The two-mile stretch of sandy beach from Mornington, at the mouth of the river Boyne, south to Laytown resounds every summer to the sound of horse hooves, giving Bettystown a somewhat unique sporting claim to fame as a horse racing track! However, it’s the rolling dune land behind the strand – known locally as “the Burrows” – where local golfers seek their sporting pursuits.
Laytown & Bettystown Golf Club attribute the design of their course to Robert "Bobby" Browne (more commonly called R J), their professional from 1967 until his passing in 2015. Among his many duties at the club, RJ had in his time given lessons to Des Smyth and Phillip Walton (former members and, of course, Ryder Cup participants) as well as being involved in various course changes over nearly fifty years.
The original Laytown & Bettystown course was a 9-hole affair (with a par of 38!), which was laid out between Bettystown and Mornington Lighthouse in 1909. Eight years later, another 9 holes were added to establish a full 18-hole course. Several years after that, four of the original holes were replaced, creating the course that RJ Browne further developed.
Not overly long by modern day standards at 6,450 yards, the course contains many of the characteristics treasured by links lovers – humps and hollows, narrow green entrances, blind approaches and an out-and-back routing that follows the natural contours of the land.
There are only three par three holes on the course (at holes 6, 9 and 16) and no fewer than three old-fashioned short par fours measuring less than 345 yards (at holes 2, 14 and 17).
I wouldn't pretend this is a world beater, but I would also say I don't think you need anything more in a golf course than what is on offer here.
It starts out with a couple short 4s, but then increases the interest starting at the 3rd. There's a poor man's version of the 15th at Portmarnock playing along the beach, a driveable 4 or two, along with some requiring a 3 wood and that bend around a dune or two. Some of the holes near the road are flat and featureless, but there is lots of good golf here.
If you are looking for something to play between Dublin and the North, it's a worthwhile stop and excellent value.
The course is a solid 3.5 worth being bumped up to a 4 instead of dropped down to a 3. And with some ambitious plans to significantly change the routing, best play it now, before they 'modernize' it for better or worse.
I had the good fortune in being told to visit this course after my time at nearby Baltray / County Louth. I wasn't expecting a good deal since I had not heard a word about it and I have to say that there are a few holes of note mixed in with a number of others that are fairly ordinary. The opening nine runs closest to the Irish Sea and the ground movement is also a splendid treat. The holes are not exacting in terms of length but the ground conditions can propel the slightest mishap into some very interesting situations.
The 2nd plays parallel to the Sea and is a quality short par-4. The 3rd that follows ups the ante considerably as the tee shot on this par-4 of 410 yards is tested for length and accuracy. The par-5 4th is a quality hole as the terrain provides for an elevate green that accepts only the best of plays.
As you head deeper into the property the holes move away from the close proximity to the Sea. The dog-leg left par-4 10th is a fine hole -- be mindful of the turning point because it's very easy to hit through the fairway. The 11th and 12th run in the same direction with OB lurking on the right side on these two quality holes.
The closing hole is certainly one to remember. The par-5 hole of 480+ yards dog-legs left and OB is perched on the right side. The slightest push will have your playing partner utter the dire words of "reload." The green is something to behold. You don't see it because it's hidden behind mounds. Am aggressive tee shot that finds the fairway can attempt to reach in two blows. Keep in mind, the OB is ever near towards the right and rear of the green.
Laytown and Bettystown is a great example of a fun course worthy to check out when in the area. Clearly, it's not in the upper echelon of the more noted Irish courses but it provides some rousing fun and if there was ever an opportunity to upgrade a few of the holes it could be a good bit better.
by M. James Ward
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