Narin & Portnoo - Donegal - Ireland

Narin & Portnoo Links,
Narin,
Portnoo,
Co Donegal,
Ireland


  • +353 74 9545107

  • Sean Murphy

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

  • TBC

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 County Donegal, the Narin and Portnoo links deserves to be bracketed with one or two other natural, unspoilt courses that really should be given greater recognition.

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 of what clubs like Narin and Portnoo are all about.

At the start of the new millennium, the club rearranged the course – at one point there were consecutive par fives played between the 13th and 15th – and the clubhouse was rebuilt, opening in June 2008. It’s true to say that Narin & Portnoo lost its way around this time but a change in ownership saw a monumental reversal in fortunes for the club.

Ten years later, Gil Hanse and his design partner Jim Wagner were commissioned to redesign the course. “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 at the 11th and 15th. The preposterous trio of par fives has also been removed though the round does conclude with a demanding three-shotter that double doglegs around sand hills from the tee to the home green.

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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: 7.7 out of 10 Reviews: 25
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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 12, 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 10, 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 06, 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 27, 2007
8 / 10
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