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Sean_A

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Drifting in Donegal: ROSAPENNA GC - SANDY HILLS LINKS New
« on: August 02, 2014, 04:38:17 AM »
Map of the Rosapenna property.


So far as I can gather, Sandy Hills is a complete Pat Ruddy concoction designed a dozen or so years ago.  It is easy to see why this part of the property was left vacant when Rosapenna was originally developed because the terrain is wild - too wild for really good golf.  Additionally, instead of trying to soften the impact of the terrain, Ruddy often imparts a design method which heightens the difficulty; namely raised greens protected by sand.  That said, if one manages to find the often constricted fairways, some of the driving zones act like funnels.  Sandy Hills Links is the most visually stunning course on the property, but if its forgiveness you want, go to confession before teeing up.  It reminded me quite  a bit of a mix of Carne and Ballybunion's Cashen Course. It is easy to see why some golfers would love the course and others hate it.   

The first sets the tone for the day, is like a bent bowling lane with shaggy, high bumpers on either side.  However, the par 5 is easy to reach in two if one hits a decent ("decent" will for the most part mean dead straight in this review) drive.  The green is above the fairway (a common theme throughout the course) and nestled between dunes.  The second is visually more intimidating the first...and more difficult.  This 400 yarder looks like it will turn right when standing on the tee.  Instead, the fairway ends and the hole essentially carries on straight to a lower section of the fairway.  Like the opener, it pays to get a yardage in your head and play to it rather than blasting down the fairway. The bottom part of the fairway gently rises to an obscured green.  Anything tugged left is god's country.   On this hole we get a sense of the design overkill. I actually like the hole even though it is severe, but with the plateau nature of the green the added bunkering is like throwing dynamite on a guy lying dead with a bullet in his head.       



The short third reminds me quite a bit of the 7th on the Strand 9, but a more severe version because there is no bank backing the green.  Lord help the golfer that plays this hole downwind!


Rather reminiscent of the bending first hole, the 4th is a short par 4 played to a fairway well below the tee then to a raised green.  The 5th feels like a longer verson of 4.


Now then, #6!  Its in the same mould as 4 & 5, but jeepers, what an awful thing.  The hole turns unbelievably sharply left, so much so that a lay-up for the blind tee shot is more than wise. If one does choose to hit driver and gets the correct line the ball will motor down the fairway to short iron range for the approach.  Its a shame the tee shot is so mickey mouse because the green site, while predictably severe, is without a doubt lovely.   

   



More to follow.

Ciao
« Last Edit: January 03, 2016, 05:56:02 AM by Sean_A »
New plays planned for 2022: Erewash, St Pats, The Loop x2, Arcadia Bluffs South, Lawsonia Links, Shoreacres, Culver Academies, Meadowbrook, Dunes Club & Crystal Downs

Tony_Muldoon

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Re: Drifting in Donegal: ROSAPENNA GC - SANDY HILLS LINKS
« Reply #1 on: August 02, 2014, 06:00:20 AM »
Interested to see how this develops.


Sandy Hills maybe the only course in the world which is more spectacular on a cloudy day that on a beautiful sunny day we got last month.   I and others have mentioned it here before, but with la cloudy sky and the elevated land ,you feel like you are playing in the clouds as much as over the land.


Since 2008 they seem to have widened a few places?








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

Ally Mcintosh

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Re: Drifting in Donegal: ROSAPENNA GC - SANDY HILLS LINKS
« Reply #2 on: August 02, 2014, 07:17:26 AM »
The dunes at Sandy Hills are very different to those at Carne.

In essence, with Rosapenna, the whole 18 holes are routed on top of one giant dune ridge. The actual dunes on top of this ridge are quite consistent in their shape, height and scale.

Agree with Tony, though - They seem to have been putting effort in to widen some of the playing corridors.


Tom_Doak

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Re: Drifting in Donegal: ROSAPENNA GC - SANDY HILLS LINKS
« Reply #3 on: August 02, 2014, 08:44:32 AM »
Sean:

You've somehow cobbled together the par-5 5th hole and the par-4 6th in your brain.  You start talking about the 5th [I think; both holes are up-and-over, left-to-right doglegs], but then your photos are of the beautiful approach to the 6th.

One of the things I didn't like about the course is that 5 and 6 [and even the second shot on #4] feel too much alike, because he is working so hard to set up the beautiful view through the green on the approach.

The first time I saw the course it was much narrower (as with Tony's pictures) and there were several more holes with a single bunker blocking the approach -- there was a bunker smack in front of the 1st green, for instance.  They have been doing a very good job of thinning out the roughs and making the course more playable, within the limitations imposed by having environmentally protected land surrounding many fairways.

Frank Pont

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Re: Drifting in Donegal: ROSAPENNA GC - SANDY HILLS LINKS
« Reply #4 on: August 02, 2014, 09:02:22 AM »
A lot of green to tee walk backs.
I guess length was very important to them?

Thomas Dai

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Re: Drifting in Donegal: ROSAPENNA GC - SANDY HILLS LINKS
« Reply #5 on: August 02, 2014, 09:20:11 AM »
Very nice. Even without the golf courses (heresy!) Sheephaven Bay and surrounds is such a glorious location. Nice to see the 2008 photos as well.

When I played the SH course one of my regular playing partners remarked that the terrain was so wildly undulating and difficult to walk and that it had so many secretive little spots that he reckoned it was where Elvis and Lord Lucan were probably hiding out!

Looking forward to seeing the remainder of the holes.

atb

Sean_A

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Re: Drifting in Donegal: ROSAPENNA GC - SANDY HILLS LINKS New
« Reply #6 on: August 02, 2014, 11:47:16 AM »
Tom D

Thanks, I forget the first bit of that section.  I completely agree that 4-6 to a large degree feel like deja vu. 

SANDY HILLS LINKS CONT

I think the course starts to find some excellent footing with the next several holes.  A good little par 3, the 7th reminds me of a simpler version of Wallasey's 5th.  The 8th is a very good par 5 that can be reached in two, but that play is very dangerous.  This one of the few times where on the tee the golfer is treated to a full account of the hole. 
 

9 is very odd, but I really enjoyed the whip in the tail.  The drive looks innocent enough, but once walking over the brow one encounters a wierd native patch blocking the path to the raised (again!) green.
   
   

The 10th is similar to previous down n' ups, but the green is slightly off-set creating a bit of a double dogleg effect.
 


The fine ride ends rather bluntly on the 11th.  This is a ridiculously difficult par 3.  The green is so sloped toward the front that two-putting from above the hole is a tall order.  One can try to bounce the tee shot in, but it must carry some gunge, yet be hit flat enough to get a good kick up the steep slope to the green.  Without a doubt, the tricked up nature of this hole rivals that of the 6th. Fortunately, things get better.  No, don't be silly, there aren't greens level with fairways, but the golf isn't over-powering either.  #12 is very much like the 10th, so we are expecting something to be different, somewhere...


and we get it in the form of a bunker shy of the green.  Still, I liked the hole. 


More to follow.

Ciao
« Last Edit: January 03, 2016, 06:00:46 AM by Sean_A »
New plays planned for 2022: Erewash, St Pats, The Loop x2, Arcadia Bluffs South, Lawsonia Links, Shoreacres, Culver Academies, Meadowbrook, Dunes Club & Crystal Downs

Dónal Ó Ceallaigh

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Re: Drifting in Donegal: ROSAPENNA GC - SANDY HILLS LINKS
« Reply #7 on: August 02, 2014, 12:13:53 PM »
I see there are some new fairway bunkers on the 8th. After my one round at SH, I felt the course lacked strategy off the tee, and felt the course could be improved with the addition of some fairway bunkers. However, it's difficult justify adding more bunkers to a course that is already considered very difficult by many.

Were these added based on Tom D's advice?

Has the par for the first changed? Wasn't it always a par 4?

I found the narrow bottleneck fairway at the 6th a bit too severe. I knocked down my drive and had no option but to hit a 7 iron just short of where the fairway narrows. In more windy circumstances, laying up so far back just seems very penal. If the wind is coming from the left or right, the second shot there with a long iron of fairway wood could be brutal.

The 6th doesn't turn sharly left, not unless you were playing from a new tee.  Also, that's the 5th green you've shown and not the 4th. I know it's easy to mix them up; if you showed me pictures of the the 4th and 5th, I'd find it difficult to tell the difference. I also think the 10th and 12th are very similar.
« Last Edit: August 02, 2014, 12:51:03 PM by Dónal Ó Ceallaigh »

Tom_Doak

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Re: Drifting in Donegal: ROSAPENNA GC - SANDY HILLS LINKS
« Reply #8 on: August 02, 2014, 01:47:46 PM »
I see there are some new fairway bunkers on the 8th. After my one round at SH, I felt the course lacked strategy off the tee, and felt the course could be improved with the addition of some fairway bunkers. However, it's difficult justify adding more bunkers to a course that is already considered very difficult by many.

Were these added based on Tom D's advice?

I haven't provided any advice professionally regarding Sandy Hills, other than a general recommendation, after playing it, to mow as much of the rough as they could to help get people around.  I agree with you about the lack of choices off the tee, but that is a function of the narrow corridors ... it's hard to add strategy without any width.

Ally Mcintosh

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Re: Drifting in Donegal: ROSAPENNA GC - SANDY HILLS LINKS
« Reply #9 on: August 02, 2014, 01:57:48 PM »
Donal,

I believe pat Ruddy was / is still involved with the Sandy Hill links - he advised some new bunkering.

The one on the left on 8 is quite handsome. It needed something - it was a little bare down that left side.

Dónal Ó Ceallaigh

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Re: Drifting in Donegal: ROSAPENNA GC - SANDY HILLS LINKS
« Reply #10 on: August 02, 2014, 02:29:21 PM »
Ally:

Thanks for the clarification. Tom D had mentioned in the past that he was a consulting architect at Rosapenna, so I assumed he was consulting on both courses.

I'd like to see more strategic bunker placement on some of the other holes. I like the two on the right hand side as there now is some advantage to be gained in taking them on.

Sean_A

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Re: Drifting in Donegal: ROSAPENNA GC - SANDY HILLS LINKS New
« Reply #11 on: August 02, 2014, 03:41:49 PM »
Donal

There is something odd about the 6th. I hit my drive down the middle and never saw it again. I obviously ran out of space as the fairway turned left.  Looking on the map it shows a slight leg to the right, but no way was the hole turning that way when I was there.  Maybe there is a new tee, but if anything the tee should be as far right as possible to make the hole work better.  Its incredibly narrow now. 

SANDY LINKS CONT

A short par 5 bending well right, #13 is very intimidating off the tee.


I am not sure if the green we were meant to play is new or if it was just being worked on.  In any case, I think the hole looked better to the green pictured.  The green we played is another 50 yards further up an to the right a bit.  It is visually far less obvious and can't be seen at all even after a big drive.  The continuous bending of the fairway was just too much.  I hope the green below will be permanent. 


Quite a short par 4, the fourteenth can definitely be driven.  The green is raised and quite narrow with a depression guarding the left. While tight, this is a good hole.


After looking down the 15th fairway, it was clear to me the "formula" had worn out its welcome.  By now I was rapidly losing interest in the course simply due the lack of variety; Sandy Hills Links is a one trick pony - drive down then approach up.   


While uphill, the 16th is a good one-shotter played to a natural ampitheatre. 



The rollicking 17th and flatter (but still tunnel effect) 18th came too late in the round to save the day.  I was happy to walk off the course. Unless there is a radical re-think on the design, I wouldn't play it again unless it was cart and beer golf.  To my way of thinking, if the owners ever do develop St Pats, then the stranded Strand 9 should somehow be incorporated into an altered Sandy Hills Links 9.  Pull the curtain on Sandy Hills as an 18 hole course.  2014


Previous courses on the Drifting in Donegal Tour. 

http://www.golfclubatlas.com/forum/index.php/topic,59189.0.html  Rosapenna OTM Links

http://www.golfclubatlas.com/forum/index.php/topic,59129.0.html  Portsalon

http://www.golfclubatlas.com/forum/index.php/topic,59070.0.html  Cruit Island

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

Ciao 
« Last Edit: January 03, 2016, 06:01:46 AM by Sean_A »
New plays planned for 2022: Erewash, St Pats, The Loop x2, Arcadia Bluffs South, Lawsonia Links, Shoreacres, Culver Academies, Meadowbrook, Dunes Club & Crystal Downs

Dónal Ó Ceallaigh

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Re: Drifting in Donegal: ROSAPENNA GC - SANDY HILLS LINKS
« Reply #12 on: August 02, 2014, 04:08:16 PM »
It looks like they reshaped the fairway bunker and rebuilt the green on 13. You played to flat green (on right) that is so dull it could only be temporary (it was present when I played in 2011).

Here's what the "old" 13th green looked like:







Pictures taken from Dave McCollum's photo tour: http://www.golfclubatlas.com/forum/index.php/topic,51667.0.html

Thomas Dai

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Re: Drifting in Donegal: ROSAPENNA GC - SANDY HILLS LINKS
« Reply #13 on: August 02, 2014, 05:11:11 PM »
I'm sorry to hear Sean that Sandy Hills didn't quite agree with you. A great shame as the weather for this, and your other Donegal trip games, seems to have been wonderful.

When I was there earlier in the year we played in dry weather from the blue tees in a 2-club wind and coped okay with the severity of the terrain although short-hitting me was being pretty careful with the driving lines and the carries from the tee. A tiring walk in places though. While I do like 'downsizing' in relation to some courses I also like to play a really tough course too. However, I can imagine that in a 3-4-5-club wind or in the rain SH could be a absolute multi-ball losing monster.

As to some of the holes, the 1st, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th and 14th do have wonderfully spectacular and photogenic green sites in terms of the views over Sheephaven Bay. I can therefore understand why they were located in their positions. The extremely deep woolly chasm in the middle of the 9th fairway reminded me of a similar feature on the par-4 13th at Royal Porthcawl. The 10th and 12th are pretty similar, with the 12th having a nicer green site. The par-3 11th is difficult to hit and hold (a bit like the 7th at N&P). We also played to the right hand green on the 13th, a hole that to the 'new' green really does go on dog-legging to the right forever. It looked to me like the left hand green, the original I believe, was far more interestingly sited. Playing to the right hand green made things somewhat confusing as we couldn’t then locate the 14th tee! When we eventually found the 14th tee we could only find the white pegs, not the blues from which we played the rest of the course, so we played the 14th hole from the whites, and yes, it's drivable from them. I really liked the 17th green. No bunkers, just big fall-aways, very severe.

One hole that I didn’t think much of was the second-half of the 18th. The green is very much out of character with the other greens on the course, a lost opportunity for a great finishing green I would suggest. A shame. I posted some comments and photos of this and other holes as an addition to Dave McCollum's very nice 2012 photo tour - see - http://www.golfclubatlas.com/forum/index.php/topic,51667.0.html - for more.

I would love to have seen the SH course take shape and develop. Not just from a choosing a routing point of view, so much elevation change, so many potential tee and green sites etc, (which do you choose?), but also from a diggers and dumpers construction/pipework/power etc aspect. I’m sure watching it develop would have been a great golfing education. One very negative aspect however, the course planner for SH was the worst course planner I’ve ever invested in, absolutely awful.

Overall I liked the SH course although not as much as the OTM.Would I like to play the SH again? Yes I would.

atb

David Davis

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Re: Drifting in Donegal: ROSAPENNA GC - SANDY HILLS LINKS
« Reply #14 on: August 02, 2014, 05:36:33 PM »
Sean,

I always enjoy your descriptions:

1. but if its forgiveness you want, go to confession before teeing up.

2. like throwing dynamite on a guy lying dead with a bullet in his head.

I think I played Rosapenna back in about 2007 and after looking at your photos I think 3/4 of their green keeping staff must of been on holiday or 3 of the 4 riding mowers were getting repaired. It was that much narrower.

I enjoyed it but wasn't really that into architecture at the time. I only remember thinking it was tough and spectacular and winning dinner on the 13th hole when my match ended and my playing partner thought the course was impossible. Only to find out that the restaurant was closed so we drove all the way back to Sligo where we were staying to have dinner.

Next up: open to ideas!

IG: @top100golftraveler
www.top100golfcourses.com

Ally Mcintosh

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Re: Drifting in Donegal: ROSAPENNA GC - SANDY HILLS LINKS
« Reply #15 on: August 03, 2014, 02:49:36 AM »
The 18th green was completely reshaped last winter under the eye of Beau Welling.

Sean_A

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Re: Drifting in Donegal: ROSAPENNA GC - SANDY HILLS LINKS New
« Reply #16 on: August 03, 2014, 03:24:30 AM »
atb

To be fair, the terrain for Sandy Hills is very severe for golf, thats what I meant by it reminding me the Cashen.  I am not sure a really good course can be had unless there was some serious bulldozer work and it would surprise me if that was allowed.  Its likely Ruddy got a lot of what he could out of the property and I do really like how the holes flow around the property - its deliciously disorienting.  Its just that the terrain is far from ideal for top notch golf.


BEST COURSE PLAYED: I think the OTM Links just about pips Narin & Portnoo, its very close and Portsalon isn't a distant third. However, Sandy Hills Links is a distant 4th. 

FAVOURITE COURSE PLAYED: I think Narin & Portnoo and Portsalon are a dead heat.  I would be happy to return to either course and OTM Links; three out of four ain't bad.  The Rosapennas are more about hotel/travel convenience for me.

FAVOURITE HOLE: Has to be a three-way tie between N&P's 8th, 17th and OTM Links 9th.  The sheer audacity of the #8's wee green floating on the backdrop of the far dunes is magic. 


The 17th is to me perfect golf (one of a few varieties that is). The wild elephant's graveyard fairway mixed with the slippery fall-away green is heaven.


OTM's 9th is awkward, but wonderfully so.  I do love a good red herring bunker and feeding green. 


It would be interesting to read about your favourite courses (of the 4) and holes.

Ciao
« Last Edit: January 23, 2016, 07:30:20 PM by Sean_A »
New plays planned for 2022: Erewash, St Pats, The Loop x2, Arcadia Bluffs South, Lawsonia Links, Shoreacres, Culver Academies, Meadowbrook, Dunes Club & Crystal Downs

Ally Mcintosh

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Re: Drifting in Donegal: ROSAPENNA GC - SANDY HILLS LINKS
« Reply #17 on: August 03, 2014, 04:20:19 AM »
Still haven't seen Narin & Portnoo... But from the other 3 courses, favourite holes would include:

1. Stretch from 13 to 17 at Portsalon
2. 4th and 14th at Sandy Hills
3. Stretch from 12 to 15 at OTM

Sean_A

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Re: Drifting in Donegal: ROSAPENNA GC - SANDY HILLS LINKS
« Reply #18 on: August 03, 2014, 04:30:09 AM »
Ally

Interesting, I can understand all your choices barr the 17th at Portsalon.  I found this hole rather a dull meadowy affair and a let down after the previous four holes. 

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

Mark_F

Re: Drifting in Donegal: ROSAPENNA GC - SANDY HILLS LINKS
« Reply #19 on: August 03, 2014, 05:37:17 AM »
Portsalon 1-2, 4-6 and 14-16.
Narin Portnoo 4-10.
Rosapenna - The exit sign on the driveway was a welcome sight.

Thomas Dai

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Re: Drifting in Donegal: ROSAPENNA GC - SANDY HILLS LINKS
« Reply #20 on: August 03, 2014, 06:38:05 AM »
atb
It would be interesting to read about your favourite courses (of the 4) and holes.
Ciao

Firstly, can I just say how much I have enjoyed the threads you have posted on the four courses in your Donegal tour. Thank you. I've really enjoyed reading and pondering them including the various comments made by others. Tours like these are a real highlight of GCA for me so thanks to all who prepare them and post on them.

Right, here goes:

All the courses mentioned were played by me in the dry (phew) and in winds between 2 and 4 clubs in strength but blowing from the opposite direction to the normal prevailing winds so that may alter my perception of some of the holes/courses in comparison to the norm.

Narin & Portnoo – first class course, lots of strong holes, few, if any (2nd maybe?) weak holes. Pretty quirky in parts, especially the holes at the far end of the course. Some blind shots but not excessively so. 8th-9th holes particularly memorable. Very firm and fast, shots made a lovely solid ‘thump’ sound when landing. I can’t really fault the N&P course. Certainly worth a visit for enthusiasts. Shame it’s so out of the way and the roads relatively slow and twisty. Would I play N&P again? For sure.

Rosapenna OTM – The first-9 is good strong golf and I liked it but it was somehow not very memorable. The second-9 is just a delight - the holes and routing just flow together soooo beautifully. Holes 12-15 are a lovely stretch and the 14th is just a cracking par-3. I did notice that the course has no sprinkler system, just manholes and hoses.

Rosapenna Sandy Hills – this is a bit of a re-write of some of my comments above - we played and coped okay in a 2-club wind but I can imagine how in a 3-4-5-club wind or in the rain that SH could be a monster. In such conditions it could be possible for someone to maybe develop a serious 'hate complex' about the course, which would be a shame, as IMO it's a damn fine tough test of golf, shotmaking and course management. I didn't like the new 18th green at all.

Portsalon – I liked the course very much although an exceptionally scenic clubhouse location adds to it’s appeal. The 2nd hole gets all the photogenic glamour -  tough hole too, with a maybe an unappreciated green - we played it into a 4 club wind! Initially I thought the more linksie holes were the better holes but after thinking it through a bit more I reckon the last few holes, which are less linksie in character, were very likeable too. Perhaps they make the most of the lesser quality land. Not keen on the newer fairway bunkering style.

If I had 9 rounds to play I think I'd split the rounds like this amongst the four courses above -

N&P & Portsalon - 3 rounds each
OTM - 2 rounds
Sandy Hills - 1 round - I do like it, but jeez, it could play sooo tough - so I'd pick an appropriate day and tee colour depending on the wind/weather conditions

My preference to be a member at - equal between Portsalon and N&P
Most difficult course – Rosapenna Sandy Hills
Quick 9-holes after work/late of an evening – 2nd-9 at Rosapenna OTM
Biggest regrets – not playing the Rosapenna pitch-n-putt course and..........leaving my Ping 1-iron behind!

Nice memories. :)

atb

Ally Mcintosh

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Re: Drifting in Donegal: ROSAPENNA GC - SANDY HILLS LINKS
« Reply #21 on: August 03, 2014, 07:36:22 AM »
Ally

Interesting, I can understand all your choices barr the 17th at Portsalon.  I found this hole rather a dull meadowy affair and a let down after the previous four holes. 

Ciao

Sean,

17 is definitely on more meadowy ground for the drive but I recall it as quite a strategic affair with a tee shot closer to the stream on the left leaving a shorter 2nd which was uphill to some quite cool ground and an interesting green site.

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