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 Iverson 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.
A new star was born in Donegal due to the hand of Mr. Tom Doak and when these three factors get together it is difficult to miss: a great land, a creative and innovative owner and a golf course genius. All these came together at SP’s and the result is a course that with less than a year of life is already 55th in the world and will for sure climb and fight for the top spot of the Island against Ballybunion, RCD, Portrush and Portmarnock Old.
We played 4 rounds here: Sunday afternoon and Monday morning (course just opened for us!) with same pin positions and then 36 on Tuesday with different and tougher new hole locations which made many holes play totally different. And after 4 walking rounds with phenomenal caddie Berkeley I can say we all 5 got a very deep knowledge of what the course was and what will it be once one season of growth.
I will start with what only time, sun and work will bring: grass covering all new areas, greens rolling better and faster plus less chance of losing balls despite fairways are very generous. The New Club House between 9th and 18th is much needed because the course is although near the far end of Old Tom and Sandy Hills, you have to drive 5/7mins to get to the parking lot and ProShop. And I will continue with all the good/great this course has, which is a lot.
Everything at SP’s is immense: the dunes surrounding the Ocean, the wide fairways, the greens with mounds, slopes and roll offs, the wild bunkers (some are small like 16th ones!), the infinity views to the water, elevated tee shots to landing areas who many times give you the chance of an heroic carry.
SP’s is not a very difficult course but with wind some holes will turn into beasts like par 4 9th with a very tough green offering a false front on the right side, 10th with uphill second shot to one of the best created greens I have ever seen with a tier separating left and right plus a very good potential pin position. Then 11th is a generous fairway but the perpendicular Biarritz is the toughest green on the course. 12th is a brutal par 5 uphill and where toughness is the second shot that will very often a mid-iron to a thin and long green.
13th and 14th are short 4s with the need of a well-placed tee shot to have a chance of attacking the pin. 15th is a short uphill 3 in which we hit 6 to 9 irons depending on wind changes and pin location.
A separate mention to the absolute greatness 16th hole is: a 460yds par 4 which played “easy” due to wind but it is all you wish from a golf hole having a risk reward equation on tee shot if you decide to go left, a huge green which will give you a safer option to avoid those 2 penal small bunkers on the right side and a very big green that can supply as many pin positions as you wish, this hole is a masterpiece.
17th is a par 3 with a three tier green surface and an elevated right side that will offer a safer side to avoid the hollow on the left side that will collect most of the short tee shots.
18th looks easy but it is not: an elevated tee shot offers the chance to bomb it but it is not the best call to leave you a 50yds shot to that green where using the right slope is your only chance of stopping the ball.
A final mention to my most liked feature on this course and this is the wild natural bunkering … absolutely brilliant, it gives the course that 7th gear to greatness. And not to forget very friendly Frank Jr and John who will for sure continue the legacy of their very active father Frank. The Course is not only in good hands but with an amazing ear to come, it will be fantastic a visit in a couple of years to check how this young boy turned into a grown up man. Chapeau Tom Doak!
I’d played Eddie Hackett’s Maheramagorgan course years ago and had enjoyed it. So I was curious to see the new course. I saw no signs of Hackett’s work and the new course appeared to be set to the south of the old one. It features a routing with holes running in all different directions. Fairways are quite generous with things getting tighter as one approaches the green. Doak has left most of the green fronts open, encouraging the running shot that’s so appropriate for links golf.
I was surprised that the 9th and 18th greens and the 10th tee are near each other but a long iron shot away from the clubhouse. And after the round, I found myself recalling holes 7-11, a string of par 4s, with some difficulty.
But these are small nits to pick on a course that ranks among my 6 favorites in Ireland
A truly exceptional golf course which should be ranked higher in my opinion.
Having played a handful of rounds here last year I was absolutely blown away. The fairway undulations are as good as anywhere i've seen; from the huge waves seen on the first to the cascading fairway on 16, to the micro undulations all over the course. The greens are also arguably the best in Ireland for contour and variety; they not only provide lots of interest through their incredible contouring but changes in pin positions also dictate play from the tee unlike anywhere i've seen apart from TOC at St Andrews. It is also blessed with unbelievable views and true variety of holes throughout. Add to this the wonderful Rosapenna Hotel and the local's hospitality; I think St Patricks is really hard to beat...
Looking at it's ranking in the UK; I don't know of a course with better fairway undulations (in terms of the size, scale, variety and detailing), I think the green contours are the best in Ireland, the flexibility/changeability of each hole is surpassed only by TOC, the views are as good as anywhere and with all of this, somehow St Patricks manages to maintain a consistent quality and feel throughout (which many courses in Ireland struggle to do). With all this in mind, I think it should be ranked higher- certainly higher than Royal Portrush, Ballybunion, North Berwick, Royal St Georges (to name a few that I absolutely love, but still think St Patricks comes out on top).
This is obviously my opinion, but I think St Pats is a masterpiece.
Rosapenna St Patrick’s, designed by Tom Doak, made a strong debut after opening in 2021 with Golf Magazine ranking it the 55th best course in the world.
Combined with Narin and Portnoo about a half hour away, designed by Gil Hanse, this corner of northwest Ireland has two course designed by two of the most highly acclaimed American “modern minimalist” golf architects.
While it is hard to conceive of a course being rated so highly after opening there is Tara iti, also designed by Tom Doak that also was rated that highly by Golf Magazine upon opening. As to whether it is the 55th best course in the world, that seems a bit high but certainly it is one to be considered for inclusion. Combined with the Sandy Hills and the Old Tom Morris courses, both of which offer a mixture of difficult, strategic and fun holes, Rosapenna is one of the best three golf resorts in the UK and Ireland.
The St Patricks course properly balances challenge, playability, strategy and fun across its routing. The routing takes very good advantage of the tall dunes and rises and falls in the land. It takes you to the beach and coastline both times in the middle of each nine each time with a compelling hole.
The course is in excellent condition from tee to green.
While it is not the easiest of walks, it is a delight to walk it and stand on the tee or before the approach shot to consider one’s options.
I did have some criticisms of the course with regards to the green surrounds and a few of the greens which work against fairness and do not reward what is either a good or reasonable shot. Some of that might be due simply to some very difficult pin positions that we had but center without those pins, I thought a few holes suffered from the same design flaw. This is a very natural course but one can see where the shaping is contrived and unnatural.
We played St Patricks three times with each day providing an even stronger wind. The wind was very strong on the final road took which away much of the enjoyment as we went into grinding and survival mode. On that final round, the stiff wind only seemed to work In our favor only on a few holes even if the routing had holes changing directions. The course is designed to play firm and fast but with the strong winds all three days we rarely had that experience.
The course features wide fairways, particularly on the par fives. The greens are either long, wide, or sizable with a lot of undulations and interior movement. For the most part there is a lot of contouring in the green surrounds. The bunkering is almost perfect in number, size, shape, and depth.
The course measures 6930 yards from the sandstone tees, par 71, rated 73.2/128. The slate tees are at 6490 yards, rated 71/125. The granite tees are 5919 yards rated 68.7/121. Obviously due to,the winds the course played significantly harder but even without the winds I would state that the slope ratings are ridiculously low by 13-16 points. Evidently some course raters need more training in how to determine slope. We played the slate tees the first two days with the exception of the fourth hole where we moved up. Due to the high winds, we moved up to the granite tees on the final round although moving back on a couple of holes where we were downwind. Unfortunately, two of the better greens were closed during our visit although I hit balls close to them and had a good look at them during the first two rounds. A third person who has played all but one of the great links in the U.K. and Ireland joined us for the third round.
The course reminds me of Ballybunion Old where the first six holes are somewhat standard with a bad hole and with one good hole (in this case at St. Patrick’s one very good hole). Both courses are very good from the seventh through the seventeenth with personal preference at each course dictating whether one likes or not liked eighteen.
1. Par 4 - 382/369/345. This is typical hole for Mr. Doak where he favors the daring, longer hitter who can drive it down the tighter opening where their bill can nearly reach the green on this sharply downhill hole starting from an elevated tee. For the shorter hitter they are tempted to go left and catch the downslope but are unlikely to clear the high dune left and therefore have a blind shot. The safer play is out to the right even if it results in a longer approach shot as the green should be visible to you as the high dune on the right should not block one’s view unless you go right up against it and fall down a slope into a hollow. There is a bunker left pressed against the mound 200-235 yards from the tee but it does not feel as if it’s a threat. The bigger threat is a long, raised bunkers that begins around 20 yards from the green on the right side finishing close to the edge of the green. The green has an interior depression that pushes a bit right while the front and back fall to the middle. I do think the bunker and green are unfair as the green is on lower ground making it too low of a probability of getting a ball close to ant pin location on the front third of the third. In the seven rounds played, sux of the approach shots ran through the green. Even though I made par both times it was much more effort than I expected after hitting what I thought were good shots landing well short of the green.
2. Par 4 - 372/358/339. This hole plays uphill set between dunes. Bunkers are down the right side set into the tall dunes and are very much in play because the fairway shrinks by more than 50%. The fairway shrinks on the left side to be parallel to the green. The green is narrow at the front widening to more normal size at the back half. The green has various rolls in its interior but overall goes back to front. The left side of this green has high grass next to it while the right side has a sizable area of short grass. It is a fun hole.
3. Par 3 - 178/167/163. This hole has a forced carry over a sizable and deep valley set between dunes. Far off the right is a large bunker while a collection of bunkers are on the right back of the green. The valley has very thick, tall grass and could lead to a blind shot due to its depth. The green slopes to the front with a central vertical swale. This is another fun hole featuring real drama.
4. Par 5 - 555/508/451. High up a dune is the sandstone tee with one of the most dramatic tee shots one would ever play with the ball dropping perhaps over 150 feet. This hole parallels the coastline and beach. The fairway begins very narrow for its first 40 yards with dunes and tall grass between the sea and the fairway on the right and a rough area of short grass on the left. The fairway is blind from the slate tees but you can see it from the sandstone and granite tees as the granite tees are close to the edge of the lower dune but still high at perhaps 100 feet. On day one we played the slate tees and due to the wind I did not quite make the fairway going slightly left into the clumps of tall grass. On days two and three we moved up which allowed me to reach the fairway. The hole plays straight with the green set off slightly to the right. The hole plays longer as the green is on higher ground. Sand lines the right side for most of the first half of the fairway before giving away to dunes and grass. The left side has a long area of sand for nearly 100 yards where the fairway narrow. The fairway pinches at 200 from the green for nearly 70 yards. There are two small bunkers placed inside the fairway at 75 yards from the green on the right. Bunkers appear on the left 20 yards in front of the green continuing to the back of the green. The early double bunker left is pretty cool. The green has a bump-out on the right side after a hollow that fronts the right side of the green. The green has several hollows and mounds in it and is large, moving almost always to the front with an inner plateau. There is more room to miss left of the green due to short grass while the right side has the taller grass closer by. I liked everything about this hole.
5. Par 3 - 214/153/144. We did not get to play the green as it was being repaired for the upcoming season and would open two weeks later. But we did walk around it. It is likely one of the three best greens on the course. There is an early forced carry over a wide expense of sand that ends well before the green. There is a small hidden central bunker about 20 yards from the green. It is quite large with an overall tilt to the left. There is a back left section that protrudes to the left but very shallow that is almost hidden from the tee and likely hidden from the sandstone tee due to a dune knob on the left. The green has various little spines and small swales going through it. Go too long and you can run into sand behind the green. It is likely the best par 3 on the course.
6. Par 5 - 571/522/506. Each time I played this hole I liked it less. It plays downhill and in our case, downwind to perhaps the widest fairway on the course. The hole plays as a slight dogleg left. There is a wide area of grass and sand on rougher ground that diagonally left to right bisects the fairway. From the slate and granite tee one can run into it. It is 30 yards wide. The fairway remains wide and one should not be too concerned about the 50 yard long bunker placed inside the fairway on the left beginning at 75 yards from the hole. Sand bunkers are also in play off to the right. What I disliked about the hole is the mound that fronts the green that kicks any ball that lands on its front either left or right. Land too far on the other side of the mound and the ball will release all the way off the green even if the green slants to the front after this mound. We had a front pin all three days and it was impossible to get close to it. I do not mind mounds that front a green but I do mind mounds that re too high that half of the green is out of play for a pin position. I saw this same shaping resulting in too tall of a mound fronting two other greens. Keep the mound, but reduce it by two to three feet to make it more natural. I also wished the green was placed off to the right set closer to the wall of the high dune behind it but perhaps that was not environmentally possible.
7. Par 4 - 427/399/368. I liked this hole more and more every time I played it. From an elevated tee you play over the grass and dunes wanting to go left of the bunker complex that begins about 190-220 off the tees. We played the slate tee the first two days and the granite tee the final day due to the strength of the wind. If one can stay left of the bunkers they have the chance to clear the top of the slope that is 225-250 yards from the tee which will add as much as 25 more yards to the tee shot. The fairway has various rolls and shelves to it. The green is partially tucked behind a tall dune mound on the left which can hide much of the green. A direction marker is provided on the hill behind the green for its central landing area. The green sits below the fairway surrounded on three sides by tall dunes. It is angled to the left with a narrower front right portion. There is not as much undulations in this green but there is certainly adequate movement. I liked the visual of the hole from the tee shot to the approach shot as well as the protected setting of the green.
8. Par 4 - 339/318/280. We played the slate tee all three days. This hole plays as a slight dogleg right. Do not miss right or you can end up in a very long, wide and deep sand dune of 55 yards. On day three I missed far enough right to have a flat lie and even though I had a blind shot into the green due to the rise of the dune in front of me, it was easy to reach it. Another bunker complex is off to the left short of the green but should not be an issue. Much like the sixth, the front of the green has a contrived mound/knob fronting the green which blocks one’s view of the green and balls landing on the downslope will kick all the way to the back of the green. Land too short of the knob and your ball with likely stop and then roll either left of right. The green itself is a good one with movement in all directions. Once again, the fronting mound is two-three feet too high, looks unnatural, and eliminates the front third of the green for a pin position. I had to hit long putts from the back of the green each day for my par. It’s fun, but one would think a shorter hole might offer a better chance for birdie.
9. Par 4 - 460/460/398. Much like the seventh this seems to play as a dogleg right but the tee shot here is to a straighter hole. From another elevated tee one plays to perhaps the lumpiest fairway on the course as it tumbles down to the green. There are various sand bunkers down the entirety of the left side while the right side is tall grass. At 125 yards from the green the fairway narrows at the point of a left side bunker. Much like the seventh, the green is angled to the left and is thin although nearly 40 yards in length. Much like the seventh, this hole is both visually attractive and requires precision to make par. As it was into a fierce wind on my third round, I was not surprised at my double bogey but did not care as I had parred it the previous two days both with a two putt and one putt. The green complex sits surrounded by dunes which provides a very good chance for recovery if one has a decent touch with the short game.
10. Par 4 - 412/400/356. After a longer walk you arrive at a tee where the hole plays gently uphill. On day three into the wind it felt 100 yards longer. There is a bunker on the left in play off the tee only in the strongest of winds but its main purpose is to pinch the size of the fairway from a visual standpoint. The reality is there is a lot of fairway hidden from the tee to the left of it. The fairway widens at 225/210/165 from the three tees. As you move up the fairway higher dunes are on the right. Two bunkers creep in on the left at 95 and 75 yards with the second bunker being nearly 25 yards in length. These two bunkers shrink the fairway. A final bunker is right of the green about 15 yards from the green. This is another fairway featuring multiple rolls and small humps. There is a lot of room off to the left of the green in the form of a higher ridge where the green sits below it. The front right of the green, where we had our pin for all three days is very slanted to the front and left. Somehow I had the same putt all three days from just to the right of the right front and on the third day I learned the putt broke 15 feet. I would have liked to have played to a back pin on this green as it sits below the surrounding rises on all three sizes as it is a nice visual. This is a terrific hole to kick off the back nine.
11. Par 4 - 472/450/399. This hole plays fairly level but if one can clear the rise they can get an additional roll which is necessary given the complexity of the green. I marked down only one small bunker on the right about 50 yards from the green. The fairway narrows by half about two thirds into it. The green is placed off to the right and is an exciting one. The right half is on its own plateau perhaps five feet higher than the left side. It makes for a very small green to try to stay on it. Tall grass if off to the right. Fronting the green on the right side is a small valley but one can still try to run a ball onto it. The left side of the green falls to the back and has its own small plateau towards the back left that releases balls to the middle of the green or off to the left. I loved most of the green but felt the second smaller plateau on the back left should have been at least 25% larger as it felt unfair to me. But perhaps they never put a pin there? It is one of the most unique greens one will play.
12. Par 5 - 560/546/482. We turned direction to face the wind again on a hole that felt like it was 700 yards in length due to the wind and it plays uphill. The first bunker is left at 235/220 on the right. I did not have to concern myself with the center-line bunker at 280/260/200 as I could not reach that in any of the three rounds. The hole plays straight with the next set of bunkers at 120 yards from the green on the right and another center-line bunker at 90 yards from the green. The green is exposed with short grass available on all sides for a miss. Much like the tenth, the green is narrower at the front and has multiple shelves in it. On all three days we had a middle left pin where there is more movement in the green. This is a strong par 5 that offers something for players of all caliber.
13. Par 4 - 376/343/333. You play uphill to a blind green which sits over the rise. There is a very tall dune on the right side that has a hollow before it much like the opening hole. This mound is 50 yards in length. Stay middle or left off the tee and you have a much better chance of making a reasonable score. Just before the green on the right are two deep bunkers set below a taller mound. If you go into these bunkers you will have a blind shot to a pin on the right which we had all three days. Although I went into these bunkers on two days I thought they were perfectly placed and shaped. The green is long and wide which is appropriate for a likely blind approach shot. I have seen this type of hole on many links courses but this is one of the better ones.
14. Par 4 - 399/365/340. The green was closed to us for maintenance. This hole offers the second best view from the golf course of the beach, coastline, and surrounding tall hills. I think the fourth tee is slightly better. From this tee you can see the remnants of the previous 36 holes that were there. These remnants will likely be blown over in a few more years. It is a dramatic view as the fairway sits perhaps 80 feet below you. The hole is played as a sharp dogleg right. One can easily hit through the fairway so cutting the dogleg or getting close to the large blowout bunker 150 yards from the green is a requirement. The fairway does not quite feel wide enough so one wants to either go down a club or swing a bit less. For longer hitters who want to fly over that inner corner bunker the fairway shrinks by half at 100 yards from the green where another bunker is placed on the left. A final bunker is on the right at 50 yards from the green. The green itself is set below dunes behind it with some room to the dunes to the right. The coastline and tall grass is off to the left. The green itself looks somewhat flat with no bunkers. One could have an approach shot of nearly 200 yards to this green if they lack the courage to take on the dogleg. It is a visually stunning hole that requires decision-making and conviction.
15. Par 3 - 130/125/117. I do not favor uphill semi-blind par 3’s. I especially dislike them when playing into a wind that is blowing 35-40 mph, mainly in our face but also a bit from the right. We had wind around 20-25 for the first two rounds, but it was quite high for that final round. From the tee down the left side of the green is a large exposed sand bunker that is both a waste bunker and a blowout bunker with sparse grass and mounds. Go left and you will have an uphill blind shot of 30 feet to the pin. I managed to find the pin each day and get relatively close for a good look at birdie at which I made none. I hit 6 iron the first two days and 5 iron the final day to seven feet. Thankfully the green is relatively flat but it does move in all directions. Some will likely love this hole but for me it served as a connector hole to the sixteenth as you make the final turn for the pro shop.
16. Par 5 - 534/487/471. From an elevated tee this hole plays to a wide fairway which narrows at 345/290 yards from the tee. At the point of narrowing, a large blowout waste area comes into play on the right side that is nearly 80 yards in length. Flanking bunkers are next placed at 60 yards from the green. Finally, two bunkers are on the right side of the green complex, the first at 15 yards away and the second on the right side. This is another fairway with ample rolls, depressions, and humps. There is ample room to miss the green to the left but the recovery up a slight false side is to a green that releases away from you. This is another hole with a front hump which I did not like for the reasons listed earlier. Shave down the hump a bit and this becomes a very playable and fun par 5.
17. Par 3 - 199/176/155. Although the green is on the larger side, it looks larger than it is because it is exposed, sitting inside of surrounding short grass of which there is more to the right. The landing zone has various humps and rolls so a ball should land either on the green or as close as possible. The green looks relatively flat but again has good inner micro-contouring.
18. Par 4 - 361/344/272. I could not make up my mind about this hole much like the finishing hole on Ballybunion Old which I do not think much of. What I like about the hole is playing it from the two longer tees as they are elevated playing downhill, even if one has to walk a bit to get to them. There is good land movement in the landing zone for most players from these two tees including a central bunker 230/215 from those tees. I landed just on the other side of this bunker on my final day. The green is nestled on three sides below dunes. Longer hitters will need to avoid the large bunker on the left that is 290/270 from the tee as the fairway cants towards it if you land left of center. There is an early bunker that begins about 20 yards from the green on the right but stops 6-7 yards from the green. The left front corner bunker is deep and to be avoided. The green basically seems to take any ball to its center. It is a good chance to finish with a birdie and nothing worse than a bogey. For me, the hole is visually attractive but might have been better with another 40 yards down on a lower shelf which I think is possible given the lengthy walk back to the pro shop.
There is much to admire about the St. Patrick’s course at Rosapenna. I think its inclusion in the top 100 of the world by Golf Magazine is warranted, although perhaps a bit high. It has everything one could want in a links golf course played mostly atop or between high dunes. The routing is near perfection for the land. The course offers you opportunity while having some stout defenses. It is not quirky, it is about as natural as a course can be. Each hole, other than the sixth and fifteenth, is either fun or interesting. I do expect that many will like the sixth and fifteenth so that is merely my personal preference. You will get to play some heroic shots and some delicate recovery shots. But you will enjoy every shot even if you mess up. The greens are shaped to provide maximum thought, yet are rarely overwhelming save for the three high knobs fronting three of the greens. The views from each tee box is outstanding. The par 3’s are perhaps the weaker holes on the course but they would be easily called out on other courses as among the best. It is merely that they do not compare as favorably against the many very good par 4’s and 5’s. This is a course that one should make a concerted effort to play at least twice. Hopefully the wind be less for you!
I made my way to St Patricks last August. The course was receiving much acclaim and I thought it prudent to stop by whilst in Ireland. It is a very nice course. Where I differ in my view to it is that it comes off a tad redundant. Up and down and up and down and rarely along the hillside. Maybe I was expecting grandeur beyond achievability. But as I endeavor to bring back memories of the playing grounds, so many just blend together. It is definitely a great course. Just not as great as I was expecting. Finding it 3rd best now on this site is a tad surprising. It does bring up the level of play for the NW of Ireland though.
Hi Doug - if St Patrick’s is potentially overrated at #3 in Ireland, why do you think this might be?
Hi Doug, Im due to play this course later in the year and would be interested in what makes such a highly rated course a "tad redundant" ?
BB, Have you played? Where would you rank it? Personally with my NW trip last August I and my good rating friend both had it at #3 of our rotation of our trip. Carne and European sitting 1/2. It's a grand course, just not 3rd best in Ireland in my view.
Hi Doug, I’ve not played it. Will look forward to doing so in the next 3-4 years once it settles down (both the course & the hype).
Some of the reviews to date are like marketing copy (which was similar when West Cliffs opened 2-3 years ago), so is helpful to hear you say you preferred Carne & European Club.
The St. Patricks links is spectacular in many ways.
As you’d imagine the views are amazing. We played it on a warm, calm and sunny day. With weather like this you really couldn’t wish to be golfing anywhere else but Ireland.
Fairways are wide, sometimes very wide. This makes it (wind depending) a reasonably easy driving course.
The course has plenty of defence, though, with difficult approach shots and very sloping and undulating greens. The greens mostly blend into the surrounds which can fall away dramatically to sweep your ball away from it’s intended line.
For a first visit this will be confusing and difficult, the first green being a good example.
You also can’t play for the front of the green hoping for a typical links ‘bounce up’ on most holes. I came up short on 2, 6, 9, 13 where there was no help from the entry to the green. A strong feature of the course that will be learned from for my return.
Although the fairways are wider than most courses, some still require precision. The long par 4 11th for example. Allowing our drives to drift towards the right meant we all faced very long blind approaches from a valley in the fairway. It’s no wonder this hole doesn’t need bunkers! The green has huge undulations and a steep drop in the middle. Missing left is a mistake as I found out, not being able to putt towards the flag.
The 9th (Index 1) is another great par 4. The tee box blends into the 8th green which was really nice feature.
A good drive hugging the left side seemed to be the right way to play it. But that left a tiny view of the right of the green and that is not the side to approach. A deep run off collects anything on the right side and leaves a tough pitch. Bogey and worse is almost guaranteed.
Another strong hole is 17. No sand in play but just as well! A tee shot long and right with the pin on the left meant I had to putt down through three levels ( or was it 4).
The 18th is another deceptive one. Playing about 280 yds from our tee , my long straight drive looked to be heading for the green. Not to be, the entry area is about 3 yds wide and anything right is gathered down deep leaving another of those tricky pitches. Next time will be an iron from the tee.
The greens need a little time, to be expected of course. Some were being worked on still ( 2 temporary greens in play). I had a couple of short iron fairway shots where there was little or no soil beneath the grass just sand so the ball comes out like a bunker shot. That is my only small criticism. I think this will be one of Ireland’s greatest links courses in time.
We all loved the St. Patricks links. It is picturesque, it’s size is impressive. The setting is beautiful. The design is fantastic as it is very playable from the tee but requires every club in the bag and every shot in the book to get around.
And it is memorable, one of those courses where you remember every hole after playing it once – for me a great sign.
We also enjoyed the Rosapenna experience - very friendly, helpful and good value. With two more top links courses on site and beside a nice village, it’s a great golfing destination.
We’ll be back.
Total serenity! Walking this course puts you in a subliminal state of mind where it’s nature and you playing the game you love
Welcome to Donegal golf’s new star attraction, the St. Patrick’s Links at Rosapenna Hotel & Golf Resort, a course that has been quite a long time in the making. Originally envisaged as a 36-hole setup in the 1990s, it was being redeveloped by Nicklaus Design early in the new millennium before the financial crash of 2008 brought everything to a grinding halt. Within five years the Casey family had acquired the property and they made the very astute move of enticing Tom Doak’s Renaissance Golf Design firm to build a new 18-hole course on this huge 300-acre tract of land.
The resulting layout is absolutely massive in scale, but built in proportion to the terrain it occupies, with fairways twisting and turning, rising and falling in and out of the astonishing dunescape that exists next to Tramore beach. It’s located a good 5-minute drive from the Rosapenna hotel so bear that in mind for your tee time if your vehicle satnav takes you there first. There’s only a temporary clubhouse on site at present but it’s all that’s required at the moment until visitor numbers pick up and demand has to be satisfied – walk before you run is the old saying, isn’t it?
St. Patrick’s was the third Doak-designed European course I’d played (after The Renaissance Club in Scotland and Grand Saint-Emilionais in France) so I was prepared to see some interesting green complexes based on what I’d found at the other two courses. I discovered cleverly contoured putting surfaces as expected, but the way they’ve been seamlessly integrated into the green surrounds was really off the charts – most of the green extents could only be determined by the discreet positioning of the peripheral sprinkler heads, making the transition from green to green surround largely undetectable.
Sandy waste areas and shaggy-edged bunkers abound on the periphery of very wide fairways, artful grading and subtle mounding provide a semi-blind approach aspect to some of the greens, while others have beautiful little swales integrated into the apron to repel imprecise shots. A couple of the fairways might be considered a little on the flat side but there’s generally lots of interesting ground movement from tee to green, especially on the par fives which have more ground to cover, obviously.
I thought both par fives on the front nine were fantastic. The 4th breaks out of the dunes and presents you with a fantastic view of Tramore Beach from its elevated tee position. The 6th then doglegs slightly left back towards the dunes, with a wide sandy waste area cutting diagonally across the fairway at the landing zone. A confounding knob at the front of the green makes this one of the most difficult putting surfaces to negotiate with the approach shot.
On the back nine, I particularly liked the 14th, which reminded me a lot of the 17th at Ballybunion Old, though doglegging right instead of left from a fantastic vantage point overlooking Sheephaven Bay. The par three hole that follows was also my favourite short hole, played uphill into the dunes to a green that’s canted right to left and front to back (though you can’t tell that from down below, of course).
St. Patrick’s should be on every visiting golfer’s itinerary to Donegal. It’s the new headline act supported by a stellar cast across the county which runs to more than a dozen different layouts – just be prepared to combine this course with some of the lesser lights, creating an enjoyable mix that won’t have you fatigued playing too much championship-standard golf. The older layouts in the region all deserve their place in the pecking order and you’ll probably find you need to plan a couple of trips to do Donegal proper justice.
St. Patrick's reminded me of Carne but more impressive. In a few years when it matures I think it will be no. 1 in Ireland. No two holes are the same.
St Patrick's is unlike any links course that you will play. We can be very thankful that the brains trust decided upon an 18 hole routing that explores the expansive site. This decision adds monumentally to the quality golf on offer at Rosapenna.
The scale of the features are impressive throughout and often appear to mirror the natural surroundings perfectly. St. Patrick's rests easily amongst the dunes, in harmony with the surrounding environment.
The tempo of the round works very well, counterpointed as it is by two magnificent reveals at the green to tee transition at 4 and 14. Only the 4th and 5th run consecutively in the same direction so the golfer is continuously searching for where that pesky wind is coming from.
The visuals presented to the player can differ markedly depending on which side of the fairway you ‘should’ have been on. On occasion the front of the green has been built up to disguise the putting surface, while other greens precipitously merge into the surrounding fairway and gasp..... even a few of them are pitched from front to back.
The green complexes are simply great fun, some of my personal favourites were 7, 9, 11, 12 and 17.
The bunkering and sand waste areas are at times cavernous and have obviously been utilised to provide real interest, relative contrast and to hide the previous holes that had existed on the site from the previous iteration.
Repeated play really lets you appreciate the nuances of preferred angles, no go areas, shot shapes and the attempted utilisation of the greenside kicker slopes that, when used correctly, can nurdle and nudge your ball towards the hole. Seeing the ball move on the ground is thrilling particularly when its moving in the intended direction!
St Patrick's must go straight onto your ‘MUST PLAY’ list.
It is likely that St. Patrick's will be the last great links to be constructed in Ireland, if this turns out to be the case then we can count ourselves lucky that TD and his team were chosen to realise a long held ambition. Congratulations to all involved.