A real head-spinner of a golf course

Corballis Links

Corballis Links Golf Club

Corballis Links Golf Club

Date Reviewed
September 18, 2019
Reviewed by Ed Battye
Corballis Links is a real head-spinner of a golf course around a 30 minute drive north of Dublin.

I make no apology for absolutely loving golf courses like Corballis. It is small in stature but packs an amazing amount of mind-blowing golf into its par 66, 4,624-metre layout which is played over a wild landscape and where fun abounds.

Another beauty of this municipal course is that at a paltry €20 it is a fantastic golf trip budget “averager”. In my opinion any golf itinerary to Dublin should include Corballis but not just for the dollar it saves you but for the quality, quirk and at times jaw-dropping golf it serves up.

For those well travelled, it has similar attributes to Perranporth in Cornwall and the middle section of the links at Strandhill on the west coast of Ireland. We can spy tops of flags fluttering on the summit of dunes and marker posts dotted all over the heaving linksland. The bamboozling nature of Corballis is remarkable.

There is a lawlessness to some of the opening holes. At times they may just be a touch unfair, occasionally unsafe but most certainly unique and unorthodox. This begins at the short opener where we must fire across the 12th fairway to a large, raised plateau green.

The second is an ingenious, evil and diabolical hole. A blind, narrow, funneling fairway between two dunes gives no indication of the massive hidden crater to the right of the fairway, at this 231-metre par-four, which squeezes down to the width of a country lane as it nears the green. The widest part of the fairway is around the 120-yard mark and playing the hole with a couple of wedges may well be the best solution to get through this dangerous hole unscathed. The green is a killer too as it is angled from the line of play and falls away. What appears to be a birdie chance on the scorecard could turn into any number in reality. I was amazed at the multitude of ways to play this relatively short hole.

Admittedly the second is not a great hole, you could even argue it is too cruel but I wouldn't have it any other way and it begins a run of golf along similar lines where you can’t quite see enough to make yourself feel comfortable on the tee, where you are unsure of the exact landing zones and turning points of the holes, all of which feel slightly awkward as narrow, valley fairways dart through mighty dunes, disappearing from view and then re-emerging a little further along.

There is undoubtedly a game of smoke and mirrors going on through the first seven holes at Corballis.

There is also a wonderful collection of short holes here and we enjoy three of them in the opening third of the round. The 1st hole is nothing too special but the 4th and the 6th in particular are little worldies. Both are played downhill to raised green complexes set among the dunes with predominantly crowned putting surfaces. They just fit the landscape so well and are prime examples that length is not always required to produce a taxing and quality golf hole.

The final short hole on the front side is the ninth which doesn’t have the same appeal and looks completely out of place with the rest of the course, played over a large pond, to a flat green of modern design. The other issue with this hole is that it precedes another short hole, which is better but still average at best, and it comes in the middle of a run of holes between 8 and 10 which is a very weak stretch of the course; the ninth is the low point.

However, we can easily forgive Corballis this momentary lull because it recovers well and if it doesn’t quite reach the highs of the first seven holes there is plenty of interesting golf yet to play.

By this point I had joined a group of members and their input proved invaluable in terms of aiming lines and what lied in wait. Although their advice didn’t really help me at the driveable 11th, which is just about as crazy a hole as you’ll find!

The long 12th, the sole par 5 on the course, brings us back to the clubhouse. Another short hole follows with an almost unplayable green, due to the slope from right-to-left and front-to-back, before we head out to the North side of the links for the remainder of the round.

Although the terrain isn’t as tumultuous from here on there are some bold green complexes and bags of interest. The 14th plays over softer ground whilst 15 and 16 criss-cross and share a pair of fairways with centreline bunkers between – both are quite understated holes but there is still plenty going on with good greens.

There is one last fling with absurdity at Corballis and that is the 17th green. An insane par-three played to a wild, semi-volcanic putting surface with two-tiers but played to side on. It is as if the designer wanted to create a wild, controversial green, a bit nutty, which would already have been fiendish to play to but then he has moved the tee 90-degrees and we now play to it from an outrageous angle…. but it kind of works! It’s the sort of fascinating hole where you’d just love to drop a basket of balls and play it a hundred times with different types of shots and clubs in various winds.

Meanwhile, the sliding 18th is more straightforward but is a very good closing hole.

The history (which dates back over 100 years), alterations to the links and ownership of Corballis is too complex to delve into here except to say it has been plentiful.

Today, Corballis provides a marvellous mish-mash of golf holes, some real head-scratchers and I felt guilty only paying €20 for a round here.

There are some things many golfers will not like. It is cramped (the protective netting we see a few times is an eyesore) and there are several occasions when you may not get what you feel you deserve. A lot of guesswork is required to get around the course but nice surprises often lie in store.

However, if you enjoy playing golf courses that push the boundaries of quirk whilst still retaining real quality then you will fall in love with Corballis. There is no arguments from me that at times it comes perilously close to crossing the line but I would rather have it that way than have my golf served up mundane and predictable.

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