Royal Dublin was the unexpected highlight of a recent trip to Ireland and is somewhat underrated in my opinion. So why doesn't Dollymount get the same attention as some of its more high profile neighbours? Perhaps it's the industrial backdrop beyond the clubhouse, or could the lack of any type of sea view from the course be a factor or maybe it's just the undeniably flat location? Despite any of these issues and talking in purely golfing terms, this is a very good course indeed.
As this was my first visit I didn't get to see the old pre-2006 greens but today most are slightly raised and contoured to perfection. Re-constructed by Martin Hawtree, the new green complexes, are amongst the best I've seen anywhere in Ireland. Impressive bunkering frames the greens beautifully throughout and the run-off areas require a fine touch and plenty of imagination to achieve an up and down. All four of the par-3's are challenging and visually impressive.
The 4th, "Feather Bed" and 9th "Davidson's" are particularly attractive and most certainly memorable. Of the longer holes I very much liked the 3rd, appropriately named "Alps" where you must drive past a large dune before playing a mid-iron to a heavily bunkered green. The thought of hitting the approach over the wall into the green keeper's compound is more than enough to keep you focused. The excellent 8th, another good and long par-4, demands an exacting approach to another raised green with a steep fall-off on the left side. The longer back nine is much tougher and even more so when playing into the brisk prevailing wind. The 10th, 11th, 13th and 17th are all demanding but plotting your way through the humps and hollows on this stretch of holes and hopefully avoiding a couple of well placed ditches is a challenge to be savoured.
The short 16th, a driveable par-4 named "Dolly", adds to the variety with seven well placed bunkers placed to catch anything but the most perfect of drives and both accuracy and courage is required at the dogleg 18th, a genuine card wrecker if ever there was one. Here you are reminded of the 1st at Royal Liverpool, a par-4 measuring 470 yards, with an "out of bounds" running the full length of the hole, this will strike fear into the hearts of all but the straightest of hitters. Not to be missed. Brian W
Booked a Sunday evening in May, as a single golfer. Moderate to sometimes strong winds with occasional showers the evening I played, started off reasonably warm, so good conditions to play and assess the qualities of a links course. No point playing these things in calm conditions?
As other reviewers have said, this is a very flat course in elevation changes but fairways do have the humps and hollows you’d expect on the front nine anyway. Fairways quite flat on the back nine. The first couple of holes quite straightforward, wind slightly helping. Some fairways were holding water and there was no roll on drives, OK for the front nine, but made the back nine tough. On the outward nine reasonably tight off the tee, and greens very well protected with bunkers and tight pin positions. Pin positions made it very difficult on most holes on the outward nine, short of the green probably the wisest option on many holes. The greens and bunkering are the real protection. Some large swales on the relatively small greens. The swales aren’t what you’d call multiple levels, more creases in the aprons extending onto the putting surfaces. Provide challenging two putts when on the wrong side of the greens. Greens rolled true and medium paced, very consistent in pace across the course.
The homeward nine, felt wider and longer. Lots of fairway bunkering, some in play on the day, others not due to winds, although bunkering is in place to challenge with or without wind. Played very long due to lack of roll, and wind. Pin positions somewhat more central, and greens larger and generally felt flatter. Some greens have quite large run offs, so if you’re out a few feet expect to be much farther from the pin than you’d expect after you roll off the edge, and keep rolling, and rolling.
Generally the rough wasn’t too penal. Given the showers coming through it was still difficult to get greenside with your approach when playing from the rough, especially with the wind and longer back nine. Greenside first cut was a joy to play off, short, tight and consistent. Turf not as firm as many links, although I’d put that down to the weather. Sand in bunkers ranged from heavy to rock hard on some of the faces, but given the recent weather they were fine with no lying water.
Ranking it against other ROI east coast links, it falls somewhere between the top tier (Portmarnock, Baltray & The European) and the likes of Portmarnock Hotel Links/Seapoint. It’s much tougher than the hotel links/Seapoint and is presented better than both, but it’s not at the top table.
Now, here’s the problem, and why a good course only scores as an average for me. The pace of play was shocking, I was just short of 5 hours (4:50). There were interclub fourball matches on the course, which started to backup from the 4th. Interclub matches are always slow, and this one from my calculations (the last group finished on the 17th and considering I only got backed up from the 4th) was on track for a five and a quarter hour round. I’ve no issue with a club match taking this time, it’s a members club, I was on a green fee, and they can take as much of their time as they like on their course in these circumstances. However I would have expected and appreciated to have been told this in the pro shop when checking in. I would NEVER have went out in these circumstances and would have rearranged for another time. With a 16:50 ish start at the end of May, I finished the last two holes in the dark at 21:38. Difficult to enjoy it, but continued to play to see the rest of the course, as given the lack of communication on the matches I’d no intention of returning and paying another green fee for the privilege. I was going to call the pro shop the following morning to complain, but if they didn’t have the courtesy to tell me in the first place, I don’t wish to bother with them again. If it weren’t for this, I might well have left with a positive note, but not somewhere I’d ever return as a result. Summary, good course, dubious attitude to visitors based on this visitors experience.
The front nine is about 600 yards shorter than the back nine predominately because it has 3 par 3s against only one par 3 on the back nine. The par 3s on the front ranged from 163 yards on the 9th to 187 yards on the 7th. I enjoyed all of the par 3s but thought the 9th was the best as the front half of the green was surrounded by 4 bunkers to a green that can be very tricky to putt and control the tee shot. The 2 par 5s on the front ranged from 467 yards to 573 yards. Both were excellent designs with well placed bunkers and were good birdie opportunities with well placed shots. The distance on the 4 par 4s on the front ranged from the 387 yard first to the 446 yard fifth hole. All the par 4s required accurate ball striking and I thought the fifth was the most difficult.
The back 9 has 6 par 4s with five of the holes ranging in distance from the 422 yard 17th to the 463 yard 18th. The only short par 4 on the back was the 285 yard 16th which is driveable but is protected by seven well placed bunkers and is a nice short par 4. The other 5 par 4s were all good tests and I thought the two most difficult par 4s are the 441 yard 10th hole which has a ditch that protects the entire front of the green and the 18th that is a dogleg right with out of bounds down the entire right side of the fairway. The lone par 3 on the back, the 183 yard twelfth, is a nice par three that is protected by 2 bunkers on the right and one bunker left of the green. The first of the two par 5s on the back is the 544 yard 11th hole that has 6 well placed bunkers on the tee shot and 5 bunkers on the lay up and another bunker just short of the green and another to the left. This green is very undulating and a good test for putting skills. The other par five on the back is the 545 yard 14th that is a good birdie opportunity but for me it was necessary to lay up short of the ditch that is about 50-70 yards short of the green.
The Royal Dublin Golf Club was a pleasure to play and would highly recommend it to any golfer that enjoys the challenge of a classic links. Royal Dublin has hosted many championships over the years and some of its champions include the great Seve Ballesteros, Bernhard Langer, and the legendary Christy O'Connor Sr. Click here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kwX0MqChaUQ to see a You Tube slideshow of some pictures I took during my visit. Jim Brady
The out and back routing was new to me and i hadnt experienced it before. It built up the confidence as the first set of holes played down wind and the greens were easily reachable in regualtion. The back nine was a far tougher test as the wind had picked up a bit by then and i was playing dead into it all the way home. You either play downwind or into the wind, there doesnt seem to be any in between on this course and this is due to the fact that you are either facing due north or south on what feels like every tee box. What i will say is that the par threes, although quite short, are excellent and a joy to play however i found the closing hole to be a big dissapointment. The hole itself is a beauitful dogleg right par 5 that finishes in front of the elegent clubhouse but what really lets this hole down is the practice ground to the right of it. Its an eyesore in my opinion and distracts from an otherwise worthy closing hole. I enjoyed it and would go back again as im sure the place would grow on me but my advice to anyone visiting the area and looking for real Dublin links golf - head to the Island.
I played here two weeks before the 2008 Irish Amateur Championships were being held and the course was looking very good, with the bunkers, in particular, having been given a spring time overhaul.
Bull island is pretty flat and there's little by way of elevation change to liven up the natural terrain but the course has a few interesting items to hold your interest, such as Curleys Yard to the left of the 3rd green; a lovely pond to the front right of the 7th green; snaking burns that runs diagonally across the 10th and 14th holes; and – strangest of all – a ditch on the right of the 18th fairway, marking the practice area on the other side as out of bounds and defining the last as a rather unnatural right-angled doglegged hole.
“Valley,” the new Martin Hawtree-designed 6th hole with its bearded bunkers was the best hole on the outward nine and I loved “Dolly,” the short par four 16th (which is a fitting tribute to Harry Colt, one of Royal Dublin’s early designers) on the inward half.
The new holes between the 6th and 12th still have to mature – new tees at the 9th were still off limits on the day I played – but, in time, they will no doubt blend in seamlessly to look as if they have been around since 1889, when the club first moved to its present site.
Ignore the industrial background (especially the distant looming towers of the power plant on the back nine) and enjoy a course where one of Ireland’s oldest clubs is so obviously doing its best to play its part in shaping modern Irish golf.