1918, 1974, 2001
Eddie Hackett, Donald Steel
Part flat, part mountainous links. A feast of the very best of Eddie Hackett and Donald Steel.
West coast of Ireland, County Sligo
Pat Sweeney
00 353 (0)96 36297
Charlie Mcgoldrick
Green Keeper
Enda Mulrooney
Access Policy:
Visitors welcome
Dog Policy:
No dogs
Open Meetings:
Atlantic coast challenge, July, teams of 3
Fees in 1960s
Fees today


The six new holes that Donald Steel created within the mountainous sand dunes at Enniscrone when opened in 2001 have elevated this course from being a good Eddie Hackett course to a great one.

Steel's short 3rd

Steel's short 3rd

Arguably the twelve original Hackett holes are still the best, perhaps because their greens are the best I have played on in Ireland with a high proportion of fescue and indigenous bent grasses. The new holes, seeded with fescues, were initially excellent but I understand the wrong advice  was taken and the grasses are now, though remedial action is being taken, still not up to the quality on the rest of course.

Perhaps one of the advantages of this club having little money over the years has been the development of high quality turf not ruined by expensive fertiliser. Now that Enniscrone is firmly on the tourist’s FineGolf trail and green-fee income has grown, let’s hope Jim Arthur type maintenance policies are continued.

There are not many clubs I encounter where Steel has not had a hand in some element of improvement and he is never afraid of making changes. Here at Enniscrone, he has really shown his brilliance by taking a fine Hackett course, where Eddie dipped into the line of enormous sand dunes only twice, and created a really appetising FineGolf destination.

The Hackett course, created in 1974 from a nine holer dating from 1918, was of similar flavour to Saunton, having only a few holes amongst the great sand dunes that cut off the links land from the sea, while the other thirteen flowed across the relatively flat ground.

Today Steel has created six new holes including four par fives within the sand dunes while the discarded six flat holes have been converted into the useful, but less challenging, nine hole Scurmore course.

I imagine the course length has been considerably increased in line with modern requirements and, though there are a couple of hikes from green to tee, the new routing brings views of the Atlantic much more into play.

The 1st

The 1st

Pat Sweeney, the hospitable and modern Secretary, of this democratic club that prides itself on its welcome to all, understands the importance of managing the Enniscrone brand. He suggests to most visitors that they play from green/yellow tees, afraid that they will be taken to pieces and never return if the white tees are used! However, after the first hole, which is an almost right-angled dogleg ending with a newly sculptured green nestling in a high hollow, we did indeed dare to take on the whites.

Having warmed up at Connemara and Carne on the previous two days, my game was reasonably on song and I played the twelve great Hackett holes with gusto and increasing respect for the great man.

I did not find the line that Pat was giving me through the winding valleys of the early Steel holes at all easy to have faith in (!) and so after three bogeys I was pleasantly relieved to be back in Hackett country from the fifth to the thirteenth. These holes are no easier for being more classical in the strategic challenge they pose.

The beautifully brown 7th

The beautifully brown 7th

I was really gratified to gain the raised sixth green in two shots, played into a three club wind but then just couldn’t get over the exceptional quality of the next four relatively flat holes along the Moy estuary.

The cross-bunkers built into a ridge 100 yards shy of the par five seventh green, which is protected by a deep fall-off in front, mean you have to play a strong third off the bank behind and right, using the prevailing wind to bring the ball down to the putting surface. Proper FineGolf indeed!

The eighth hole, played from a raised tee is just that tantalising 170

The 9th

The 9th

yard length, this time with a carry over three pots downwind, with your shot having to be hit crisply to check and stay on a bigger green than is supposed from the tee.

Nine and ten, both below 400 yards in length, are played into the wind along the Scurmore beach and are wonderful holes with high-quality tight grasses that allowed one of my best drives (on the tenth) to run and run down a newly developed valley fairway but still leaving me with a delicate pitch to an interesting two-tier green.

At this point in the round, we now leave behind the six holes of the plains and quickly realise as we dip into the mountainous terrain, that Hackett also designed with a sense of humour, here creating a tricky short hole and two birdie chances to follow.

Hackett's mischievous 11th

Hackett's mischievous 11th

The eleventh, 170 yards into the wind, has another two-tier green sloping back to front where one nevertheless does not want to be weak and cascade down into a pit on the right. How to stay below the hole? Does one use a Christy O’Connor Sen. fade or a Max Faulkner draw, both of which I watched from behind on, I think, the twelfth at Royal Dublin in 1965 when they were playing a charity match with George Will and Brian Huggett? I still to this day have Huggett’s Penfold ball with its large smile, which my father bid for at the auction afterwards!

The next two par fours are both under 350 yards and comprise strong left-then-right hand doglegs. Enormous movement in the ground gives numerous choices of play which then have to be executed with real precision to two very different but ‘gathering’ greens.

Steel's very fine 15th

Steel's very fine 15th

At this point, we now return to three Steel holes. These comprise two very fine, winding par fives, while in between, is arguably the best hole on the course (except perhaps for the seventeenth), the 420 yard fifteenth.

A tight drive is played between a marram grass-covered high dune on the right and a ‘kop’, separating another valley fairway from the beach on the left. A long iron is left to a green tucked around the corner above the beautiful long strand beach, protected by a knoll (in the fashion of the “Sutherland” hole at Royal Dornoch) that unless struck immaculately, will kick your ball away into a deep gully to the right of green. A bump and run from the front of the green will be the strategic choice of many!

Unlike the seventeenth at Carne, neither of my attempts at this hole were satisfactory which I think had something to do with Steel’s unsettling, restless fairways.

It is fascinating to note that across the five long Steel holes, which average 505 yards, and his one short hole there is, to my recollection, no need for any bunkers!

The great short 17th

The great short 17th

The seventeenth is one of those short holes (149 yards), like the postage stamp at Royal Troon, the eleventh at Castle Stuart, the second at Royal Dornoch and “Redan” at North Berwick about which one can only wax lyrical. Here Hackett has created a pulpit tee to an almost flat green with run-off all around. The view is spectacular, with the caravans reminding you that you are on holiday, and the required shot is delicate but terrifying. Enough said.

Steel has much improved Hackett’s classic 440 yard eighteenth where bunkers abound, by taking out the blind drive. My enjoyable experience of playing with Pat Sweeney was topped-off with a low drilled three iron to the heart of the green, just what running golf is all about and what a ‘joy to be alive’ !

The ease with which one remembers every hole on this course is testament to its dramatic character. A feast of the very best of both Hackett and Steel.

Reviewed by Lorne Smith 2010.

Reader Comments

On September 4th, 2012 Peter Gustafsson said:

Played it in june 2009. Me and my sons went there and we were a bit surprised to find another swede being there playing by himself.
Loved the course and I found to be very fair.
The day we played it was hot, almost 28 degrees celsius and we only played 12 holes. It was like a baking oven when you got down among the dunes and yes, we went to the beach instead.

On June 1st, 2013 Michael.Waugh-Bacchus said:

Outstanding links and an equally fine test of golf. Springy turf and greens receptive enough to hold most medium to lofted irons (mainly due the regular rainfall on the West coast) . An exacting examination of your long game to be expected , most greens have either severe run off areas or none at all and are bordered by fescue much like Staunton. Donald Steel addition of 6 holes to Hacketts original design really does show what a true artist the man is. Dunes are majestic if you think Birkdales are impressive you really must play here. Panoramic vistas of Killala Bay and the Atlantic add to the experience 8 thru 17 , and one of the finest closing stretches I have ever had the pleasure of playing. Lastly a Irish welcome from John in the pro shop was equally matched by my caddie Joe who guided me around in 86 shots off a 13 h’cap. Well worth the visit and will certainly be back before too long.

On July 22nd, 2015 Mariano Martinez de Azagra said:

An absolute joy to play!!!
Most of the holes are stored in memory, from the second shot to the spectacular first green to the17th, and specially the charming 13 and 14.
Great and simple golf atmosphere.

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