Rosapenna (Old Tom Morris) - Donegal - Ireland

Rosapenna Golf Links,
Downings,
Letterkenny,
Co Donegal,
Ireland


  • +353 (0) 74 915 5301

  • Golf Club Website

  • 25 miles from Letterkenny on the N56, then R245 and R248

  • Welcome anytime


Visit Golfbreaks.com for a golf holiday at Rosapenna (Old)

Old Tom Morris, whilst visiting Lord Leitrim on his estate in 1891, is credited with the original design of Rosapenna's Old course. The original 18-hole Old Tom Morris course started on some raised land between the clubhouse and the hotel. Nine holes then ran along the low lying area beside Tramore beach before the remaining fairways ran away from the coastline, across the road, up and around a nearby hill, tumbling down again to the start.

Within a short space of time, Rosapenna was the place to be seen playing, as evidenced by a photo from 1896 of George Duncan, Sandy Herd, Tom Ball and Harry Vardon relaxing on the lawns outside the hotel. Vardon returned a decade later to upgrade the course and James Braid is said to have suggested improvements, though there’s no documentary evidence of this.

In Pat Ruddy’s book Ballyliffin: Golf’s Great Twin Miracles, the author states: “it was not long until Rosapenna was the subject of more far-reaching design changes as the great Harry Colt was called in about 1911 and was actively involved up to about 1916 and his works were so dramatic that they involved the installation of a narrow railway line to import loam and other materials up the Old Tom valley where he is credited with having created holes twelve, thirteen fourteen, fifteen and sixteen per the hole numbers in 2012.”

In June 2005, nine new holes opened for play, laid out by Pat Ruddy from the European Club. These were carved through the low-lying dunes adjacent to the Sandy Hills course and became known as the “Strand Nine”. Reaching for perfection, the club closed the Strand nine at the end of 2006 for extensive greensite restoration and bunker additions. Shaper Eric Iverson from Tom Doak’s Renaissance Golf Design Company undertook this work and, in September of 2009, the nine holes reopened and the order of holes were re-sequenced.

The opening hole and the last eight holes of the original Old Tom Morris course were removed to form a new “Coastguard Nine” and the newly restored “Strand Nine” was introduced to create the front nine, with the original Old Tom “Valley Nine” (holes 2 to 10) re-sequenced as the back nine, which finishes in front of the Rosapenna Pavilion.

In essence, Rosapenna now has a restored Old course where the modern Strand holes complement the original Old Tom Morris Valley holes in a layout that’s a blend of old-fashioned and contemporary, where design from the late 19th century spans more than a hundred years to meet the brave new modern golf world.

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Reviews for Rosapenna (Old Tom Morris)

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Description: In September of 2009, Rosapenna's Old Tom Morris golf course reopened after a major facelift where design from the late 19th century spans more than a hundred years to meet the brave new modern golf world. Rating: 7.7 out of 10 Reviews: 14
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Phil Exley
We loved this course when we played it last week despite getting absolutely soaked on the front nine. The sun came out on the 10th and highlighted the gorgeous views afforded from the course. There is no doubt that this is an easier track than it's sister Sandy Hills but not every course needs to be penal to be enjoyable. Just to be on this course in the peace and quiet and with those amazing views was a joy. We loved the hotel and enjoyed Sandy Hills too. Great place to come for a golf break.
August 21, 2012
10 / 10
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Martin Jordan
It was fitting that the first tee shot I would ever hit in Ireland would come less than 20 miles from the birth place of my Paternal Grandparents. When the trip to Rosapena was first muted I jumped at it straight away, counting down like a prisoner chalking off the days in solitary confinement. Although we weren’t going to play the celebrated Sandy Hills we were going to be fortunate and privileged to be playing the new Ruddy/ Morris design which, at our time of playing, would not be open to the general public. We just had to hope that the infamous Irish weather would behave itself and mercifully it did. The sun shone and Rosapenna looked as pretty as a picture, I was in my element. After a very friendly and gracious welcome from Frank Casey Jnr we set off for my first sojourn into Irish golf. I was not disappointed. A gentle opening open gave way to charming par 3. Holes 3 - 5 are par 4’s which will see your game severely tested with holes 6 + 7 the pick of the front 9. The 7th at the moment is being played to a temporary green and if I may be so bold I would advise that they made it permanent. I was advised by my playing companion that the inward half would be more prosaic in comparison. I have to disagree as I thought that holes 12-14 and 16 + 17 were superb. I put his lack of judgement down to spending too much time with the wrinkly’s on the senior tour, it has obviously dulled his senses. I don’t know if this review has been influenced with it being my first game in Ireland coupled with a narrow 6 + 4 victory but I loved the place and, if I am spared, I would love to return one day to play not only the Old course but also the Sandy Hills. Now, that would be a day to savour. MPPJ
September 09, 2009
8 / 10
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Jim McCann
September 10, 2009
As the opponent mentioned in the above review, I must admit to being totally ashamed at losing so heavily to a such a parkland-loving golfer but we'll reserve judgement for the moment on who is the "King of Rosapenna" until we return to play Sandy Hills next door - now THAT will really separate the men from the boys!
Jim McCann
Rosapenna Old course - photo by Jim McCannI played the former Old course a couple of years ago and wasn’t too impressed with either the opening hole or the majority of the inward half so I was keen to play the new Ruddy front nine on the revised course to see how it blended in with the Valley holes. Pat has obviously listened to those who think his Sandy Hills design next door too penal as the fairways here are a good bit more forgiving, in general, and the green sites more receptive to the running approach shot favoured by many links lovers.

The quartet of par fours from holes 3 to 6 are very strong, ending with a semi blind approach to a green sitting at the foot of an enormous sand hill but my favourite hole was the par three 7th which calls for a heroic shot from the side of one dune to another (albeit to a temporary green when I played). The Valley holes were far better than I remembered from before (though I was probably mulling over my mauling on the course next door when I played it) and my playing partner expressed his surprise at the quality of the half dozen holes between 12 and 17. The home hole is a bit of an anti climax, a straightforward par five played directly towards the clubhouse, but with the statue of Old Tom looking down from the grass bank in front of the locker rooms, it’s a truly fitting way to conclude a round on such an old, historic links that has just had new life breathed into it. Jim McCann
August 28, 2009
8 / 10
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Chris Healy
We played this old style links course on trip to Donegal last week.It was in beautiful condition with super quick greens, the fairways and tees were a light shade of brown which gave it that real summer links feel.The front 9 are simply one of the best loops in links golf period. I was shown around the new strand nine by the guy in the pro shop, these holeswill become the front nine later this year with the existing front nine becoming the back loopfinishing at the stunning Golf Pavilion, this really will make this course a contender for top 20 inireland as the new holes weave their way through low lying dunes and were obviously designed and constructed to match the existing holes in the valley (front nine).We stayed in the four star Rosapenna Hotel on site and received great hospitality with amazing food and top class service.Rosapenna is a must visit for any link enthusiast...
July 10, 2009
8 / 10
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