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Sean_A

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Drifting In Donegal: PORTSALON GC New
« on: July 20, 2014, 06:57:47 AM »
After taking a look at Cruit Island we made the long, but pleasant journey east to Portsalon.  Taking lunch in the house was an eye opener.  Golfers seemed to be doing whatever they wanted on the 1st tee in full view of the lounge.  Want a mulligan, take three  :D  You get the picture, things are suitably laid back in Donegal. 

I don't know the design history of Portsalon other than P Ruddy made sugnificant changes, I think mainly to the front 9 and added a significant amount of yardage to the card.  The course is squeezed into a fairly tight property with some parallel hole issues, but this is quite a minor quibble.  Double greens are used a few times to create the illusion of more space, to great effect.  The front nine runs nearest the strand while the back covers higher ground, a few holes are essentially parkland, but they provide good variety and interest to the design.  Indeed, I likely preferred the back nine to the front due the variety.  The front suffers badly for the many holes routed between dunes; some with sharp bends, some with very constrictive bunkering, some with raised greens and all with strangling rough.  In any sort of wind the front nine can easily be a serious trial.  That said, the first two holes are an excellent, if deceiving start to the game.

#1 is very short and plays uphill to an idiosyncratic green site! Below is a look at the uninviting approach after a lay-up off the tee.


Everybody talks about the 2nd hole!  Appropriately names Strand, its a classic bite off as much as you dare tee shot, much in the same vein as the opener at Machrihanish or the North Berwick's 2nd.  However, courtesy of P Ruddy's work in 2000, Portsalon's version takes us over the river for the 2nd shot to a green with a sharp fallaway down the right.  In firm conditions, it takes excellent judgement to select the landing point after the water and before the green.


The majestic setting of Portsalon.




A tight, but shortish alley hole, the 3rd plays to the first of two double greens in succession.  A tight hole as well, the three shot 4th features the trademark front bunkering (as did #3) which leaves precious little room for knock up approaches.   




We now turn back into what can be vicious breeze for the difficult short 5th. I don't know the prevailing wind pattern in this part of the world, but given the headwind we had, this hole has nowhere near enough room to play.  The raised green is tucked into a frame of dunes with a bunker front left.  Perhaps some leniency could be afforded the golfer by filling in the bunker and allowing a run in shot?


Long and punishing is one way to describe the 400+ yard 6th.  Visually, it is very akin to the previous three holes.  To be honest, I was more impressed with the strand!




7 continues the theme of "bending between the dunes, raised green, greenside bunker".  I sound very harsh, but this stretch of holes is too repetitive for my liking.  The three-shot eighth turns back and plays to a double green shared with #4.  Just turning back into the wind was a welcome change.  The side ends with a good, tough par 4.  Yes, this hole plays between dunes, but at the green end the bunker is set further back from the green and there is space for a miss.     


We now turn back downwind for the terrific par 3 10th. 


Heading to the far end of the course, #11 is a tricky, short par 5.  Hello, the green is raised and the entrance narrowed by a fronting bunker. However, the open drive and tiny putting surface set this hole apart.   


More to follow.

Ciao
« Last Edit: December 12, 2019, 03:53:03 AM by Sean_A »
New plays planned for 2022: Erewash, St Pats, The Loop x2, Arcadia Bluffs South, Lawsonia Links, Shoreacres, Culver Academies & Crystal Downs

Brad Tufts

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: Drifting In Donegal: PORTSALON GC
« Reply #1 on: July 21, 2014, 09:52:50 AM »
Great photos Sean!

My favorite is the pic of the approach to #1...the ground features mimic the mountains in the background almost perfectly!
So I jump ship in Hong Kong....

Robin_Hiseman

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: Drifting In Donegal: PORTSALON GC
« Reply #2 on: July 21, 2014, 10:27:40 AM »
I think the 2nd is one of the best holes I've ever played. Made all the better by being so completely unexpected.

The only hole that particularly got my goat was the 5th. Just not enough room for it and too long to boot. I hadn't remembered how similar some of the holes look and that's a great observation from Brad.

Looking forward to seeing the back nine Sean. I recall there being some cracking good holes on the way in.
2022: Al Mouj; Cleeve Hill, Painswick, Minch Old, Weybrook Park, The Astbury, Silloth, Royal Balfron, Strathendrick, Archerfield (Fidra), Roxburghe, Stoneham, Woburn (Marquess), JCB, Pyrford, Hayling, Clandon, Wentworth (East), Ashbourne, East Sussex National (West)

Ally Mcintosh

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Re: Drifting In Donegal: PORTSALON GC
« Reply #3 on: July 21, 2014, 11:24:53 AM »
I think the 2nd is one of the best holes I've ever played. Made all the better by being so completely unexpected.

The only hole that particularly got my goat was the 5th. Just not enough room for it and too long to boot. I hadn't remembered how similar some of the holes look and that's a great observation from Brad.

Looking forward to seeing the back nine Sean. I recall there being some cracking good holes on the way in.

5th used to be a punchbowl once upon a time I believe... Fill was brought in.

After 1 and 2, I probably prefer the back nine...

Overall I love the course though...

Thomas Dai

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: Drifting In Donegal: PORTSALON GC
« Reply #4 on: July 21, 2014, 11:52:50 AM »
Cracking photos. What a wonderful day. Some courses do not photograph well but Portsalon is very photogenic.

I recall two different bunker styles, mostly traditional small pots but also some quite flat fairway bunkers with no real lip height that seemed to be newish, for example on the 7th. I didn't think much of the latter, a bit like they were copied from the kids sandpit at the local park, which is a shame as I otherwise liked Portsalon very much.

Looking forward to seeing more photos from the back-9.

Atb


Tony_Muldoon

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: Drifting In Donegal: PORTSALON GC
« Reply #5 on: July 21, 2014, 12:44:00 PM »
Some more pics from April 2008
1st Green


The all world 2nd.
Your picture was from further up and doesnít show the amazing banking to the far side of the fairway. Sure you can play safe but youíll likely have the ball well above your feet and a long shot across water for  your second. Play too safe and you go over the top[ of it.
Agree totally with Robin, magnificent.




You havenít mentioned the great movement in the fairways.




Excellent double greens.








Views






Thomas I think the new bunkering was done in house with advice from Paul McGinley, but please donít quote me on it. I think the pots are the newer ones.
on 29th May I am riding 100 Miles to help raise funds for Dementia Research. All donations are welcome.
https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/ridelondon-tonymuldoon

Sean_A

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: Drifting In Donegal: PORTSALON GC New
« Reply #6 on: July 21, 2014, 08:10:04 PM »
Jeepers Doc, when I was on the 5th tee I thought the hole should be a punchbowl!  The raised green looks very odd in that dell.

I guess I am not as enamoured with the 2nd as most.  I think the second water carry is a bit of overkill with that green. 

Brad, my favourite hole on the front is comfortably the 1st.

The course heads for home with the well timed 12th.  The hole itself is no great shakes, but the open nature of the shot suggests a different pattern of design for the remaining holes...and most welcome it is.  #13 bends hard round some boundary trees.  The approach over bunkers is very fine. #14 is a wonderful par 4 featuring a blind, split level fairway.  Unusually for Portsalon, the green sits unprotected...one of my favourites.




Taken from near the 15th tee, the 14th green epitomizes the joy of under-stated design. 


Another good hole in a strong set of 3s, the fifteenth's green is well angled and contoured enough to cause putting woes for the overly safe tee shot.  This photo was taken from near the front of 16 tee. Play comes in quartering from the left. 


More to come.

Ciao
« Last Edit: November 10, 2018, 09:03:22 AM by Sean_A »
New plays planned for 2022: Erewash, St Pats, The Loop x2, Arcadia Bluffs South, Lawsonia Links, Shoreacres, Culver Academies & Crystal Downs

Richard Hetzel

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: Drifting In Donegal: PORTSALON GC
« Reply #7 on: July 21, 2014, 10:10:48 PM »
Incredible looking golf course Sean, you are really getting around! Keep it up!
Last Ten Played: 
Donald Ross Course French Lick (IN), Covered Bridge (IN), The Trout Club (OH), Elkhorn Ridge (SD), Bully Pulpit (ND), Links of ND, Hawktree (ND), Dakota Winds (ND), Links Lawsonia (WI), Connemara (KY)
Top 5 this year:
Yale
Culver
Hawktree
Charleston Municipal
Streamsong Blue

jeffwarne

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: Drifting In Donegal: PORTSALON GC
« Reply #8 on: July 22, 2014, 03:21:14 PM »
absolutely fantastic stuff Sean.
The beaches here in Porthcawl are packed-gotta beieve the spectacular beaches in Donegal are getting some attention at the moment with the warm stretch we're having
"Let's slow the damned greens down a bit, not take the character out of them." Tom Doak
"Take their focus off the grass and put it squarely on interesting golf." Don Mahaffey

Thomas Dai

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: Drifting In Donegal: PORTSALON GC
« Reply #9 on: July 22, 2014, 04:49:58 PM »
I recall the 14th green as being a right bugger. Severely downhill from front to rear and with a nasty upslope in front of it too. Both evil and nice at the same time.

Very nice Portsalon. Looking forward to seeing to last few holes.

Atb

Sean_A

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: Drifting In Donegal: PORTSALON GC New
« Reply #10 on: July 22, 2014, 07:01:20 PM »
Jeff

As you can see in the pix, the weather was stunning, still very few people on the beaches.  I wonder if beaches outnumber people in Donegal? 

Its time to draw the curtains on this tour.  The 16th is a good hole transitioning blindly down toward clubhouse level in raucous fashion. Like the second, there is a stream just shy of the flatish green. 


The three-shot 17th plays toward the second fairway then swings left around a water hazard.  Truth be told, its a bit of a dull hole.  The home hole takes us back over the engenious netting which protects the beachcombers and holiday makers alike.  The hole is fraught with danger in that water once again must be carried for the approach and OOB lurks in all other directions, most especially hard greenside right.  Its not a bad hole if a bit repetitous in its use of water.  A look at the netting.


Its obvious from the tone that I am not as ardent a supporter of Portsalon as others.  Good course for sure, but the many similar holes on the front, the similar use of water and meadowy finish conspire to limit my praise.  On the flip side, there aren't any real stinkers and there are several very good holes over interesting terrain, most especially the 1st.  The ever present beauty of the Knockalla Mountains and majestic beach create a setting which is difficult to imagine let alone match.  I wouldn't say people should be beating a path to Portsalon, but I would like to drop in again some day  :D .   2014

Other courses on the Drifting in Donegal Tour. 

http://www.golfclubatlas.com/forum/index.php/topic,59189.msg1391553.html#msg1391553  Rosapenna OTM LInks

http://www.golfclubatlas.com/forum/index.php/topic,59240.msg1392946.html#msg1392946  Rosapenna Sandy Hills

http://www.golfclubatlas.com/forum/index.php/topic,59070.msg1388131.html#msg1388131  Cruit Island

http://www.golfclubatlas.com/forum/index.php/topic,59008.0.html   Narin & Portnoo

Ciao
« Last Edit: November 10, 2018, 09:06:57 AM by Sean_A »
New plays planned for 2022: Erewash, St Pats, The Loop x2, Arcadia Bluffs South, Lawsonia Links, Shoreacres, Culver Academies & Crystal Downs

jeffwarne

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: Drifting In Donegal: PORTSALON GC
« Reply #11 on: July 22, 2014, 07:45:06 PM »
Perfect review Sean
Good thinking -limits the number of MacKenzie bags and picture taking beard pullers ;)
"Let's slow the damned greens down a bit, not take the character out of them." Tom Doak
"Take their focus off the grass and put it squarely on interesting golf." Don Mahaffey

Thomas Dai

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: Drifting In Donegal: PORTSALON GC New
« Reply #12 on: July 23, 2014, 11:59:53 AM »
A very nice tour indeed.

I have been pondering whether I preferred Portsalon or Narin & Portnoo on my recent trip. Portsalon perhaps more photogenic and slightly better conditioned, although being apparently more financially prosperous probably helps. N&P more remote and rustic, firmer, more blind shots and quirk and with more caravans!

I liked them both very much and would find it difficult to do anything other than split them 5-5 if I had 10 games and only two courses to choose from. If playing them as my home club I suspect my hcp might be a bit higher at N&P. I guess return visits are needed :) Can't wait!

Which did you prefer or do you also reckon they're hard to split? Both thoroughly nice though, and nearly in my favourite 10-links in your current ongoing thread.

Atb


Later edit - the now 2nd as seen back in the the very early days of golf at Portsalon

And two further photos of early play at PGC -


Plus comments and a photo from a book entitled "Golf in Scotland and Ireland" published in 1987

« Last Edit: December 18, 2019, 04:12:25 AM by Thomas Dai »

Sean_A

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: Drifting In Donegal: PORTSALON GC
« Reply #13 on: July 23, 2014, 02:08:35 PM »
Atb

To be honest, I was slightly disappointed with both courses given the rave reviews.  I have long used Pennard as my go to comparison for these lesser links and neither Portsalon or N&P are really in the ball park.  Obviously, as the years go by, I realize more and more the high quality course Pennard is.  I guess being a member for several years blunted me to this realization.  I would probably split P'lon and N&P a straight 5-5.  I like both and would return to both - even organize to return which is something else entirely from going along for the ride.  They aren't really all that far from my top 10 links, but they are amongst many I could choose as outliers for the bottom few spots.  What really sets these courses apart is their remoteness and beauty.  Because of the remoteness I would be hesitant to generally reco either unless it was for a General "Forced March" Warne type chap simply because both have serious issues which bring down the overall quality of the experience.

Ciao   
New plays planned for 2022: Erewash, St Pats, The Loop x2, Arcadia Bluffs South, Lawsonia Links, Shoreacres, Culver Academies & Crystal Downs

Tony_Muldoon

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: Drifting In Donegal: PORTSALON GC
« Reply #14 on: July 23, 2014, 05:21:30 PM »
Jeez what a grouch!   


Water in front of a green "once again".  Let's examine that, you mean on the 2nd, 16th AND 18th!  Let's hope you never make it to Florida!


Pennard sailed into my top 10 so coming short of that yardstick is barely a criticism.  Everyone seems to agree that these are two well matched courses in Quality terms but everyone else seemd to enjoy them more than you?   Well I hope the casual reader goes with the majority view here. My second trip to Portsalon and I can't wait to get back again. 

I havn't seen many reviews at all let alone rave ones.  But thanks for the tour, a great reminder of some really good times and hopefully it will cause more golfers  to seek out the delights available in Donegal.



PS you didn't mention the price.  $50 euro weekend Wow! Less than a third of some of the Kerry Courses.


PPS I've been quick to criticse on other threads but let's praise Pat Ruddy for his excellent work here. From reading Links of Heaven it's clear we own the modern course to him. Certainly all the holes up the hill are new and only parts of the old holes remain.  The routing holds together well.  The fairways have been left humpty bumpy and he showed restraint in imposing some of his trademarks and the course is all the better for it. I think I've palyed all his Links (except Murvagh(?)) and this is easily my favourite.



























on 29th May I am riding 100 Miles to help raise funds for Dementia Research. All donations are welcome.
https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/ridelondon-tonymuldoon

Sean_A

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: Drifting In Donegal: PORTSALON GC
« Reply #15 on: July 23, 2014, 07:42:06 PM »
Spangles

You love Portsalon, I like Portsalon.  I love good red wine, you tolerate it.  Live and let live.

Ciao
New plays planned for 2022: Erewash, St Pats, The Loop x2, Arcadia Bluffs South, Lawsonia Links, Shoreacres, Culver Academies & Crystal Downs

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