Not until fairly recently did Enniscrone have a bit of a chalk and cheese golf course with half the holes played on pancake flat, featureless land and the other half weaving their way through towering sandhills producing golf that makes the heart sing.
The evolution of Enniscrone has taken time but today we have a course that hits every note just about perfectly and contains some dramatic golf holes.
Donald Steel was called in to revise Eddie Hackett’s original layout and with the acquisition of more duneland he has played his part in creating a course that has it all.
Holes 2, 3, 4 and 14, 15, 16, (four them par fives) all located on prime duneland, belong to Steel and each is wonderful with just a hint of a modern feel and the hand of man visible but otherwise very natural in appearance. Whereas Steel has gone through the dunes Hackett wasn’t afraid to go over them and this adds a nice spice to the course especially when mixed with a few breather holes during the middle of the round as well.
The stretch of holes (5 to 10) on the inland side of the course do not quite match the thrill of the extravagant dune holes but there is still much to admire with the green complexes at the 6th and especially the 7th are of a very high order. The 8th is a sound par-three too and there is nothing to dislike about the ninth and 10th which both run close Scurmore Beach.
However, the best of Enniscrone can be found among the opening stretch and the closing eight holes. These 12 holes provide brain-scrambling good golf at times, many of which slowly reveal themselves during the passage of playing them.
The way the holes gently unfold means there is a real curiosity to Enniscrone. Green complexes often emerge gradually, initially just giving the golfer a peak of the putting surface before the rest of the contouring is unfurled before our eyes. This gives the golfer a sense of anticipation whilst playing through the twisting and weaving dunescape.
A number of greens are sited within an amphitheatre of sandhills, none better than the first which unlike the other holes exposes its green in the dunes with a bang after you reach the turn in the dogleg fairway.
Singling out holes at Enniscrone is tough because there are so many great ones but the back-to-back 12th and 13th – both short two-shotters - are a pure joy. They traverse the duneland in a creative fashion and offer up a multitude of options. The fact they come between the excellent short 11th and the mouth-watering long 14th and then the even better 15th make this sequence of holes one of the best in all of Ireland.
In fact from 11 to 17 Enniscrone is just about as good as it gets. The 16th is another superb par five (the last of five in total) and the short, crowned 17th is a teasingly hard green to hit and hold.
This enigmatic course is a thrill-seekers paradise. Shotmaking abounds, daring golf is required and the endless recovery shots you are likely to face require skill, ingenuity and out-of-the-box thinking. At times your misses can be severe but at the same time lots of fun. As you would expect the downside is that the walk is stern but I have faced much worse.
The par 73 layout can play as long as 7,029 yards from the blue markers but I would advise not trying to beat yourself up from the tee because it’s likely the dramatic green complexes will be more than enough to test your game.
If heading to the West of Ireland then Enniscrone should be close to, if not top, of your list.
The excellent Diamond Coast Hotel is located within walking distance of the course 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.
Copt Heath is a very fine parkland golf course that requires precision, plotting and a deft touch around the slick greens.
The Blue is a mix of American-style design and traditional English parkland. It's an unusual combination which makes the most of the terrain available. It was designed by Simon Gidman and opened in 1994.