The most northerly golf course in Ireland, close to Carndonagh and Malin Head on the Inishowen Peninsula in Co. Donegal, the Old Links at Ballyliffin has been in existence since 1947. Then it was an understated nine-hole course, but it was not until 1973 and the influence of Eddie Hackett that the old links as we know it today became an eighteen-hole entity. Nick Faldo, who did a re-design at Ballyliffin in 2006, described the links at Ballyliffin as the most natural course he had ever laid eyes on. The Old links present an enjoyable challenge for golfers of all abilities with its natural undulating terrain a vital feature of the golf course. The Par five, fourth hole typifies the style of golf to be found on The Old Course. A great dog-leg hole that uses all of the natural borrows and swells to create a robust challenge reaching to almost 560yards.
In a similar way to the Harry Colt designed Royal Portrush just further along the coast, the Par three holes at Ballyliffin’s Old Course don’t rely on extreme bunkering for protection, in fact there are only 3 to be found across the four holes, which will give you an indication of just how strong the course is. Our favorite of these is the 5th. This 179yard hole to a slightly elevated green complex is beautifully constructed. Your eye is drawn however to a series of dunes, two about 100yards off the tee to the left and then a number that ring the pin virtually cradling the putting surface. A lot of skill is required here, mainly if the wind is up, to even find the putting surface which is not substantial.
The finishing hole on The Old Course is also a favorite of The Pro. At 586yards, ‘Callaghan’s Straid’ requires three very well struck shots to open an opportunity for birdie. Several strategically located fairway bunkers, as well as an ever-narrowing approach to the green, make this a tricky closing hole. While not as challenging as it’s near neighbor, The Glashedy Links, we still are firm advocates of this being a 36-hole day. It would be a shame to make the journey to this beautiful corner of Ireland without making the most of this fabulous opportunity.