Narin & Portnoo - Donegal - Ireland

Narin & Portnoo Golf Club,
Narin,
Portnoo,
Co Donegal,
Ireland


  • +353 74 9545107

  • Willie Quinn

  • Leo Wallace, Hughie McNeill & Eddie Connaughton

  • Daragh Lyons

If you want to play really simple, old-fashioned, unpretentious links golf then you often have to stray a little off the beaten track to island courses like the Machrie on Islay or Shiskine on Arran. Narin and Portnoo is not quite as remote as those two famous Scottish courses but only just.

Tucked away in the southwest corner of Donegal, Narin and Portnoo Golf Club is a links that deserves to be bracketed with many other natural, unspoilt courses that should be given greater recognition. In truth, the members probably prefer it that way as it doesn’t require hordes of tourist golfers fronting up at the first tee to confirm what a good course they play on.

The club was formed in 1930 and they played on a 9-hole layout for thirty-five years until it was extended to its current 18-hole size in 1965. The first green keeper, Jim McCole, held the post for over forty years, from 1934 to 1977 – it’s hearing about people like him that provide a flavour for what clubs like Narin and Portnoo are all about.

After limbering up on the opening few holes, the routing takes you into the dunes where some spectacular holes have been fashioned, none more so that the 7th, the signature 143-yard par three, played over a chasm to a two tiered green on an adjacent sand hill. And speaking of sand hills, be sure to have your camera on hand to snap this hole with the backdrop of what must be the biggest sand dune in all of Ireland across the bay.

The club have revamped the course in the last few years, fashioning a new 6th hole from the old 6th and 7th then remodelling the old holes from 11 to 15 - in the process creating three back-to-back par fives between hole 13 and 15! Additionally, the Narin & Portnoo clubhouse has been completely rebuilt, opening in June 2008.

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Reviews for Narin & Portnoo

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Description: Tucked away in the southwest corner of Donegal, Narin and Portnoo Golf Club is a links that deserves to be bracketed with many other natural, unspoilt courses that should be given greater recognition. Rating: 5 out of 6 Reviews: 10

According to the gentleman in the pro shop Narin and Portnoo is about to undergo some further alterations, and some course architects have been engaged to that end. If so I hope they give most of their attention to the start and finish of the course, and leave holes 6-15 well alone.

The first five are decent holes but nothing to write home about. However, the stretch from 6-12 stands comparison with anywhere, really well-designed and sometimes dramatic holes through the dunes with simply glorious views. Thirteen is less interesting, but a fairly brutal par 5 into the prevailing wind, and followed by two more good par 5s at 14 and 15. Sixteen is, frankly, a slightly weak par 3, and 17 and 18 are similar to the opening five; decent holes but not special. The proximity of the caravan site is less than ideal but one can't have everything, and I suppose that even non-golfers are entitled to enjoy the superb beach and scenery.

A very good golf course, two-thirds of the way to being a great one.

5 / 6
Narin & Portnoo
May 09, 2018


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Sensational dunes and coastal holes which rank with the very best. Sadly the relatively dull low lying holes drag the overall course down (N&P is in good company, the same could be said of Seaton Carew, Burnham & Berrow, RND, RSD, Aberdovey and many others. At least here the last hole could be improved by reclaiming the lovely dunes currently playing host to static caravans - the perennial beast to the beauty of links golf courses in the British Isles.) I dislike unprotected lateral water hazards in links courses, particularly here where it would (was) be possible to lose balls in quick succession at 3 & 4 to greens tight to the hazard and the wind blowing left to right. Anyway, enough negatives, the course really comes alive on the 5th approach shot and it's all fun from then on. Crumpled fairways, chasms, blind shots, downhill, uphill, threading the needle approaches - they are all here amongst a lovely location. Happily past some financial problems due to the brilliant new holes in the dunes, the course was in good shape and we had a great game at Narin & Portnoo and would definitely return.

5 / 6
Narin & Portnoo
April 22, 2018


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Fabulous golf course with the majority of holes in the dunes as good as any at more illustrious courses. The real fun starts at the 5th and continued unabashed until the 16th. The par 5, 15th is a special hole. Yes, there are some weaker “inland holes” but they are still decent holes. If you are planning a trip in this area, make time for a round here.

5 / 6
Narin & Portnoo
May 15, 2017


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We played Narin and Portnoo last week as part of a five day Donegal Tour, also taking in Rosapenna Sandy Hills, Ballyliffin Old and Glashedy, and Portsalon. It’s a long 90 minute drive west of Rosapenna, and we were wondering whether it would be worth the trek. All I can say is, absolutely yes it is.This is great, natural links golf, more or less from beginning to end. The first four holes are on the flatter land, and are a mild introduction, though not without interest. You keep looking to your left at the great ridge of dunes, and wondering when you are going to get there. The answer is the tough second shot at the 5th, played over a large swale in the direction of play to a sloping green benched up in the dunes. From there until the 16th you play magically in and around the dunes, up hill shots, downhill shots, a couple of blind drives, greens on remote knobs, greens in superb natural punchbowls. It’s exhilarating, but never feels too difficult or contrived. The par 3 11th, played from a tee overlooking the beach 100 feet below, to a narrow two tiered green 180 yards away was a stand-out hole for me in this stretch.There are four par fives on the back nine, but two are classics, the 10th and 14th, and the 15th right along the top of the dune ridge with the Atlantic fully in play on the right side has to be one of the best par fives you will ever play, and is a longer cousin to the famous 11th at Ballybunion.The current layout was only finalized in the mid 2000s, with the creation of the marvelous 14th and 15th up in the dunes, allowing the club to drop two of the previous 6 short holes. It’s now therefore a tougher and better balanced layout.For such a remote course, I thought the condition was fine. You can’t go far wrong with natural links turf. Add in a warm welcome from the clubhouse team, and the standard issue magnificent sea views and mountain backdrop of the great Donegal courses, and you really ought to make it part of any golf trip to the area.This must sound like an over-enthusiastic review from a friend of the club. It’s not, I am a 5 handicapper from Sevenoaks who has played over 270 courses in the British Isles. This was my first visit. I would like to think it won’t be my last.
5 / 6
Narin & Portnoo
October 01, 2014


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Victor Donnay
October 11, 2015
I played Narin and Portnoo today and your review was right on target. It was a spectacular course with holes going through the dunes and great views of the ocean on many holes. I was paired with two members who were very friendly and gave me lots of helpful advice as we played. I got lucky with the weather a picture perfect day - sunny, slight breeze, 16 degrees. My wife took a walk to the Inishkeel island reachable at low tide from the beach beside the golf course where she explored a 1000 year old church ruin Afterwards we had a very pleasant lunch in the clubhouse. HIghly recommended.
quite simply a magnificent course. the first 6 or so holes are ordinary but from there in there are many class holes. a real gem for its price. in my opinion its back nine isnt far of RCDs back nine.
5 / 6
Narin & Portnoo
September 28, 2009


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Richard
November 05, 2013
Has anybody played this course since 28 September 2009? Where are the reviews? looking to get up that way next year and trying to decide if a visit to N and P is in order.
JO
November 07, 2013
Richard, N&P should definitely be on your list. I played 3 rounds there in August 2011 and it is an absolute delight. There are mentions of weak opening holes, but really I would say the 3rd and 4th are the only "below average" holes. The rest is sheer pleasure. There is nothing quite like standing on the 9th tee, surrounded by the ocean or looking down the corridor of dunes on the 14th. But it is not just the surroundings that make the place special. Great changes of elevation make shortish par 4s interesting, short holes (bar 3rd) are great, green contours challenging, good (not great) conditioning overall. Pure and raw links golf. And the welcome of the members was great too. All in all a solid 5-ball rating from me. Hope you make the trip and enjoy it! JO
Played this course on a bright May morning with a light sea breeze.This course is links golf in its raw form ,nothing fancy but great fun to play especially when you leave the mainly flat uninteresting first few holes then enter the holes in amongst the large dunes.Recomended Gerry
5 / 6
Narin & Portnoo
May 31, 2009


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I was privileged to play this course for the first time last week, and I can guarantee that it will not be the last. Quite simply, this is an outstanding stretch of links golf. In response to a number of the reviews below, I should say that the clubhouse has been demolished and completely rebuilt early this year with impressive results. The clubhouse now includes spacious locker rooms, a cosy bar with excellent views over the first hole, plus a well-stocked pro shop. The course has been recently altered which now means a blind tee shot over dunes to find the 6th fairway which sits on a dogleg. From here until the short 16th is an absolute joy. Hole after hole of breathtaking views and beautifully crafted holes. Among my favourites are three of the par fives: the 10th is a real toughie but don’t be tempted to go for the green in two, the 14th hole winds through a tight gap between the dunes and up to an elevated and undulating green, the 15th plays back into the wind and the view from the tee is something else. Tips:1) As a general rule; keep it straight since the penalty for a wayward strike is usually a lost ball (especially in summer). This explains why most of the open competitions are stablefords! 2) Look out for the water hazard at the back of the green on the par-5 second. Unlike the pond to the right of this hols, it’s a burn with a steep drop into it. You’ll have no shot if you go into the hazard.3) There is no stroke-saver available for this course, so first timers will be a bit in the dark on the 6th tee (as I was), so the safe bet is a mid iron for the piece of fairway you can see. Once you reach your ball, you will see how much of the corner you could have cut off with a driver, but it still leaves you with a 7-iron instead of a wedge up to an elevated green.4) When playing the 8th, hold left for a look at the 9th green. This will give you an idea of what to expect for the blind tee shot on the 9th.5) As I said, don’t go for the 10th green in two – you’ll regret it!6) Ignore the score, and just enjoy!
5 / 6
Narin & Portnoo
August 05, 2008


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I played this course last month and this is another wonderful North West links course. The opening 4-5 holes are quite ordinary with out of bounds on your right and quite flat fairways. But from the 6th hole on, the course enters the dunes and there is a great run of holes from there through to about the 16th. The 14th was a brilliant par 5 that had a narrow almost tunnel like fairway with dunes either side up to an elevated green. The scenery as the course reaches out to the wild Atlantic is breathtaking. You will not play a course anywhere with more dramatic views. The greens are excellent very soft and receptive which i found unusual for a links course. Peter, Belfast
6 / 6
Narin & Portnoo
January 03, 2008


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I played this course in the last week. From the approach shot on the 6th, it is a wonderful test offering breathtaking scenery. 17 of the greens were hollow-tined when we played so we were offered a discount to 30 euro!. The one that wasn't seemed lovely....not that I holed the putt.17 and 18 take you back out of the dunes towards the clubhouse and are reasonably unremarkable holes, although frankly, by then, my brain needed a rest. A must-play if you're in the area.
5 / 6
Narin & Portnoo
September 13, 2007


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I've played many courses in the northwest of Ireland but this one reallyexcels. I received a great welcome (as one would expect in Ireland) and the members were friendly and helpful. The old layout was interesting, especially around the turn but the new layout is as good a track as you'll get. The undulating greens were immaculate when I played in July, and the fairways were in very good condition. I couldn't get over the views, especially from the new 15th tee. What a beach! Thankfully my ball landed on the fairway and I left the tee thinking that I had just played from one of the most spectacular driving holes in Ireland. The clubhouse could do with a make-over and some fine-tuning may be necessary for a couple of rudimentary holes but this club has crafted a wonderful links which can only get better in time. The green fee of 40 euro was great value, especially when you look at what other courses charge for a shorter golfing outing. One of the members told me that they were playing golf here 100 years ago and when you check out the terrain, you can see why it was so tempting. Like Carne, it's well worth a trip off the beaten track to sample this course and if you're like me, you'll return again and again!
5 / 6
Narin & Portnoo
September 11, 2007


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