There are two courses laid out over this wondrous piece of land and they intertwine seamlessly. Because we mostly play through the large dune valleys you rarely see golfers on a different hole on the same course let alone players on the other course. However, there are a few lovely moments when paths may cross.
It is actually quite surprising, pleasingly so, that we have two different and distinct golf courses routed across what appears to be similar ground. The reason for this is clear; the Glashedy was largely sculpted by machine whilst the hand of man is mostly responsible for the Old. Each layout is structured in two loops of nine, therefore we have four starting points from the plush clubhouse.
The Old course is more natural and provides a quieter, more traditional style of links golf over its marvelously rumpled fairways. Awkward lies and stances are assured and unpredictable bounces are the norm on a course where the ground game must also be played if at all possible due to the windy nature of the site.
Golf has been played here since 1947 but the current “Old” course dates to the early 1970s although more recent changes were made to accommodate the Glashedy and Nick Faldo – a huge admirer of Ballyliffin – helped make some further changes in 2006. The maximum yardage of the course is a shade under 7,000 yards and par is 71.
It is a golf course which builds and builds throughout the round with the back-nine offering some magical golf. Holes 13 through 17 are truly excellent where quality and challenge merge perfectly together.
There are a couple of par-threes that stand out too and are worthy of special mention. The 5th “The Tank” is played to a plateau green wedged between two large dunes whilst the 17th “The Hump” has a bamboozling putting surface due to the… well, er… the hump in the middle of it!
In terms of quality between the two courses there is not a lot in it. My own preference is for the Glashedy but I could easily be swayed the other way after subsequent visits. The main point to make is that if you go to Ballyliffin, and its spectacular setting, then it is essential that you play both courses.
Read the review of Ballyliffin (Glashedy) here.