Enniscrone Links -- A must-play, Irish legend

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June 16, 2009
David Brice, Golf International, Inc.

If there was a book of Irish golf legends, the links at Enniscrone would have a complete chapter devoted to it. Tucked away in the peaceful Northwest corner of the Emerald Isle, Enniscrone is what Irish golf is all about.

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Enniscrone offers rugged beauty and a test to match.
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Memorable sand dunes and rough you'd prefer to forget Enniscrone has it all.
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Stunning views make up for some of the difficulties.
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Enniscrone's rough is nasty and something to avoid.
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Every golfer needs to experience the wonders of Irish links golf before they leave this world. The sooner we make that first trip, the sooner we will learn this golfing heaven is packed with so many glorious links courses, one trip just won't be enough. It's going to take many more to play all of the courses calling out to be played and as many again to play your favorites, just one more time. But where do you start on this never-ending golf banquet?

There may be no better place than the Northwest of the country, where some of the very best of Ireland's golf has yet to be discovered by the masses. It may not be the most well known region, but don't let that deter you -- fully one third of Ireland's top 20 links layouts call the Northwest home. Without the crowds, there will be time to savor and enjoy the stunning scenery, take in the sights at a leisurely pace and perhaps play a round of golf or two with the friendly locals. County Sligo offers the perfect starting point to gear down, adjust to a slower pace and enjoy - just so happens there are a few golf courses around and Enniscrone is a good choice to kick-off on what will be a very special Irish golf experience.

The golf links at Enniscrone is one of Ireland's great layouts and among the top 12 links in the country. The only thing it lacks is celebrity, but that's a situation unlikely to last too much longer.

County Sligo and the neighboring counties of Northwest Ireland are now being discovered by visiting golfers in ever-growing numbers, who are scratching their heads and wondering how this region has been able to keep its golf a secret for so long. It's more than well endowed with an excellent array of top-drawer courses and Enniscrone is one of the very best.

Golf has been played around this resort town since 1918 but didn't begin to get serious until the late 1930's when a proper, 9-hole layout was installed to accommodate the growing interest in the game. It wasn't until 1974 that the grand master of Irish architects, Eddie Hackett, was brought in to extend the course to a full, 18 holes.

More recently, the noted English designer, Donald Steel has undertaken some redesign work, including the addition of new holes that dramatically run through the impressive sand dunes. Steel has shown tremendous respect for the original design and Enniscrone remains very much as Eddie Hackett intended.

The course enjoys a magnificent location on its own peninsula jutting out into Killala Bay, overlooked by The Ox Mountains, with dramatically handsome views in every direction. Threading its way through, over and around mountainous sand dunes, with an ever-present wind coming in off the Atlantic, this is pure links golf at its very best.

Don't be fooled by Enniscrone's relatively straight forward start as she gently prepares you for the increasingly challenging holes that lie ahead and become ever more testy from the 4th onward. By the time you reach the back nine, you'll be discovering this is a course that grows on you and the deeper you get into the examination of your golfing skills, the more pleasurable the whole experience becomes.

It's you against the course and she will flirt, tease and tantalize, raise your hopes and often crush them just as quickly. Take her seriously, giving her the respect she deserves and the attention she demands and you could come out with a respectable round. Treat her badly and she will respond in kind.

Enniscrone is filled with variety and more than a few surprises. No two holes are the same and the constant changes in wind direction, created by the zigzagging layout, only add to the thrill.

There are raised tees and elevated greens including some that have been chiseled out of the towering dunes. The rough is as thick as any links will ever provide and the bunkering throughout has been cleverly, if not deviously placed. Add to all of this fast, true greens and a level of overall maintenance that keeps the course immaculate year round and you have a links that never disappoints.

At a whisker over 7,030 yards from the back tees, long hitting is not necessarily going to help with your score and the thinking golfer who is both daring and accurate will always have the upper hand. But be wary of the wind -- this is the west coast of Ireland and the Atlantic Ocean has never been known to show much respect for the game of golf. If the wind gets up, Enniscrone will seem to add a further 700 yards and in the blink of an eye. Play it on a rare, calm day and you have been blessed indeed.

There is no question that Enniscrone is a true sparkler among Ireland's many hidden gems - it will be a tough test for most but for those looking for a real Irish links experience, there is no better course to provide it. How much longer this links can retain its anonymity is very much in question and was perhaps shortened considerably a while back, by a local real estate transaction.

Nick Faldo, a long time Northwest Ireland golf enthusiast, purchased the 365-acre, Bartagh Island, located a short few hundred yards offshore from Enniscrone's 12th tee. Mr. Faldo apparently intends to put his own design talents to work and transform Bartagh Island into one of the finest links courses in Ireland. According to Faldo's public relations people, he's still waiting for the inspiration to come up with the promised, brilliant design. Whether it might eventually beat Enniscrone in the rankings, remains to be seen, but it will be a tough row to hoe. So in the meantime, play the golfing legend that's here, in the flesh, right now -- she's waiting to strut her stuff, just for you.

For a few ideas on how to get to play the Irish golfing legend called Enniscrone, click here.

©2009 David Brice / Golf International, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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