Portmarnock is the ancestral family estate of the famous Jameson whiskey family. The Jameson’s once had a nine-hole golf course here and the land is now incorporated into the Portmarnock Golf Club and the Portmarnock Hotel and Golf Links.
This is the links that Bernhard Langer designed in conjunction with landscape architect Stan Eby and, in 1996, the Golf Links opened for play. The course borders its illustrious neighbour, Portmarnock Golf Club, but the two courses are separately owned and managed.
For such a new layout, the Hotel Links is a very understated course. There is nothing showy about the design; the natural links land is used simply and effectively. The first eight holes play across gently-undulating ground with definition provided by varied grasses and pot bunkers. Then, around the turn, a cluster of shaggy sand dunes provides a much more pronounced aspect.
We think that Langer and Eby have developed one of the best and most challenging new courses in Ireland; it’s joyous to play a youngster that is so natural and honest. Langer’s comment on his creation was: “There are very few locations in Europe which could have allowed me the opportunity and landscape to design such a classic championship links. I hope all those who play it discover its magic and its challenging beauty.” We thoroughly agree.
Some of the previous reviews seem to focus on the low green fee for Portmarnock Golf Links as a reason it deserves a high ranking. I understand why a low green fee and a nice welcome would drive people to play a “links-like” golf course that offers a fair amount of challenge for a lower fee than some of the Dublin-area better known golf courses. On a “value” basis, Portmarnock Golf Links is a bargain. But for me, a low price is rarely a reason to play a golf course. What matters more is the experience on the course due to the quality and variety of the holes, the routing, the shape and visual look of the green complexes, the naturalness of the course, the defenses, etc.
My best example of a course with a low green fee that is not worth playing is Pacific Grove in Monterey, California. Some people rave about the course due to its low price and view of the ocean from a few holes on the back nine. The claim is that one can get the “experience” of Pebble Beach at 1/8th the cost. That is nonsense. It is a horrible golf course, a bad municipal course with only one good golf hole. The front nine is atrocious. The back nine has the one good hole, a par five that would be forgettable if not for the view of the ocean. The course is too short to even consider any real strategy of using different clubs. There is no emphasis on recovery shots and it is not high on the playable scale. I guess I should save these thoughts for my review of Pacific Grove.
In other words, you could not give me a free green fee at Pacific Grove for an entire foursome and convince me to return to play it. I did give it two chances....
As for Portmarnock Golf Links, Pacific Grove is not relevant as this Bernhard Langer/Stan Eby design is worth playing so the “value” opinion is correct.
When I played it multiple times after it had opened, I was not a good player as I was wild off the tee and had no short game to speak of. It did not matter as I liked the golf course. For group trips to the Dublin area, I still recommend that people stay at the hotel and play their first round here. This is of course, if they do not want to stay in Malahide or Dublin, which is usually their first choices, or if they are not trying to play the seven “best” courses in seven days.
The course got better from the first few times I played it as they reworked the course with substantial changes to holes 10-13. Previously they were: 10 – par 5/528, now 4/375, 11 – par 4/458, now 3/162, 12 – par 4/360, now 4/453, 13 – 3/150, now 5/627. The routing changes and the holes are all better although I did very much like the original eleventh.
Overall the course has enough quality golf holes, variety in the green complexes, while building to a fine finish, that it is worth playing.
Like others, my criticism of the course is with the start which is sort of pedestrian with the holes “looking” the same. It also feels more cramped in that it does not feel like there is adequate separation between the golf holes. It does not help that the nearby views bordering the beginning holes are not good. The best “flat” courses need to have the feeling of space about them such as Chicago or Portmarnock GC. I am not as negative as others are on the first seven holes as I think there is enough there to attract one’s interest while testing one’s game. The first seven holes have very good placement of bunkers. The first hole has six bunkers, the second has nine, the third has eight, the fourth has nine, the fifth has three, the sixth has eight, and the seventh has five. The second, fourth and fifth have additional defense with out of bounds to the right.
As for the eighth hole, the sharp dogleg left, I suspect people are split with 1/3 love it, 1/3 like it, and 1/3 hate it. I fall in the middle. I do not have the length to bite off most of the dogleg so it plays for me as more of a routine par 4 but I do appreciate the risk:reward element of it. On the other hand, it is perhaps too sharp of a turn.
The course does get better starting with the par 3 ninth hole although it would have been nice not to have another par 3 two holes later. One feels like they are farther from the houses and closer to the sea. And from thirteen on in it builds to a very fine finish, particularly the stretch of fifteen to seventeen where the course does not feel cramped. Eighteen has the best look to a hole on the course due to the bushes and dunes to the right.
I will continue to recommend this course as a place to play if one is concentrating on the Dublin area. Of course, there are six-seven courses that come ahead of it, but it is worth a stop. It won’t be the best golf course, but it is enjoyable and you will use every club in your bag more than once and be intrigued by a few of the greens. As to the greens, some are good and some are not and if they want to further improve the course, there should be more undulations on more of the greens, more run offs, and more disguises near the green.
Portmarnock Hotel & Links, not to be confused with the neighbouring 125-year-old Portmarnock Golf Club, is a modern course designed by Bernhard Langer in 1996.
Staying in the very fine adjoining upmarket hotel gives residents a discounted green-fee on this championship-style links. Having successfully dodged the two-ball I had been partnered with by reservations, thanks to a quick call to the proshop before breakfast, I secured the first tee-time of the day and had an uninterrupted, clear run at the par 71, 6,514 meter layout.
The site the German was given contained a large area of relatively flat land with some more turbulent duneland closer to the sea. This has resulted in the first seven holes being played conservatively through very shallow, almost negligible, valleys with heavily bunkered fairways to greens defended by several deep pots.
Because of the uninspiring terrain this heavy bunkering had to be done to create strategic and visual interest and Langer has done it well, albeit in a relatively safe manner. There is a very fair feel to this opening exchange with the course where there is often a preferred side to approach the greens from. The rough is pleasingly light too but wispy enough to cause problems.
During the first third of the course we do feel to have a bit of repetition at times but the strategy is sound enough to make you think about your shots and it also quickly becomes apparent the condition of the links is going to be immaculate.
A lone tree and burn must be negotiated at the first hole whilst the 7th is a tough long two-shotter with a brutal burn some 40 yards short of the green which needs to be hurdled at some point. There are also a few doglegs throughout the course, which is a bit unusual for a links because of the changing wind, and these place a premium on driving.
Things spice up between the 8th and 11th where the more dramatic land can be found. This run of holes is much more adventurous and asks you to be more creative with your approach shots to some excellent green sites. A glimpse of the sea is also offered during what is a superb run of holes.
Holes 12, 13 and 14 return to the flatter, more efficient, part of the course before we dip back into the dunes at the 15th and then move to a lovely part of the links to play the final trio of holes, all of which are excellent and make for a satisfying ending to the course.
If there is such a thing as a typical ‘links resort course’ then this would be it. For anybody flying or ferrying in to Dublin for golf then conveniently located Portmarnock Hotel & Links would make an excellent choice for a round on your first or last day of the trip.
Ed is the founder of Golf Empire – click the link to read his full review.
This is a solid, functional golf course. It has the crisp turf, wispy fescue, some riveted bunker faces, and all the other trappings of a proper links. It gets off to a fairly prosaic start over largely flat ground. They've tried to carve out some movement to the fairways, but it isn't the most interesting of starts.
There is a variety to the holes and some interesting greens and tee shots once you get to the back nine, but at the end of the day there is something missing. It lacks the fun of The Island, Laytown & Bettystown, or even Corballis, while also not matching it's grown up neighbour in the seriousness stakes.
As a traveling golfer, it's worth a look, but after multiple plays I'm not super keen to return. That said its location does make it a good links option when in Dublin, but I really would choose the others mentioned ahead of it now. It's another 3.5 course for me, but unlike L&B up the coast, I'd put this one down to a 3 instead of up to a 4.
I played this recently revamped course in July 2018, during sunny and windy conditions. The area had received very little rain during the summer, resulting in very fast fairways and lots of roll. I give the recent upgrade high marks, as the tee boxes, traps and greens were generally in very good condition. Particularly in the wind, it will be important for mid-handicappers to select the correct set of tees, otherwise some par fours will not be reachable into the stiff breeze. As has been noted, the dunes are more dramatic on the back nine, resulting in more nuanced, interesting hole layouts and green complexes. Very convenient to the Dublin airport and a great, reasonably-priced addition to a Dublin area golf trip (Portmarnock, The Island, Royal Dublin and perhaps the European Club). Pat M., Houston, TX
Whoever made the decision to piggyback on the name of Portmarnock will not likely make the Hall of Fame for marketing wizardry. A bit of a differentiation would have been better suited.
Before delving into the specifics of the course and its related architecture it's important to stress that too many people weigh in on items which have little to do with the qualities of the course. Being warmly greeted when one arrives is a fine gesture but it is absolutely zero to do with the course itself. I am not suggesting that rudeness is welcomed but scoring points from non-golf elements only muddies up the waters.
My issue with the layout is that until you arrive at the par-4 8th tee -- the preceding holes are fairly mundane. The terrain for that part of the course is also rather dull.
Yet, when you arrive at the 8th things begin to really take off. It helps that the inward holes are closer to the beach area and the land begins to show a good bit more variety.
The green sites for the remaining holes are also more stringent on one's approach play than the early part of the course. The par-3 9th and 11th are quality short holes but with any wind can prove quite vexing.
The long par-4 12th demands a solid strike off the tee -- linking distance and accuracy. The approach is also testing -- especially to a rear right pin placement.
The ebb and flow of the back nine is always about movement - holes sliding one way or the other. Case in point, the par-4 15th hole. The hole dog-legs to the right and players have to decide how much risk do they have the stomach for at the tee. The bold play can set-up a short iron but two deep sand pits await the sloppy play from the tee. The green is nicely angled and again the approach must be hit with precision and executed without doubt.
The final trio is a quality finishing stretch. The par-4 16th slides to the right off the tee and has another testing putting surface. When your reach the par-3 17th you likely will turn back into the prevailing wind -- for many that might require a driver if played from the championship tees. The green is another fine target -- elusive to all but the most skilled. The closing hole is memorable in a big time way. Even if one doesn't play from the championship tee I urge all to walk back and check out both the view and challenge that's provided. A left-to-right ball flight can provide big time dividends and for those who feel the urge the daring tee shot down the right side can yield a major reward provided the bunker on that side is avoided. If the pin is cut in the front or back right areas it takes a safe cracker's touch to dial in the right yardage and trajectory on the approach.
If the facility were to upgrade the opening series of holes the entire golf experience would reap a major bonanza. Nonetheless, Portmarnock Hotel and Golf Links has enough reasons for anyone in the area to head over and enjoy the round. Clearly, when one takes in the guest fees at other courses in the immediate neighborhood you'll be clearly reaping major savings when heading here.
by M. James Ward
I strongly agree with the central premise of this review - i.e. the actual rating given should reflect the quality of the course only - and perhaps also ignore temporary quality issues (course maintenance like top dressing or hollow tining, etc). There are arguably too many 6 ball ratings because the welcome was very warm or 3 ball ratings because the bacon roll was not quite so warm.
The text of any review should still describe all the various other aspects of the “experience”. This is very useful because time and money are limited for many, so when faced with a choice between courses of equal quality, Golfers may wish to have sufficient info to help them opt for the best “experience” - whatever that might be.
Or just play both courses anyway
I always enjoy reading this author's reviews, as I know they come from someone well informed, who is also open about who he is and what he likes.
What I like with Top100 is the wide array of opinions displayed. For sure, the architecture is key, but for some it (also) matters a lot if you are treated like sh*t (or having to endure a 5 1/2 hour round in my case) after having chosen to play a highly ranked course and they want to warn others off experiencing the same thing.
I am sure most reviewers do their best to see past temporary factors, but it is only by aggregating experiences that patterns emerge: this club is arrogant to (many of ) its visitors, that course has recurring maintenance issues...and you can make an informed choice = the whole point of Top100 in my view.
Portmarnock Links Dublin. Not to be confused with its famous near neighbour of the same name which it borders. This links is relatively new, designed by Bernard Langer on the Jameson (of the whiskey fame) estate. Overall a beautiful course and merits the ranking of # 3 in Dublin and # 23 in Ireland. Played it many times and this week off the back tips, which is a challenge for the better golfer. The layout is good winding around the turn with two fine par threes on 9th and 11th holes. There are two blind doglegs- 8th left and 15th right. Each could do with a white marker disk to help the second shot which is commonplace on most Irish Links.
Index 1 is the 12th followed by the only par five on the back 577 meters long. I have mixed opinions on this hole which was stretched post Langer by shoving the green back into land beside the next tee box ( a good development) but they then shoved the tee box back about 60 meters back into the dunes behind the 12th green (a poor development- bad transition). You can accidentally take the natural short cut onto the 12th fairway which is very visible as the 13th fairway option is a bit too tough. Langer was tougher in his original design and the course had to be given a shave and a haircut to make it now playable for the average golfer. Great finish on the last three holes so choose your tee boxes well (six on each hole) and you will enjoy the challenge. pd
The modern links course at the Portmarnock Hotel & Golf Links was the best conditioned of the four courses I played around Dublin last week. The greens were running fast and I was most impressed with the grassy pathways running from many of the tee boxes.
As a test of golf I found it a little easier and more forgiving than either The Island or Baltray, which was no bad thing, as I missed my fair share of fairways but found my ball each time.
This has to be the perfect base destination for all the Dublin courses, including Baltray, which is a 45-minute drive north. The beauty of staying and playing here at least once is that you can play the course at the weekends when the likes of Old Portmarnock are reserved for members. The Hotel Links is an excellent foil to the old-fashioned layouts, but you’d be hard pressed to guess it’s only twenty years old.
Firm and fast fairways went hand in hand with greens that didn’t reveal a single pitch mark, despite my best efforts to make one. I found the course more accommodating scoring-wise than the two aforementioned layouts but it’s by no means a pushover. The wind was light and the sun was shining and apart from one other player, I was the only golfer on the course last Thursday morning. I felt like a millionaire.
Naturally, the vast majority of visiting golfers want to play the old classic links courses in the area, but just like its modern counterpart further down the coast at Brittas Bay, do not overlook Portmarnock Hotel as this is the real links deal, which genuinely surprised me… in a good way.
Incidentally, I stayed in room 236 and the images show the view from the double-aspect bedroom windows. It doesn’t get much better.
As other reviewers have noted, Portmarnock Links features a number of elevated greens, but only one (the 11th) where Langer and Eby have completely removed the ground game from the player’s arsenal. (Though there are bunkers in front of most greens, there’s still room for a well-struck running shot, adding to the strategic challenge.) I think this particularly important in assessing a links course, as I—nd I think this applies to many Americans—did not fly 3000 miles to be forced into the aerial game that is predominates on U.S. courses. There are also occasions—most notably at the 3rd and 5th—where the architects have done a fine job of creating the illusion of a greenside bunker when the hazard is quite short of the green.
Doglegs abound, getting one thinking about how much of the corner to cut off. There are sharp doglegs at the 8th and 16th, but the best may be at the 15th with its visually intimidating but playable tee shot. Nicely contoured greens also add to the fun at Portmarnock Links.
The course takes advantage of the same terrain as its more famous adjoining neighbor—Portmarnock Golf Club. But fame does not always translate into golfing attraction and I think that applies here. I’d as soon play this course as its more famous neighbor.
Perhaps the greatest compliment I can pay to this course is that there is no way you could tell this was only 20 years old. It feels utterly natural and without artifice. It is honest, old-fashioned, and most importantly, an excellent and fair test of your golf.
Like the Kentish links courses which it reminded me of, it's not going to win awards for the beauty of the surrounding landscape, but there are still a few glimpses of the Irish sea and beautiful beach to keep the aesthetes happy.
Cleverly designed, well bunkered, excellent greens and, as others have said before me, outstanding value in an area of Ireland where that is hard to come by.