Eddie Hackett
New tumultous links, already attracting myth and fame. Hackett's last creation
Belmullet, west coast County Mayo, Ireland
Mary Walsh
00 353 (0)86 3822354
Green Keeper
Gary Stanley
Access Policy:
Visitors welcome
Dog Policy:
No dogs
Open Meetings:
Fees in 1960s
Fees today


Bernard Darwin, that most loved of golf writers, could well have been describing Carne in the following words, apart from the fact that the course was created in 1993 and Darwin died in 1961:
“We wind about in the dells and hollows among the great hills, alone in the midst of a multitude, and hardly ever realise that there are others playing on the links”.

It is remarkable that such a new course, in such an out of the way place, should have already attracted so much myth and fame to itself in such a short time.

The Clubhouse behind the 9th

The Clubhouse behind the 9th

Its creation as a community project on commonage ground owes much to the Mangan brothers. Michael, the eldest, had the vision to lead while Eamon, the youngest, had the tenacity to deliver.

The third partner, Eddie Hackett, the saint of Irish golf architects, described the land at Carne as the last piece of great ground left in Ireland for a real golf course.

Carne has leapt up in the Golf World rankings to twenty-eighth in 2005 and has even had a book written about it, Ancestral Links by the Sports Illustrated writer John Garrity of Kansas City, who builds an obsession around the seventeenth hole.

Lacking the bustle of a major championship club, Carne’s course wallows in its dishevelled appearance, where you get the impression that the features are merely on loan to golf and might be erased by the next Atlantic storm! This has all the FineGolf  ‘joy to be alive’ factors.

Gary Stanley and Angelika on 14th Tee

Gary Stanley and Angelika on 14th

This is not to say that Gary Stanley, the Head Greenkeeper, who is a ‘blown-in’ from the Wirral, and his small team do not present and look after the course well, it is simply that there is a naturalness to their approach that blends with the wonderful surroundings in creating fine running golf.

It did slightly surprise me, however, that they cut the greens at 4mm (and down to 3.5mm on occasion) and use fertiliser little and often when needed, while also watering in a regular programme. Perhaps the fescue grasses can survive this type of maintenance in such a naturally draining environment though I do hope that the green-fee income from 15,000 rounds of golf annually does not engender pressure on Gary to “green-up”, as the course would soon lose that heritage feel and much of its attraction to FineGolf visitors along with it.

The Par three 2nd

The Par three 2nd

The first hole is a sweeping right-hand dogleg from one of many high tees and, though one would not expect to see a starter here, John Garrity relates a delightfully quoted conversation between an Irish gent of about sixty and the starter who, in response to the gent’s complaint that he couldn’t find “the girl” in the golf shop, quipped “Gone to put on some make-up, she saw you comin”.

We played off the white tees (6400 yards, par 72, SSS 71) in a two- to three- club wind and had to remember to make an annoying translation to yards from the meterage on the course card and stroke saver.

If driving consistently, this course is within regulation reach on most holes, where the second shots, not often from flat ground, challenge the mind as well as the technique, particularly on the third with its restless fairway, and on the fifth, sixth and ninth of the outward nine with wonderful natural settings for the green sites.

Although the eighth green is in a gathering hollow, surrounded by high ridged sandhills and measures only 400 yards down the prevailing wind, I would need to play it a few more times to work out the hole’s angles!

The 10th green

The 10th green

The drive on the tenth one suspects is one of the few places that Hackett used a bulldozer to open up the fairway and we are now into the tumultuous country which is what I suspect brings golfers to Carne again and again.

A third nine holes are presently being designed by Jim Engh (who Richard Phinney calls the ‘hottest’ American golf architect of the moment!) who is trying to create order from the tortured terrain, weaving his holes through the rugged land that Hackett deemed too severe for use. Only time will tell whether this project, similar to Donald Steel’s new holes at Enniscrone along the coast, is successful.

I had the luck to be joined by Gary Stanley from the seventh onwards and he was able to advise on the numerous blind shots; we greatly appreciated his company.

I choose the eleventh and seventeenth as the iconic holes at Carne. They are not totally different, as both play ‘on the edge’, but one is in a valley, the other along a hog’s back.

The iconic 11th

The iconic 11th

There is only one way to play the eleventh; depending on the direction of the wind, take whatever club will reach the corner of the acute dogleg around an enormous terraced sandhill, but without running out into a grassy crater. The second shot is a wedge to a high plateau green. This is mountainous golf, played from a pinnacle tee into a canyon fairway and great fun but some might describe it as the only way Hackett could devise for getting you from the end of a good hole, the tenth, to the tee of another.

However, the back nine at Carne reflects this philosophy again and again. One’s imagination is challenged as to how Hackett can carve one natural hole after another from the tumultuous landscape with such little movement of soil/sand without creating an impression of ‘tricked-up’ impossibility.

The sharp edges that define the strategic choices required, have predominantly been left alone and unlike the modern ‘ international’ designed courses we see the professionals playing on TV, this course gives the impression of having come from the ‘golden heritage’ era and not 1993.

At this point in the round, we now have the Atlantic Ocean to add to the scenic beauty while we work out the strategic route to each green. The tenth and thirteenth are par fives but fairly reachable on a calm day unlike the one weak hole on the course, the eighteenth, where, irrespective of one’s ability, you will be playing your shot to the green from a deep crater that collects every ball to its pock-marked undulations.

The approach shot to the great 17th

The approach shot to the great 17th

What can one say about John Garrity’s seventeenth? Over a full summer he played it over and again, attempting to break 18 over par on the one hole. It is like so many other great holes, 440 yards long (“Achinchanter” and “Foxy” at Royal Dornoch come to mind).

Other architects might have chosen to carve out the bank on the right, as the drive requires a faded full drive or a running medium club to avoid the precipices left and right. The green sloping from back to front comprises a shelf shaded by the left-hand sandhill with any shot faded ending up in a ravine to the right. The one bunker, a pot, shy of the green, confuses the correct left-hand approach line.

I elected to play two balls, one with a driver and one with my one iron. We found them both on the fairway. My two seconds employed the one iron again and a five iron and both ran up the left onto the green and I skipped off aware that this great course had raised my game, demanding my concentration and ultimately rewarded me with a hole I shall never ever forget.

Carne is an important tourist attraction to an area hit hard by the profligate-induced recession. A nearby beautifully designed new housing estate looked half empty from our hospitable B&B.

Many miles of peat bog are traversed to reach Belmullet on Blacksod Bay where Carne lies, but it is worth the effort when its high ‘joy to be alive’ factor is your reward.

See  ‘Ancestral Links – A golf obsession spanning generations’  by John Garrity.  Click here :- Check Amazon’s best price

Reviewed by Lorne Smith 2010.

Reader Comments

On September 4th, 2012 Peter Gustafsson said:

Played there in 2009. I was all alone on the course and this was in middle of june. Loved the course. the wind picked up during the round so the score was not that great but the feeling of walking around the course all alone was majestic.

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