- August 20, 2020 // The Consummate Pro
I was fortunate, recently, to stay and play at Rosapenna in the village of Downings in County Donegal. The property is located approximately 40 minutes from Letterkenny town, adjacent the beautiful Sheephaven Bay. It consists of a hotel with superb leisure facilities and an array of golf options as we will discuss below. The Rosapenna Golf Resort is one of the best of its kind in Ireland and simply perfect for a golf trip.
Firstly there is The Old Tom Morris Links. Designed by the master himself, the course was later augmented by Harry Colt. Sandy Hills weaves its way through the spine of the dunes and is one of Ireland’s most challenging links. Then there is the ‘Coastguard 9’ holes that is designed more for the influx of recreational tourist golfers. Finally, and yet to be unveiled, is The St. Patrick’s Links. Designed by Tom Doak, St. Patrick’s is due to open in the summer of 2021, global pandemic aside. This will be Doak’s first links in Ireland and is much anticipated.
Sandy Hills Links
During this visit, I had the pleasure of playing Sandy Hills. This was the sixth or seventh time to play this great course, and yet again it didn’t disappoint. Immediately from the get-go, Sandy Hills lay’s its cards on the table, and to survive, you need to keep the ball in play. Anything off line here and you can instantly wave it goodbye. On virtually every tee on the front nine, you are faced with a seemingly impossibly narrow target. However, typical of Ruddy designs, once you reach your tee shot, the landing areas are more generous than they first appear. The opening hole at Sandy Hills sets the scene beautifully for the rest of the round. A slightly uphill tee shot on this dogleg par 5, has you questioning whether you have the right club in hand from the off. The approach to the green is again difficult to judge, hidden as it is behind a series of protruding sand dunes. Recording a par here and it is very much job done.
The remainder of the front nine is as good as you will encounter anywhere in Ireland. The par 3 third, is a definite highlight. Played across a grassy chasm to a green perched like an infinity pool on the edge of Sheephaven Bay – it is one of the best holes of its kind in the country. The front-nine is very much a golfing roller-coaster. Rarely will you find a flat lie at Sandy Hills, so you are constantly having to craft one kind of shot or another to navigate your way around. There are also no two holes alike, nor it would seem running in the same direction. Rarely do you see anyone else on the golf course such is the protection afforded by the dunes. The conditioning of the golf courses was superb on the day that I played. It was a typical links day, hard and fast, with treacherous greens. The wind was light and we were fortunate to get her on such a benign day. That aside, Sandy Hills was still a tough, but enjoyable test.
Donegal is a great part of the island around which to golf. As well as the fabulous facilities and rooms at the Rosapenna Golf Resort to use as a base, there are many other courses to grab the attention. Ballyliffin, Portsalon, Narin & Portnoo and County Donegal (Murvagh) are all well worth a visit on your next golf trip to Ireland. If you are interested in visiting the Rosapenna Golf Resort, one of the best golf courses in Ireland, then take a look at our ‘North West Swing’ Tour.