In the past, golfers visiting Rosapenna might have wondered about the giant sand scrapes and barely visible outlines of fairways on a rugged piece of land that lies immediately to the south of the Old Tom Morris and Sandy Hills layouts.
This was actually the remnants of a 36-hole facility developed by the Walsh family of Carrigart in the early 1990s, with the Maheramagorgan Links designed by Eddie Hackett and the Trá Mór Links laid out by Royal County Down assistant professional Joanne O’Haire.
Early in the new millennium, Martin Hawtree was called in to suggest course improvements but his modifications were hardly in play before it was announced in late 2005 that both courses would be redesigned by Nicklaus Design as part of a €60 million project, involving the construction of a 5-star hotel and spa, up to two hundred luxury apartments, and a number of retail units. Work actually started on the golfing element of the development but the global financial recession of 2008 brought work on site to a grinding halt.
The Casey family at the Rosapenna Golf Resort then stepped in to purchase the property in late 2012 and they quickly entered into discussions with Tom Doak of Renaissance Golf Design, who convinced the new owners to build one new 18-hole course on the links land that previously housed thirty-six holes.
Doak’s plan was to fashion one spectacular course instead of two mediocre layouts, using the best of the 300-plus acres for his first 18-hole design in Ireland. Not only that, he helped the Caseys source funding for the project, becoming a part-owner himself.
Construction of the new St Patrick’s began in April 2018, with Doak’s lead associate Eric Everson working alongside Clyde Johnson and Angela Moser to complete the build during 2020.
The final piece of the jigsaw was put in place when head greenkeeper George Helly – who previously worked at Bandon Dunes and Tara Iti – was brought in to look after the grow-in leading up to the official opening in June 2021.
St. Patrick’s Links – a dream come true for Tom Doak, for the Rosapenna resort and for the golfers of Ireland. We now have a world class Doak course in the Emerald Isle!
The history of golf at St. Patrick’s is an interesting one with two original courses, then a possible Nicklaus routing (which never happened) followed by no activity for years. The genius and foresight of the Casey family to commit to purchasing the land in 2012 was an outstanding decision.
The new course is unlike anything else in Ireland. Golfers will be left speechless by the sheer scale of the course, the width of the fairways, (possibly the best ever) shaping of greens done by the Doak team, and a setting that will take your breath away. The 11th green might be the best green in the world, and the view from the 14th tee will make time stand still.
When the course matures and the mowing lines are finalised, this course will be at the very top of everybody’s wish list. The excitement is justified. The Old Tom Morris Course, the Sandy Hills Course and now St. Patrick’s Links are a trio of world class golf. With an official opening date of June 26th, 2021, I think the wonderful Casey brothers will have to add another 60 bedrooms to the hotel!
In terms of quantity and quality, there are more “great” courses concentrated in the northwest compared to any other area of Ireland, and thanks to Tom Doak and the Casey family, County Donegal should be #1 on everyone’s golf travel list.
Fergal, I've been waiting ages for a review of St Patrick's, and I'm glad it's you! I totally agree about NW Ireland, it's a brilliant concentration of top links at reasonable prices and with rural charm along with the Highlands, Cornwall and NW Wales. A few years ago we played all the Top 100 GB&I links from Ballyliffin to Connemara, and Rosapenna was probably our favourite multi day stay and play (love the pub up the hill!), with Sandy Hills the best "new" course we played. Our UK society has got this on the list