Slieve Russell was a Following the Fairways favourite and the course regularly appeared in their ranking tables during the 1990s. The course is set in the heart of beautiful rolling County Cavan countryside amongst the lakes and drumlins. We have to confess that we had to look up “drumlins” because at first we thought they were distant relatives of the leprechaun. Anyway for those non-geographically minded amongst us, they are Irish hills shaped like the bowl of a teaspoon turned upside down and they are a landform characteristic of areas formerly covered by glaciers. So, now you know, and they do make for awkward stances following a wild tee shot!
This championship parkland course opened for play in 1992 and was designed by Paddy Merrigan. Slieve Russell presents a stern golfing challenge, with 50 acres of water waiting to catch the ball. The challenge from the championship tees is significant, measuring over 7,000 yards, but with multiple tees to choose from, the test can be tempered accordingly. It’s tough to know where the natural contours of the land stop and where man shaped the land. This is not a criticism it’s a compliment to Merrigan’s design skill, for the whole layout looks as nature intended. The 13th, the signature hole is a memorable par five, measuring 500 yards from the medal tees. The hole, a dogleg left around Lough Rud, cajoles us at the tee into taking on more of the water than we really should, with the potential reward of reaching the green in two.
County Cavan isn’t a natural golfing haunt, but it’s only two hours drive from Dublin and well worth making the journey. This is a tranquil and peaceful place more famous for angling than golf, but try telling that to Irishman Des Smyth. He won the Irish PGA title here at Slieve Russell in 1996.