Formerly known as Buncrana Municipal until 1995 the club has been in existence since 1890 with claims that golf at Buncrana dates back to the early 1800’s making it the oldest nine hole links course in Ireland.
It may only be short (4,865 yards if you go round twice) and have a par of just 66 but it packs so much entertainment into its compact site you can’t help leaving with a smile on your face. The shortness of it all also includes the 596-yard 3rd - the longest par five in Ulster!
When you get tricky golf courses like Buncrana, which are undeniably bags of fun, it is rare to get really good golf too but here you will find a real quality, albeit unorthodox at times, at most of the holes.
Importantly the green complexes are of a very high standard. This is a constant throughout the round with the ones at the first and eighth really grabbing your attention because they both fall away from the line of play. It is as if they should be played to from the opposite direction but are all the better for not doing so. At the blind opener there is a devilish drop over the back whilst the volcanic 8th is raised at the front and both sides whilst at the same time falling away from you; its absurd but terrific and aptly named “Calamity”.
There are other moments of enjoyable madness too.
The 3rd is a 240-yard par-three played to a semi-blind basin green which is angled, long and narrow. I thought I had made a regulation par four here until I looked at the scorecard and saw it was a par-three!
The 7th & 8th share a very narrow fairway which play in opposite directions. Crash helmets required.
The 6th is a very strange hole too. It is a blind par three of no more than 130 yards where you play over a sewage works (yes, the smell is awful) to a brilliant green which you cannot see for a metal fence and trees. It’s the worst hole on the course, not least thanks to the long walk back to the tee, but the cool green saves it.
The last hole is also one for the memory bank. Another short par-three with a green situated perilously close the car-park. I mean really close! The putting surface itself has a wonderful ridge running through the spine of the green and is another example of where Buncrana mixes oddity with quality.
I had originally spotted this golf course a few years ago when staying at the adjacent hotel on route to Ballyliffin and the rumpled nature of the terrain had piqued my interest. It had not been on my radar previously because it didn’t feature in the True Links book (it should be). I’m pleased I made the effort to visit this time around.
Ranking a great value 20 Euro course like Buncrana is impossible. It’s not somewhere you would go out of your way to play but it is a great location if you are passing through North-West Ireland and the fact it will take you no more than an hour to go round with a clear run I would highly recommend adding it to your agenda.