Eddie Hackett
Attractive, scenic championship links. Famous ledge greens on back nine.
10 miles from Clifden on the west coast of Connemara
Kathleen Burke
353 (0)9523502
Hugh O'Neil
Green Keeper
Hugh O'Neil
Access Policy:
Visitors always welcome
Dog Policy:
No dogs
Open Meetings:
Open weeks: Ap, June, Sept
Fees in 1960s
Fees today


As one travels beyond the new EU-funded motorway from Dublin to Galway across the old roads of Connemara, one realises the importance of maintaining the golf links brand to the economy of west Ireland.

We must applaud the vision of some local heroes, with the Rev Peter Waldron taking the lead in Clifden and the Mangan brothers at Carne in Bellmullett, within the last thirty years by creating golf courses on

The clubhouse

The clubhouse

spectacular, scenic ground with the help of Ireland’s premier course architect, the late Eddie Hackett. Against all the odds of being able to sort out the historic commonage ownership, Ireland has been given two courses that rival the best.

The grey speckled rocks of Connemara will always conjure up the raw exposed elemental beauty of this course with the imposing new clubhouse dominating the ground.

Gareth and Hugh

Gareth and Hugh

I had the honour of being taken round by the hospitable South African, Gareth Anthony, who runs the pro shop and Hugh O’Neil, an Irish international who has now turned his hand to greenkeeping. Before going off to stay in Hugh’s mother’s delightful B&B nearby (see Advert on the right), the response from Gareth to my suggestion of a 9 am-ish tee time was “we like ‘ish’ around here”.

Connemara is known for its ledge greens, raised above the fairways, particularly on the 14th, 15th and 17th holes, dug into the bowl of sandhills and giving unique character to the tremendous finish, whereas the front nine holes are relatively flat.

The par five 17th green

The par five 17th green

However, work has been done on raising the profile of bunkers to give definition and better drainage on the front nine, along with some new greens and there is now a much better balance to this fine golf challenge. Thank goodness the bulldozers have not been brought in to give a more modern ‘contour’ and feature to the holes!  Hackett’s green settings fit naturally with the ground.

The first hole, a dog-leg under a bank of rocks, is a fine opener. The fifth, with its newly built fescue green, has to be ‘found out’ and the back nine finishes with two stretchy par fours returning to the clubhouse and into the prevailing wind.

The show-stopping 13th

The show-stopping 13th

I am not so sure about Hackett’s short holes here, though quality does usually grow on you, but he did create a really great 200 yard 13th up in the rocky hills with the Twelve Bens mountain range behind you.   A three here is certainly the equivalent of a birdie against the field and it is good to see that the marketing bumpf does not use that horrible modern television term to describe it as the ‘signature’ hole. I prefer Richard Phinney’s term a ‘show-stopper’.

A birdie at the magnificent fourteenth, laid out before you from a high tee, will only be accomplished by single putting on this relatively short par five, as into the prevailing wind this raised green is well protected from the second shot.

The back nine does feel 300 yards longer than the front and, with the course measuring 7055 off the blue tees (par 72 SSS 75), most people will find the white tees at 6666 yards (par 72 SSS 73) are quite long enough.

Clubhouse from the beach

Clubhouse from the beach

The big skies across the dappled rock landscape overlook the white beaches along which my wife was riding a lively, sure-footed, grey Connemara pony from a nearby stables. This is holiday country with plenty for the family to enjoy.

Though Hugh is planning to reduce the abundant rye grass and is overseeding with fine grasses, he is honest enough to admit the greens are dominated by poa annua (meadow grass), the result of unfortunate previous greenkeeping practice. There is no reason why Connemara cannot follow Waterville’s success (click here to read a Waterville article on the R&A’s website) as long as the Club membership recognises the importance of the running, fine golf game in attracting the money-spinning tourists. The membership need to support Hugh in going through the necessary difficult intervening period before the fescues and indigenous bent grasses take a hold and give consistent, true, firm greens all the year round.

Angelika by 2nd green

Angelika by 2nd green

I did play the third group of nine holes, built more recently, squeezed in between the championship back nine.

The taking of an iron off the tee from eight of the holes emphasised the tightness but also the ‘fancied-up’ nature of the design and let’s blame this development also for the strange number of artificial mounds appearing along some of the fairways which I can’t believe Eddie Hackett, that high priest of natural design, created.

Built since Frank Pennink’s Golfer’s Companion was published in 1962, Connemara has the ‘joy to be alive’ factors to attract fine golf lovers and has already staged the Carroll’s Irish Matchplay Championship when the professionals were tested.
Reviewed by Lorne Smith 2010.

Reader Comments

On April 26th, 2013 Martin Walker said:

A truly special place – so austere – not the easiest course to find but a must play for all players of the best fine links turf – worth the pilgrimage !

On August 4th, 2018 Chris Hanson said:

We’ll be there in September on our pilgrimage from Australia. Playing Donegal, Sligo and Enniscrone en route.

Chris, If you can add Carne in as well you would enjoy that as well. Have a wonderful time. yours, Lorne

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