Rosapenna (St Patrick's) - Donegal - Ireland

Rosapenna Hotel & Golf Resort,
Carrigart,
Sheephaven Bay,
Downings,
Letterkenny,
Co Donegal,
Ireland


  • +353 (0) 74 915 5000

  • Frank Casey Jr.

  • Tom Doak

  • Bryan Patterson

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.

If the above article is inaccurate, please let us know by clicking here

Write a review

Reviews for Rosapenna (St Patrick's)

Average Reviewers Score:
Description: Construction of the new St Patrick’s links at Rosapenna Hotel & Golf Resort began in April 2018, with Tom Doak’s lead associate Eric Everson working alongside Clyde Johnson and Angela Moser to complete the build during 2020. Rating: 9.4 out of 10 Reviews: 5
TaylorMade
Tommy Parlante

Total serenity! Walking this course puts you in a subliminal state of mind where it’s nature and you playing the game you love

November 19, 2021
10 / 10
Reviewer Score:
TaylorMade

Respond to above review
  Was this review helpful?
0 people found this review helpful

Jim McCann

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.

Jim McCann

October 08, 2021
9 / 10
Reviewer Score:
TaylorMade

Respond to above review
  Was this review helpful?
2 people found this review helpful

Tommy Parlante

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.

September 12, 2021
10 / 10
Reviewer Score:
TaylorMade

Respond to above review
  Was this review helpful?
0 people found this review helpful

Shane Derby

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.

August 06, 2021
9 / 10
Reviewer Score:
TaylorMade

Respond to above review
  Was this review helpful?
4 people found this review helpful

Fergal O'Leary

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.

June 25, 2021
9 / 10
Reviewer Score:
TaylorMade

Respond to above review
  Was this review helpful?
4 people found this review helpful

Response
Dan Hare
June 26, 2021

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