Doonbeg Golf Club (Trump International Golf Links Ireland)
Located ten miles northeast of the village of Kilkee stands the Greg Norman (original) designed Doonbeg golf club, currently known as Trump International Hotel and Golf Links Ireland. Possibly one of the last real links developments anywhere on the island, the course, minus accommodation, opened in 1999 to great acclaim despite an array of quirks and challenges. The quirks included the now ‘infamous’ bunker in the middle of the 12th green, which has subsequently been filled in, the criss-cross nature of some tee shots and the challenges revolved primarily around one Vertigo angustior, a rare and supposedly endangered microscopic snail!
There is no question that Norman and then owners, among them Charles P. (Buddy) Darby the former CEO of Kiawah Partners, acquired a stunning piece of links land. For a new construction project, there was very little mechanical equipment used to shape the links, with many bunkers being hand dug to create rivetted faces to already existing natural depressions. Routings were not so much designed or sculpted as allowed to flow through the dunes and as a result, Norman managed to create one of the most natural links golf courses anywhere in the world.
The opening hole typifies this, a long Par five played parallel to the ocean and Doughmore Bay, down a rolling fairway to a stunning amphitheater green surrounded by massive dunes. The course is a traditional out and back set-up with some of our favorite holes around the turn including the challenging par three, ninth-hole, followed by the long Par four, tenth, which is usually right into the face of the prevailing breeze. Recent winter storms have threatened the very existence of many of these seaward holes, and the 9th, in particular, was lucky not to be swept into the sea, prompting the owners to seek special protective measures for the dunes. The Par three, 14th is a unique hole with a literal postage stamp green framed by the Atlantic Ocean. The finishing hole, while rarely getting many plaudits, is in our opinion one of the best finishing holes in Ireland. If not alone for the backdrop of the stone façade Lodge to the left and the Atlantic Ocean to the right, that oft times will provide a stunning sunset, it is a demanding Par four hole that requires your full attention from the tee.
The Trump organization purchased the property in 2014 at which point they immediately brought in Martin Hawtree to perform a redesign of the property. Hawtree got to work by creating more definition to each hole, a new routing for some and generally beautifying the rest with manicured green to tee walkways a welcome addition.
Doonbeg is a genuine links test and to miss out on playing it on a golf vacation to Ireland would be a regret considering its proximity to Lahinch and Ballybunion. Well worth the journey. Take a look at our “South-West Ireland Tour” to see how Doonbeg Golf Club can fit into your golf vacation in Ireland.