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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.
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
50 miles north of Ballybunion lies its perennial competitor for best in Ireland and with the recent opening of a nifty short game area Lahinch has upped the ante another notch. The pedigree from Old Tom Morris to Alister MacKenzie has always been epic anyway and the club is doing a good job preserving their original design intent. The beautifully anachronistic Klondyke and Dell holes with their blindness and crossing fairways are mitigated by professional spotters manning the dunes and directing play. Click the link to read more… Ireland – any decent golf on the West Coast?