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Bill Healy

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St. Patrick's Links, Donegal, Ireland
« on: May 19, 2022, 11:45:21 AM »
St. Patrick’s Links

St. Patrick’s Links in Donegal, Ireland, which opened for play on June 25, 2021, is the latest golf offering by the Casey Family at the Rosapenna Golf Resort. Fans of Pacific Dunes in Oregon will recognize and enjoy Tom Doak’s brilliant routing and natural design along the shores of Sheephaven Bay. Rosapenna now includes the Old Tom Morris Course (1893), the Sandy Hills Links (2003), St. Patrick’s Links (2021), and the 9-hole Coastguard Course.

The remarkable Casey Family made a terrific decision in selecting Tom Doak to develop St. Patrick’s on their 370 acres of links land on Sheephaven Bay. In 1982, Eddie Hackett routed 18 holes on this land, in 1996, Joanne O’Haire laid out 18 holes, and in 2006, the Jack Nicklaus company designed two golf courses at this site. However, none of these golf courses endured. Links golf aficionados have patiently waited for a course to emerge from arguably the finest remaining links land in Ireland. Tom Doak and Eric Iverson routed 18 memorable holes at St. Patrick’s, and the result was worth the wait.

It can be said that Doak’s finest work, like that of a sculptor, is in creating a hole, or revealing a naturally aesthetic design, from the intrinsic features of the land. In that sense, Tom Doak freed a golf course from land featuring rising sand dunes linked to the sea. Some dunes are big and bold like those found at Carne Golf Links in Mayo, and other dunes are smaller like at Dooks Golf Club in Kerry. At St. Patrick’s, Doak had abundant prime links land to work with, and he wisely selected a routing in harmony with the setting. The effect is natural, and it is eminently pleasing to golfers.

Golfers venturing out to the new links begin the round with a visit to a simple and functional Pro Shop with an outdoor patio for post round “relaxers.” A pleasant stroll to the first tee encounters the Starter who attempts to assign an appropriate tee, but too many golfers reportedly choose to put their peg in the ground at the Sandstone Tee (“the tips” at 6930 yards), which leads to frustration for all but elite golfers.

The opening hole sets a high bar for St. Patrick’s Links. The 345-yard, par 4, first hole is a slight dogleg left with a well-placed green defended by a large front-right greenside bunker/mound feature, and the green complex is framed by grass covered dunes. Donald Ross would appreciate this early “welcome” hole, and One is the first of 18 interesting and challenging golf holes, which vary in length, shape, and rigor.

During the 18-hole journey, generous playing corridors wend their way among dunes and over undulating terrain featuring natural elevations and hollows.  Four sets of tees, which range from 5136 to 6930 yards, allow players to choose competitive routings affording fun for every level of golfer.

Four par 3s include uphill, downhill, and forced carry features, and the one-shotters are oriented to three different compass points and wind conditions. Three par 5s, which are all over 555 yards from the back tees, add length to the links, and they are fun to play. However, the eleven par 4s are the feature holes at St. Patrick’s with average length 411 yards (range 339 to 534 yards) from the back tees.

Fourteen, which may turn out to be the “signature hole” at St. Patrick’s, is a memorable, 399-yard, dogleg left golf hole. Fourteen begins on an elevated tee box and requires a forced carry tee shot to an undulating fairway adjacent to the beach at Sheephaven Bay. A large blow-out bunker frames the inside turn of the dogleg. From the primary landing area, the generous fairway narrows, and a second large bunker serves as a right carry bunker before reaching the large green with no greenside bunkers. Par is good, and birdie is great.

We played St. Patrick’s Links on a beautiful, Chamber of Commerce Day in Ireland. Sunshine, blue skies, and a 1 to 2 club breeze allowed us to celebrate our good shots and forget our errant missiles. The weather may have contributed to this glowing report, but most importantly, the Casey Family, Tom Doak, and St. Patrick’s earned these accolades.

Bill Healy
Mike Considine
May 2022

Mark Mammel

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Re: St. Patrick's Links, Donegal, Ireland
« Reply #1 on: May 19, 2022, 04:32:37 PM »
I just returned from a visit to Rossapena and played St Patricks.  I agree that the routing has a collection of great golf holes and is a real boon to the area. The views are right up there with the design- amazing. I had 2 issues as a bogey golfer- the deep rough, which begins very close to the fairway, is like the gunch at Prairie Dunes- that is, the ball is probably lost. From the many elevated tees, the combination of wind and modest skill can combine to send a tee shot to the hereafter quickly. I anticipate this may moderate over time and the rough may become less penal; the same issue arose at Machrihanish Dunes when it first opened. Also, the walk is difficult, both to the tees and from green to tee, especially for the older player. Motorized trollies are available but it can be challenging to get up and down the hills. My sons, single digit players, loved it.
So much golf to play, so little time....


David Kelly

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Re: St. Patrick's Links, Donegal, Ireland
« Reply #2 on: May 19, 2022, 07:06:38 PM »
Played there last September and thoroughly enjoyed the course.  What struck me with the routing - and this could change with different winds - is the number of what I would call 4.5 par holes.  The trend in recent years (decades?) has been to build short, driveable 3.5 par holes but I really had fun with the long par fours, some of which were unreachable for me, at least that day even though there wasn't a strong wind.

I also agree some of the transitions from green to tee are tough on the legs with many awkward climbs up small hills but maybe over time alternative routes will establish themselves.
"Whatever in creation exists without my knowledge exists without my consent." - Judge Holden, Blood Meridian.


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