Situated on a peninsula between the Twelve Bens Mountain Range and the wild Atlantic Ocean it’s a truly glorious place.
The drive to the golf club is also amazing. I travelled down from Westport and it was the most wondrous and scenic two hour car journey you could imagine. The course lies a few miles beyond Clifden near Ballyconneely.
At Connemara Championship Links you will find three loops of nine holes, excellent facilities and a very warm welcome. The three nines are rather unimaginatively named A, B & C! All three of them provide a tough test.
A & B make up the ‘championship’ course (par 72, 7,055 yards) whilst C (par 35, 3,145 yards) is very much considered to be the ‘third nine’.
The A&B course was laid out in 1973 by Eddie Hackett and is the only links in Galway. The C loop was added in the year 2000.
I played A & B whilst chasing the sun on a glorious evening and then returned to play the C nine the following morning.
The first thing to say is that the golf is decent and any criticism comes from a high bench mark. There are some fine holes, especially on the middle section of the B nine but my overall impression on leaving the venue was one of disappointment and a thought of what a wonderful opportunity has been missed here.
I don’t like to write negative reviews and always try and put a spin on the positive but my overriding feeling is that it really just didn’t work for me here. I will try and explain why the best I can.
I have thought long and hard as to why Connemara didn’t hit the right notes and ultimately I feel it boils down to a mismatch between the exterior and the interior. On the outside we have a wild, rugged and natural terrain but on the inside we have a sense of flat and cleanliness with obvious man-made shaping.
It’s hard to put into words but everything to do with the golf feels forced, unnatural and simply does not tie in with the land. At times it almost feels like there wasn’t enough budget to do the job properly.
Time after time each green complex just didn’t look or feel right. It didn’t look and feel as it should. The shaping, the contours were too severe and just didn’t flow together. The fairways are just flat motorways with no strategic value and often featured the most artificial mounding I have ever seen on a links.
Taking away my thoughts above and purely concentrating on the golf. The A nine is played on the flatter part of the property and there are some solid holes from a golf perspective. The opener is a nice hole that sweeps to the left and the sixth is a fine rising par-three. In-between holes two to five go about their business in a quiet manner as do the final three holes.
The B nine is undoubtedly the best of the three. Between the 12th and 14th we have some really good golf… but it could have been so much better.
The 12th is a tough climbing par-four and the 13th an awesome par-three. I also liked the stepped fairway at the par-five 14th. If we had seen more of this I would have warmed to Connemara much more.
Meanwhile, the 15th features a plateau green and the 16th a dogleg and burn. Both 17 and 18 are par fives (yes, three in the last five holes) and again on paper they are good enough but I just can’t get away from the shaping and contouring around the greens which just doesn’t sit right with me.
The third nine is very much the same. It promises much but ultimately fails to deliver and is perhaps even worse because the routing is horrendous. The first six holes are located closer to the coast whilst the final three are intermingled within the main layout.
I can accept a long walk to the first tee at a 27 hole complex but from the first green to the second tee and from the sixth to the seventh are beyond belief. It is also clearly maintained to a lower standard than the championship 18. The coolest thing about this loop are the two tunnels you must walk through.
I feel bad saying what I feel so I would urge you to visit yourself to make up your own mind and report back to me. Connemara gets some great reviews so it may just not be to my personal taste. It clearly isn’t.
The game of golf has the ability to take you on amazing journeys to the most wondrous places where you meet such interesting people.
It was an impulsive, crazy… and some would say utterly ridiculous… decision that took me to The Machrie in the Spring of 2018.