The Hackett 18 is currently the main configuration although the addition of the Kilmore 9 in 2013 (but closed until recently) may change this in the future. Either way if you are going to make the effort to travel all the way to remote Belmullet, situated on a peninsula at the very edge of Ireland –just about as close as you will get to America from the British Isles – then you may as well play all 27. You won’t regret it.
At Carne – created in 1993 to boost tourism to this part of the World and overlooking Blacksod Bay and the wild Atlantic Ocean - you play some crazily-good golf between, over and around some monumental dunes. As you make your way through the labyrinth of sandhills, at times plunging down, at times climbing up, you are continually amazed at the outlandish shots you must play. It’s a dune junkie’s paradise.
The untamed, and largely untouched, nature of the terrain ensures that the course often borders on the extreme but importantly it never once crosses the line, although in the case of the Kilmore loop it pushes the boundaries tantalising close! This is golf close to the edge and if you are a thrill-seeking golfer Carne is likely to be your manna from heaven.
Although it is mostly unconventional – at times off-the-wall – there is still an undeniably quality to the links and this is why it rightly takes its place in the Top 100 of Great British and Irish golf courses. Located along the Wild Atlantic Way Carne is a true golfing treasure. You are often firing into the unknown and although you always have an inkling of where you are heading you can never be 100% certain.
Wind is likely to be a factor too but the course remains playable and the rough wasn’t too penal in June 2019. The nature of land dictates that not many bunkers are required either so play keeps moving nicely.
Carne is relentless in the holes it puts before you. It’s a wild ride where we play to some brilliant green complexes; the 1st, 3rd, 5th, 6th, 8th and 9th have all hit you directly in the face before a third of your day is done. And when I say the front nine of the 27 is the most sedate loop of the three you can only imagine what is on offer for the remainder.
To single out individual holes is a near impossibility because the course keeps delivering amazing holes one after another. If any given golf course had just one hole similar to what we find at Carne it would be the main talking point but here we simply take for granted the perpetual quality of each hole as we traverse the boundless dunescape.
An aging Eddie Hackett laid out the main 18 (his last course) and over time – if not already – I’m sure it will become his magnum opus. The addition of the Kilmore 9 – where arguably the best holes on the property reside – only enhances this remote venue further.
The talk of tagging the Kilmore 9 (which does have a couple of routing issues) onto the back-nine of the Hackett to make the main 18 would be an error in my opinion. The reason is that this almost over-the-top, maze-like layout is much better as a stand-alone nine where you can perhaps go out for an après lunch jaunt and just have a complete blast. The present configuration works work and this could throw it all out of kilter.
You will find meters on the scorecard, not yards, and from the blue tees the Hackett course is 6,132 with a par of 71. The Kilmore 9 has back tees stretching it to 2,952 meters and is a par 35. However, the turbulent terrain with all the rises and falls almost negates distance – on some holes you may not be able to propel your ball much more than a couple of hundred meters but likewise on other holes you’ll benefit from several meters of rollout.
The only criticism that I could throw at Carne is by asking the question; “Is it possible to have too much of a good thing?” At times it can be overpowering with no counterbalance. A day here is a mentally and physically exhausting one. There is no respite from the dramatic golf on offer and the walk is fairly tough. I know for certain I wouldn’t want to play all my golf at a course like this…. but I can’t wait to return!
Ultimately Carne is a masterpiece of links golf. The colossal dunes not only frame the holes but they also interact with the golf. It may not be to everyone’s taste but it’s easy to see why so many people fall in love with it.
The excellent Diamond Coast Hotel is located within walking distance of Enniscrone Golf Club and makes an excellent base for golf in this part of Ireland. This is where we stayed and it is less than a 60 minute drive to both Sligo & Strandhill and just over an hour to Carne. There is bar food available as well as a bistro and restaurant menu. The hotel do a fantastic value "Wild Atlantic Way" package which includes 3 nights B&B, a 3-course meal on one night and a round each at Sligo, Carne and Enniscrone.