot conditions on the fairways and big, USGA-specification greens that are sensibly contoured and well protected by bunkers. The clubhouse, which was closed for a while with golfers having to use the nearby hotel, is now back in full swing after an expensive refurbishment, catering for members and visitors alike.
Out on the course, the 1st to 3rd are solid opening holes, laid out on rolling terrain, before the first par three arrives at the downhill 4th. This short hole plays to a green guarded at the front by a large bunker, with the Atlantic as a rather alluring backdrop. The next hole hugs the coastline before the 6th swings left and inland to a green situated alongside an artificial lake. The same body of water then has to be carried at the par three 7th, where the green juts out into the lake.
The back nine features several really tough holes, including the right doglegged 12th, with a substantial carry across the same lake required of the approach shot (unless you lay up, which is the smart thing to do). The uphill, par three 15th is another difficult hole, played towards the big Marine Institute building that looms on the horizon, with a wicked back-to-front sloping green.
If parkland is your preferred golfing battleground, or maybe you just want a break from the rigours of links golf on a tour along the west coast, then Galway Bay might just be the place for a little comparative respite. Then again, if the wind gets up around here, expect no mercy from the elements as the course occupies a pretty exposed site. Jim McCann.