Donegal GC was founded in 1959, but came to notice when in 1976 the club opened a new course on lovely rolling linksland on the Murvagh Peninsula just out of town. Eddie Hackett designed a real championship course, and Donegal GC has since hosted a number of tournaments. Over the years Pat Ruddy has also had a hand in making improvements to the course
The peninsula where the course is now located is virtually surrounded by water (Murvagh mean land surrounded by water), and what is so very impressive is that this particular tract of land has no housing, or roads- other than a narrow 1 km lane entry though the forest.
It is an isolated and utterly tranquil site for golf.
Looking out from the new clubhouse your eye is drawn to the large dunes in the middle of the course with a real sense of anticipation.
But the course starts quietly with 4 quality golf holes through low lying territory outside the main dunes.
They are not spectacular holes, but are decent nevertheless.
Hole 5 changes things up big time, with a dramatic longish par 3 set in an ampitheatre of large dunes- right by the sea.
The green is raised and the hole is called 'Valley of Tears' after the valley in front of the green.
There is a steep drop off at the front of the green and so many balls roll back into the valley.
'Valley of Tears' may well be the best hole on the course.
The par 5 sixth tee is located high on the frontal dune with panoramic views of the peninsula and surrounding coast.
It requires long and accurate strokeplay, but beware the hidden bunkers shot of the green.
The seventh hole is a shorter par 4 over a ridge to a green set in a pretty dell, and hole eight is another stand out hole.
it is a par 5 over a hill with the long 2nd shot entirely blind.
The third shot is the key to the hole with a short iron approach required over low lying land to a most attractive green with a sea view backdrop.
The next hole of significance is the par 5 twelfth hole which requires a long accurate tee shot to bisect the fairway bunkers.
But wait, ther's more!
You now need a long and accurate second shot to fly the burn and bunkers short of the green.
A par is certainly well earned.
The par 5 fourteenth runs in parallel with hole 12 but in the opposite direction, often against the prevailing wind. It is a tough hole, and the burn that loops around across and along the fairway to catch the second shot is hard to avoid.
Donegal is a good test of golf, and a great challenge for golfers of all standards.
The course can play long off the back tees, but played off the appropriate tee is quite playable- albeit quite difficult for the ladies.
Players do benefit from multiple plays as a number of the hazards are unseen on first play.
With a course on a peninsula surrounded by water, I did find it a little strange that the water views were rarely featured, as holes largely play through the dunes.
Donegal is a quality course, but a little understated compared to others in North Western Ireland which feature more spectacular dunescapes
I can only hope you get to play Donegal on a fine sunny day with blue skies and light winds like I did.
It's at treat.
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