We’ve added St Anne’s Golf Club to the Top 100 website following a comment made by Pat Ruddy, who responded to a County Louth player review dated 13 August 2010. It’s a course we’d overlooked, but we felt it warranted inclusion initially as an Irish gem and subsequently as a ranked Irish course.
Bull Island lies just off Dublin Bay, where the River Liffey runs into the Irish Sea. The island is man-made, formed in the early 19th century by the building of a sea wall and Captain William Bligh, of Bounty fame, is said to have been involved in its design. The island is home to a wide variety of wildlife that inhabit the marram covered dunes, scrub and marshland in a designated UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.
St. Anne’s Golf Club shares Bull Island with The Royal Dublin Golf Club and it was around the time that Harry Colt rebuilt the Royal course – following its use as a military training site by the British Army during the Great War – that nine holes were laid out by members and a club established in 1921. Eddie Hackett was involved in adding another nine holes in the late 1980s and a recent investment program has substantially upgraded both the course and clubhouse.
St. Anne’s is a compact links with many of the holes running parallel to each other between low lying sand hills that add character and definition to a fairly flat landscape. The four short holes here are all challenging, particularly those at the 3rd and 10th, where small water hazards come into play close to the green. The toughest hole on the card is “Brent,” a 476-yard par four that doglegs slightly left to a semi-blind green, with out of bounds lurking to the right of the fairway.
Interestingly, a number of greens and teeing areas on the back nine of the course were replaced when Dublin’s famous Croke Park stadium was reconstructed at the start of the new millennium and this process involved the careful lifting and relaying of hallowed turf from the old GAA pitch onto designated areas of the St.Anne’s site.
We are blessed in GB&I that a course as good as St Anne's is not in the top 100. This is a proper links course, which although not containing any large dunes, has all the other criteria. Traditional parallel routing of course ensures that there is a balance of prevailing wind challenge. No weak holes on this course and my only negative comment (which illustrates a personal preference), is that water hazards ( except natural burns - of which St Anne's has many ), should be kept off links courses ( again, except if it isn't absolutely required for course maintenance purposes). The par 3, 10th hole has a decent sized pond in front of the green and just looks wrong. The best hole is the long par 4, 7th which combines length and great bunkering. Holes 11 to 16 are excellent as is the par 3, 17th which is medium length to a green surrounded by dunes. The 18th is a scenic and well designed par 4 of 400 yards which has some dune action from the tee to a double fairway. The greens were medium speed and in good condition. The location of St Anne's (and neighbouring Royal Dublin) on Bull Island has a magic quality and is a wonderful place to play golf.
This is a name that won't be on many golfers "must play" list when ticking off the region's best links courses but for all those visiting Bull Island to play Royal Dublin it would be a shame to miss St Anne's. The course does not quite match up to the quality of its famous neighbour but the green fee is considerably less and there are at least a handful of excellent holes that many big name courses would be proud of. The terrain is pretty flat, a few mounds being the exception to the rule, but the greens are nicely contoured and well bunkered throughout. The 5th, an excellent par-4, narrowing as it goes and the 6th, a strong par-3 situated close to the water are memorable, as is the 7th, an absolute brute of a par-4 measuring 467 yards from the yellow tee. Although the back nine contains a few holes that run back and forth in a parallel fashion they are not without interest as they lead us to the strongest part of the course. The challenging 15th offers a difficult approach to a well guarded, angled green but a birdie maybe possible to balance the card on the short par-4 16th, although a tricky sloping green must be negotiated first. Unfortunately, I had to walk the final two as the pace of play was slow and there was a flight home to catch but they are both great looking holes, particularly the 17th which sits majestically amongst a ring of dunes and could well be the best of the lot. Brian W
Played this course many times and over the numerous years I played it has been improved each time. Good links but a bit tight as many holes are nearby and parallel to each other. When the wind was high in serious competition we just played down the other fairway particularly when it is side on. It is littered with shallow drains many of which are dry and could be filled in, as some have been over the years. A lot of nasty gorse has been cut out allowing the player to hit on in comfort. There are some wonderful holes with some great par trees but regretfully the vista of the final exceptional hole is blocked by a plane tree. Fond memories of winning the father & son there. Definitely in top ten in Dublin and a bit higher than the Ireland ranking.
While not as old or with as much history as Royal Dublin, St. Anne's was founded in 1921 as a nine hole links. In 1970-1971, renowned Irish links architect, Eddie Hackett, did a nine hole extension on 70 acres. Dubliner Hackett worked at Royal Dublin as a teenager. Hackett is noted for laying out a course on the land as he has found it. St. Anne's is certainly no exception. The links is relatively flat with many well placed fairway and greenside bunkers. While Hackett’s designs generally show his appreciation for classic Scottish links, St. Anne's has no forced carry or blind shots. The generally flat terrain makes it easy to see the shots that need to be hit. The links measures just over 6,700 yards from the blue tees to about 6,200 yards from the yellow.
My son and myself played St. Anne's on Monday July 25th at 4:00 PM. Playing behind us was a girls team playing a practice round for an upcoming competition. We had groups ahead of us and the pace of play was excellent. The greens were relatively fast and firm and in excellent condition. The fairways were firm, and seashells were mixed in with the sand on some of the fairways. Had to make sure struck the iron shots from the fairway pure as the fairways were cut low. I thought the course was in excellent condition and was a pleasure to play.
Ate lunch in the clubhouse before the round and the views of Dublin Bay, Howth Head, and the Liffey Estuary were exceptional. The modern clubhouse was opened in 2003 and it's design fits in well with the Bull Island Natural Reserve wildlife sanctuary.
St. Anne's reminds me of playing East Potomac Park Golf Club in Washington, DC. It is also on an island between Washington DC and Virginia. Both courses are hard and firm and the courses are both very close to their respective city centers. East Potomac might have the sights of the monuments around the DC area, but St. Anne's has views of Howth Head to the north across the Liffey estuary and the city of Dublin to Bray Head and the Wicklow mountains to the south.
Would highly recommend this links to anyone that wants to pay a reasonable fee, be close to the Dublin city center, play at a links that will test your shot-making skills, in a peaceful setting, and that has a clubhouse with excellent views of the surrounding area. Jim Brady