I played here for the first time in July 2019. I was staying in Dunfanaghy and worked my way down the coast. I started with Ballyliffin, then hit Portsalon, Rosapenna, Cruit Island, Co Sligo, Strandhill, Enniscrone, Carne and Connemara. Of that group of courses, the one I am most excited to go back and play again is Narin & Portnoo. It might not be a perfect course the way Dornoch and Shinnecock are, but holy crap is it fun. I found the front 9 to be significantly easier than the back, but I didn't see that as a negative.
The very first hole is a pretty easy tee shot to a rumpled fairway. It was playing dead into the wind, so I left driver in the bag and hit a 3-iron that barely eeked over 200 yards. That left a relatively short second into an amazingly intimidating green, elevated and protected by a creek and fronting bunkers. Falling off steeply on the sides. And into a 30 mph breeze.
By the time I got to the 2nd tee, I had a huge smile plastered on my face that remained there for the rest of my round. N&P has some pretty straightforward holes, and others that are just as quirky as you'll find at North Berwick. The variety is incredible.
The biggest knock I had was that the par 3s were all relatively short. Also, the new routing wasn't complete last summer, so a new par 3 on the back was not yet in play (but it looks fun). I was told the finishing hole was going to change ... they are going to combine 17 and 18 in some fashion to make for a longer finish. I hope they don't lose all the great movement that's found in 17 fairway, because that is far more interesting than the rather flat and bland current 18th.
Anyway, if you're in Donegal, N&P is a must play, in my opinion. And the perfect day would be 18 at N&P, and then a short ride to the wacky and remarkable Cruit Island to finish the day. I could do laps on either course all summer.
Date: January 22, 2020