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.
Right away, I must endorse the sentiments of others who believe the 18 holes here should be ranked higher – yet another case of a very good course suffering in the popularity stakes due to its close proximity to a more esteemed neighbour?
After a solid opening six holes – with OOB on the right side of the 1st marked by a graveyard (like Ballybunion) and housing to the right of holes 2, 4 and 5 – the real action gets under way at the 7th, with a sneaky little stream cutting across the front of the green.
Hole 8 is a delightful short par four that doglegs sharply left to an elevated green tucked into a sand hill and these dunes figure prominently on a number of holes at the beginning and the end of the back nine.
The round finishes with three solid holes – 16 and 18 are great driving holes with elevated tees tucked into the dunes and these are played either side of a strong par three where the tee shot must carry all the way to a pulpit green that tilts from left to right.
It’s heavily rumoured that Clontarf Golf Club in Dublin will take over the course soon – bringing a windfall to its members when they sell off their old course – and it would be advantageous if they (or whichever club moves in) were to build their own clubhouse separate from the hotel, as it's functional but devoid of golfing atmosphere.
Portmarnock Links was close to a five ball review here but I’ve gone for a well merited, very strong four ball rating.