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32 miles NW of Shannon airport
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Lahinch is derived from the old Irish name Leithinsi, a half island. The village dates back to the 18th century and grew in popularity thanks to George I, who believed that eating periwinkles and sea-grass was healthy.
Golf at Lahinch dates back to 1892. Three local Limerick golfers laid out an 18-hole course, assisted by officers of the Scottish “Black Watch” regiment who were stationed in Limerick at that time. In 1894, Old Tom Morris was commissioned to make improvements to the layout and he made excellent use of the natural terrain, especially the giant sand dunes. Old Tom believed that Lahinch was the finest natural course that he had seen.
In the mid 1890s, the West Clare Railway made the town more accessible and consequently, people flocked to Lahinch to stay at the new Golf Links Hotel. The whole town lives and breathes golf. Bernard Darwin wrote the following in his book, The Golf Courses of the British Isles, published in 1910: “The greatest compliment I have heard paid to Lahinch came from a very fine amateur golfer, who told me that it might not be the best golf in the world, but was the golf he liked to play best. Lest this may be attributed to patriotic prejudice, I may add that he was an Englishman born and bred.”
In 1927, Dr Alister MacKenzie redesigned the course, relocating a number of holes closer to the bay. The redesign work took one year to complete and featured undulating triple tiered greens. MacKenzie was pleased with his work and said: “It will make the finest and most popular course that I, or I believe anyone else, ever constructed”.
Unfortunately, in 1935, the same time that MacKenzie was designing Augusta with Bobby Jones, the Lahinch committee decided that his greens were too tough for the average golfer. John Burke was granted the remit to flatten them out. Happily, in 1999, Martin Hawtree knowledgably reinstated MacKenzie’s characteristics, completing Lahinch’s restoration.
Lahinch is an enchanting place to play golf. It’s rugged, distinctive, unusually varied and immensely entertaining. This traditional out and back layout is situated next to the lovely beach of Liscannor Bay.
Each September, Lahinch hosts the South of Ireland Championship, an annual occurrence since 1895. The “South” is a matchplay competition, which attracts many spectators and some great amateur golfers, although it is unlikely that anybody will beat John Burke’s record. The “King of Lahinch” was the South of Ireland champion 11 times between 1928 and 1946.
Views across the bay from the 3rd are uplifting. This 446-yard par four, has a blind drive to a hidden fairway and the approach to the green is obscured by a hill on the right. The 4th is a short par five named Klondyke. It's one of the most unusual holes in golf and an Old Tom speciality. The tee shot needs to find a narrow rippled fairway located in a valley between dunes. A blind second shot then has to negotiate Klondyke, a towering sand dune that straddles the fairway some 200 yards away from the green. It's certainly a quirky hole but it's also very memorable.
What's the best way to follow such an eccentric hole? Why, another highly peculiar one, naturally! Left untouched since Old Tom Morris first fashioned it over a century ago, Dell is the renowned blind par three 5th, its green nestling between towering sand hills that surround the narrow green on all sides. A stone on top of one of the dunes indicates the hole location from the tee so golfers are advised to factor in the wind direction, pick the right club for the yardage then take aim for the hidden flag.
The Old course at Lahinch is a gem, but take note of where the goats are. If they are sheltering near the clubhouse—take your umbrella—you are in for a wet round.
Lahinch Golf Club staged the Irish Open for the first time in 2019. The event was a treat for the pros, especially Spain's Jon Rahm who won the title by two shots. Englishman Robert Rock grabbed the headlines on Saturday after carding a record-breaking 60. Rock birdied the last six holes during round three and had a 35-foot putt for eagle on the last for a 59 but missed by inches.
By my own personal rating system, I have Lahinch Old as the 57th best golf course I have played. It certainly belongs among the world’s best. It is one of the most natural golf courses as well as the quirkiest. It is the rare golf course that actually benefits from the hills upon which some of the holes are built.
I have played it in the worst of conditions. The first time I played it I was a single. The wind was howling and the rain was heavy. Two people quit coming down the second fairway and went into the clubhouse. As we came around the hill before the decent to the fourth green, the caddie pointed out that the eighteen hole was open, so he and the third player left. The caddie left me a trolley. Other people vacated the course as I followed them around with the exception of four American ex-pro baseball players, who stayed in front of me as they were definitely playing a match and did not want to stop. I did finish and my joke later was that I took a shower in my raingear in order to get less wet. I must admit I did not remember much of the course after the sixth hole as my concentration was on finishing.
I have also played Lahinch Old as the first one off on a morning of absolute sunshine and a low breeze. Although I was held up by maintenance a few times, I finished in just under two hours and had adequate time to study the course prior to my next visit.
My favorite holes on Lahinch Old are 1, 3, 5-7, 10, 12, 15 and 17.
Whether it was Old Tom Morris, Alastair Mackenzie or Martin Hawtree who deserves the most credit for this links course, whoever had the most impact certainly produced a golf course that is withstanding the test of time. It does not matter what Jon Rahm shot to win the 2019 Irish Open (in perfect weather) or that the course record is now 60, this is a golf course that is challenging yet playable, quirky yet fair, rolling yet smooth, blind but also right in front of you. It has a wonderful mixture of doglegs and long and short holes. There are tight driving lines and there are wide driving lines. There is deep rough and there is light rough. There is truly something for every golfer on this golf course.
The greens are a good mixture of undulations, tilted and they roll smoothly. They are not particularly quick other than the obvious downhill putts.
The eighteenth is perhaps the easiest green on the golf course but it is a welcome site after what has come before.
The bunkering is very good both in placement, depth and length of the bunkers.
I really like the first hole playing right in front of the clubhouse and the starter hitting uphill to a short par 4 that plays perhaps 30-40 yards longer. You must avoid the two fairway bunkers on the left side and the one on the right farther up. There are two devilish bunkers front right of the green for which balls landing short of the green will come back into it, both on an approach shot or for the bunker shot hit too weakly. The green slopes from back left to the front right and can be speedy. I think this hole can be both a birdie hole as well as a double bogey hole.
The second is a downhill double dogleg par 5 that is one of the easiest holes on the golf course. If you have struggled on the first, as long as you avoid the four fairway bunkers, this is the chance to get it back despite the green have five bunkers in front of it and one to the right. The rough on this hole is not particularly difficult and offers a chance at recovery. The hole plays down into the town almost as if you are hitting into the houses behind the green.
The third requires another uphill tee shot, this one blind and asks you to favor the left side of this dogleg left. It is a relatively long hole made longer by the hill. The green is fronted by two bunkers and a dip so the approach shot must fly to the green. Into the breeze this hole is very difficult, but without a breeze it is loads of fun. I think the green, while looking flat, is sneakily difficult. A bonus to this hole is the splendid view of the Atlantic Ocean.
For me, the Klondyke fourth is a very easy hole if you can place your drive in the narrow fairway. A ball hit slightly up the dunes on either side of the fairway will kick back down towards the middle of the fairway. The tee shot appears more daunting than it is. The next shot is blind over the mounds at the end of the fairway and one must try to follow the flag marker on the side of the hill. The green is flat but long. One must trust their yardage as a ball hit too far can roll through the green and out of bounds. Trust in one’s golf swing is so important!
The famous Dell hole is next, a par 3 of 150 where one can only see a small piece of the right side of the green due to the dune fronting most of the green. Dunes surround this hole so a ball hit too far can end up on the dune on the other side with a difficult recovery shot. Once again, the green is relatively long horizontally but short vertically and fairly flat. The difficulty is in the blind tee shot and not leaving it short or too long. It is a fun hole as to both the guessing game (play it slightly right of the white stone) and the trust in hitting the club you have chosen to go the length you typically hit it.
The sixth requires a walk up to the tee from the green of the fifth and you play along the top of the hill on this slight dogleg left. You cannot “top” your second shot or it will fall down into a gully of deeper grass with a bunker at the bottom. Another grass bunker follows the first one. The green sits on a shelf with fall offs all around it and the view of the Atlantic Ocean behind it. The green has two bunkers and is marvelously undulating as is the land surrounding it. You cannot be short with your approach due to the slope of the land towards those two bunkers on the right. Hit it long to the right and you will have an uncertain lie in grass and mounds.
The par 4 seventh hole requires a similar tee shot to the third hole, uphill and blind. From the tee this is the best view of the beach along the Atlantic Ocean. This sharp dogleg left has dips and hollows as it falls slightly downhill to the green. It is a wonderful rolling fairway to view for the second shot that you do not want any part of. From the fairway there is a wonderful view of the bay. The green itself sits slightly to the right of the fairway and again you do not want to come up short due to two bunkers and potentially an uneven lie. The front left bunker is particularly nasty. The green has some “hidden” tilt to it.
The eighth hole is a short par 3 that is another chance for redemption as long as you are not short with the tee shot as the land slopes down from the front of the green, potentially taking your ball into a front bunker or pretty far down the slope. Bunkers are also right and left of the green. The green slopes right to left but is easy to read.
The ninth tee is the highest point on the golf course and offers a lovely view of about half of the remaining course yet to be played. It is a very nice par 4 ending in a long and skinny green more than 55 yards in length. The fairway tilts right to left which is good given the best angle to the green is from the left side of the fairway as the green tilts also right to left.
The tenth goes back opposite of the ninth, a longer par 4 that has a narrow fairway that if you miss to the right you will be in mounds or a gully in tall grass with a blind recovery shot. One can have a hanging line on the fairway. The green is well surrounded by four bunkers and has nice undulations to it. I really like this hole.
The eleventh is a mid-length par 3 that offers three bunkers fronting the green. The front right green is blind from the tee and is very difficult to save par. I found this to be the prettiest par 3 on the golf course as you play to the farthest corner of the course. There is roll off to the right, left back and front of the green but the green is one of the easier ones on the course despite a ridge in it.
The twelfth is the longest hole on the course, a par 5 with out of bounds down the left side of the gently curving left hole. This is the last of the splendid views of the beach and ocean but offers your first real look at the tower ruins on the Castle course. With the four bunkers fronting the green, I found this hole to be almost a perfect design for a par five. It has adequate length, it has a side one must avoid yet it has mounds down the opposite side of the fairway. It ends in a very good green complex. It is also the first hole on the golf course that I consider to be essentially flat.
For me the thirteenth is the weakest hole on the golf course, a short driveable par 4. Because I am a fairly straight but short hitter it is not one that I go for off the tee, but for the longer and better players, this hole offers a lot of strategy. The perception of the hole depends greatly on the abilities of the player. Two bunkers protect the left side and mounds, a gully, and tall grass protect the right and back side. The green has three tiers to defend itself. Even as a short par 4 this hole will have its fair share of bogies.
Fourteen and fifteen are long par 4’s going in opposite directions with the fourteenth having a partially hidden green with a valley as an entrance between dune mounds fronting it. There is a ridge in front of the fourteenth green which tilts slightly right to left. If you cannot reach the green the wise play is to lay up short in the middle of the fairway from 100 to 50 yards in. While many would likely call out the fourteenth as one of their favorites, I prefer the fifteenth as it has a more interesting green complex after a more difficult driving line.
The final par 3 is also the hardest par 3 on the course hitting from an elevated tee to a well defended green which also has nice slopes to it as well as run offs to all sides, particularly into the right side bunker.
My final favorite hole is the seventeenth, a long par 4 hitting to a wide fairway from a slightly elevated tee. Yet the fairway narrows as you approach the green. The two pot bunkers fronting the green are the wildest looking greenside bunkers on the golf course, even if set slightly away from the green. This is a visually intimidating hole from the tee into the green.
The final hole is a relatively easy par five with the only real danger being a second shot that is wild to the left ending out of bounds on the road. There is some additional trouble with the swale left of the green for those trying to reach the green in two. There are adequate bunkers near the green which is slightly undulating but not difficult to two putt.
This is a golf course one could play every day and never tire of it. The wind would be a huge factor in how one plays the golf course. Lahinch Old has just about everything a golf course can offer as I said in my introduction. It certainly is one of the top twenty in the UK and Ireland, which means it should be in the top 100 in the world. Perhaps the only reason it is not is for those who do not like blind shots, or perhaps the par 3’s are considered to be too easy, and lastly, perhaps there are those who think it needs another 500 yards for the modern pro. I do not share their opinion. For me it is fabulous.
Any golfing trip to Ireland MUST include Lahinch, which I rate as one of the very best of an elite group of Irish courses... everyone knows Royal County Down,
Royal Portrush, Portmarnock, and Ballybunion rate with the best in the world, but in my opinion Lahinch compares favourably with this elite group.
Two holes by Old Tom will forever be the calling cards for Lahinch.
The par 5 Klondyke plays down a narrow valley before requiring a completely blind long second over a large dune to a green sited hard against a stone wall, with road beyond.
If Klondyke doesn't grab your attention, then the next hole, the par 3 Dell will!
Dell is a short iron par 3 to a green completely hidden between two dunes. You simply aim at the white rock on the top of the first dune, and hope...
These two quirky holes may be the face and memory of Lahinch, but the sheer quality of the rest of the course will soon become apparent.
McKenzie worked some of his magic here, and although some of that was lost over the years, a remodelling in 2003 by Martin Hawtree concentrated on restoring much of the McKenzie influence and it has worked.
The Lahinch GC logo features goats… But I am not kidding when I say this is a serious golf course and one not to be missed.
Peter Wood is the founder of The Travelling Golfer – click the link to read his full review.
Played it for my birthday while my wife and our friends spent the afternoon on the cliffs of Mohr.
I went with high expectations and the course exceeded them x10! It was a perfect Irish day with wind, a squall or 2 and even a rainbow. I hit 2 great shots on 5 and when the spotter came out of his hut and hollered down “Brilliant shot! You’ve done it! Your on the green, first one of the day!” (I 3 putted for par from about 70 feet).
Everything about it was fantastic and the 14th hole called “Twins” might be the best hole I have ever seen on a golf course.
My only previous true links experience was at Bandon Dunes so as I played Lehinch that day I gained a better understanding of where Mr Kaiser got his inspiration.
Only problem is I have to figure out a way to get back there and play it again and again!
Another course that I am in dire need of playing again. In fact, one of the highest on my list.
So much old school quirk and fun blind shots. The second shot on the par 5 4th is one of the more unique second shots on par 5's in golf IMO. Then it's followed up with a totally blind par 3.
What other blind par 3's can you think of? I can think of two that split opinions. I find those holes so quirky that I just love them.
Sometimes when you return to a course after a very long absence you wonder if the next visit will prove your very high opinion of a course right.
My "6" is not casual as I have been fortunate to play some great courses in the USA. We only had 18 holes on a windy day, but wow.
Ballybunion gets all the tour buses, and Lahinch stays "Irish" despite its acclaim and convenient location. Fabulous greens, quirk, vibe... I just absolutely loved it and I will be back.
I’m not sure saying Lahinch is more ‘Irish’ than Ballybunion is fair, Lahinch is one of the few courses in Ireland (as opposed to Ballybunion) that refuses to open its course for Golfing Union of Ireland members to play once a year for a reduced price in a scratch competition. Maybe it’s more ‘Irish’ in the fact that if you have ’connections’ you can avail of a good green fee rate. As you say though it is an amazing course.
Lahinch is a world-ranked course and a world-class experience and this year will host the Irish Open in July. I have played the course four times now since 2005 and appreciate it more each time. The many player reviews posted on Top 100 are very consistent with adulation coming in from all who play. #30 in the world is a massive award and I do think that #11 in GB&I could be improved on, we’ll see at the next re-rank. It is difficult to fault the course in anyway at all with so many special holes – obvious early favourites include the iconic 4th and 5th holes both with totally blind shots (par-5 and par-3) but just brilliant. The 7th is very strong, played as a dogleg to the left with the green close to the beach – tip for the approach is to aim at the back of the green and ignore pin position – mess with the front of the green and you are in trouble. The par-3 8th, named ‘Crater’ is just tee and green, could be a short or long iron depending on the weather, not just on the day but that hour, the four seasons in one-day is all so common in this part of the world.
Strongest par-5 has to be the 12th – drive away from the coastline and then work your way around the edge of the course – a couple of bunkers 40 yards short of the green are there for a reason.
Strongest par-4, for me is the 14th – a hole called ‘Twins’ – at around 450 yards this is a big hole and the hole named references the two big dunes 60 yards short of the green on either side, meaning an eye of the needle shot to hit the dance-floor.
I love the elevated tee at ‘Old Tom’ – the 190-yard par-3 16th – downhill with four brilliant bunkers protecting.
The course ends on a high and a chance to score well – if the wind is behind, then this 500-yard hole gives an opportunity to score well – keep out of the 12 bunkers along the way though!
The Old course Lahinch is one of Ireland’s best courses and is a must play – good debate between this and the Old at Ballybunion as to gets top billing – current positions give it to Ballybunion – around the other way for me, just.
The clubhouse experience is first class too and the pleasure of enjoying a Guinness on the first floor whilst watching golfers battle with ‘autumn and winter’ whilst you are inside is surprising satisfying.
The DDF Irish Open will be fascinating viewing in July – just cannot wait to watch the top players here and especially how will they cope with the par-3 5th ‘Dell’ with a completely blind tee-shot (green in between two dunes).
The south-west of Ireland is as good a golf tour as any – special golf, great people and great memories.
Lahinch is firmly ensconced in Ireland's Big 5 and rightly so. Home of large dunes and blind shots. Weather forecasting goats. Views of Liscannor Bay. So many good things; maybe even great things.
You're off to the races quicker at Lahinch, than at Ballybunion. 1 and 2 offer an uphill, downhill start, and then you head into the big dunescape.
3 through 9 is one heck of a ride through the dunes. Klondyke - the reachable par 5 with a huge dune of a speedbump in the middle - and Dell - the hidden/obscured green par 3 - typically get the focus, but the rollercoaster par 4s at #3, #6, and #7 provide even more fun and better shot values.
You may climb out of the big dunes on 9, but it isn't until the last couple holes that you really leave the duneland behind. And between them you still have a great variety of short and long par 4s, a river hugging par 5, and a couple pulpit teed par 3s.
A fantastic 5.5 is Lahinch. One that I always enjoy returning to and it will be interesting to see how the big boys take to it next year in the Irish Open.
This golf course is indeed a gem. One should and must rate Ballybunion Old higher based on meticulous maintenance alone but what makes this course special is not only the fantastic and unique layout while forgiving minor imperfections due to weather but above all the staff at every level. On each of several visits I had the same caddy “Tom” , whoose cell number long resides in my own phone. On one occasion, I overslept, missed my tee time in a very busy month and upon calling the lady in the golf shop was told to relax, take my time, have breakfast and they will fit me in. A few years later, because of an elderly member in our group, Tom and the starter went out of their way to rearrange tee times for us. A truly great golfing experience is reflected in how you are treated as a guest. The course gets 5-Balls but the staff are an easy 6+
well, we accepted a 3,5 hour drive (one way) in order to play lahinch. it`s a top 100 course in nearly every golf course ranking. so our expectations were quite high. lahinch didn`t meet these expactations. maintenance, to be precise, the green conditions were a effrontery. every downhill putt stopped immediately. extremly bumpy. for sure the design is a special one. there are several great holes. but there are pretty boring holes as well. for example the finish (17,18) is quite disappointing. for me lahinch was on that day a four ball rating (and it was a great day sunny, with almost no wind)
Lahinch is the antithesis of an American-style parkland course, wide open with sweeping views and hummocks with blind shots and sand dunes galore. The blind par three “Dell” hole is a favorite with a green set among a host of sand dunes. I have played Lahinch three times, with rain coming down each time; would love to actually play it with the sun shining one day. Lahinch is a quirky, old-school place to enjoy the game. The fourth, fifth and eighteenth fairways literally crisscross. Talk about hazards in front of the green? How about the fourth hole named "Klondyke". It has a fifty-foot sand dune in front of the green, making it a blind approach on a 400+ yard hole! The narrow fairway snakes through the dunes. Lahinch is pure links golf and a fun golf course to play.
John Sabino is the author of How to Play the World’s Most Exclusive Golf Clubs