Narin & Portnoo - Donegal - Ireland

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


  • +353 74 9545107

  • Willie Quinn

  • Leo Wallace, Hughie McNeill, Eddie Connaughton, Gil Hanse

  • 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 revamped the course in recent times, 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 holes 13 and 15. Additionally, the Narin & Portnoo clubhouse was completely rebuilt, opening in June 2008.

Ten years later Gil Hanse was commissioned to redesign the course, so Narin & Portnoo's future is certainly rosy. The first phase of the project was completed by Hanse and his design partner Jim Wagner in March 2019. “Golfers will be blown away by the natural beauty, interest and quirk that the property offers,” said Wagner. “The new combination of golf holes and greens locations will add challenge and stunning visuals associated with the property.”

Improvements include a new green at the 1st, to the left of the original, a lake which has been taken out of play on the 2nd, with the 3rd and 4th combined to form a new par five. The old 8th is now the new 7th with a blind shot to a new green and two new par threes have also been created on the back nine.

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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: 7.9 out of 10 Reviews: 16
TaylorMade
Dave Miller
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!
August 05, 2008
8 / 10
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Peter Teague
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
January 03, 2008
10 / 10
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Jonathan Davies
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.
September 13, 2007
8 / 10
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John Glynn
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!
September 11, 2007
8 / 10
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Jim McCann

In relation to the previous review, it’s like waiting for a bus – no reviews for this course then suddenly two come along in rapid succession! The club have done a remarkable job of turning a holiday golf course into a more serious player on the Donegal golf scene – no doubt brought about by the emergence in recent years of the likes of Ballyliffin and Rosapenna, Narin & Portnoo - Photo by Jim McCannboth of which must be attracting an ever increasing number of visiting golfers away from places like Narin.

If only a golfing millionaire could invest in a new clubhouse and tweak one or two of the opening holes then this club would be raved about. The round starts off very quietly, with five holes on flat ground bordered by fields to the right and their sole purpose is to get you away from the spartan clubhouse and into where the real action is – in the dunes.

The 6th rises in elevation before the full splendour of the course is unveiled over the next half a dozen holes – they are simply breathtaking. You will honestly be hard pressed to find six holes as spectacular around the turn on any course as those at Narin & Portnoo. They plunge and rise against a magnificent shoreline that leaves you wondering what all the fuss is about over places like Pebble Beach.

The club has also taken a very courageous/outrageous step in creating three par fives in a row (14 and 15 are new holes in the dunes reminiscent of the Glashedy at Ballyliffin) to really test your stamina towards the end of the round.

I’m sure society and holiday golfers will object but the club can cater for all ranges of ability if they install a shorter teeing position on every hole. And speaking of tees, why , when I play in Ireland, do many clubs like Narin seem to forget to keep their teeboxes in tiptop order?

A final word however on the positive front: the greens are amongst the top half a dozen that I have EVER putted on – they were that good. I didn’t meet the green keeper but he deserves the highest praise for the standard of putting surface here. I dare you to include Narin & Portnoo on a golfing visit to Donegal then leave a review here that you were not impressed.

Jim McCann

June 07, 2007
6 / 10
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Hugh
Well, I’m surprised to be the first person to post a review for the incredible little Narin & Portnoo. First off, the views – they are simply breathtaking. But the it’s not just about the scenery, this is the real deal and having played more that 20 different links courses in Ireland I’d put Narin close to the top of my “would like to play again” list. The par3 8th is a classic which plays into the prevailing wind (or it did on both occasions we last played here) and you can’t be intimidated by the carry across a chasm to the double tiered green. After a slow start, the course just gets better and better and it’s also great value. This genuinely is a must play course and one that simply shouldn’t be overlooked.
May 28, 2007
8 / 10
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