It is probably the cramped property that holds back this course, situated between the shore of the Swilly and the “Mouldy Mountains” on the dramatic Wild Atlantic Way, from being more widely known and talked about when it comes to discussing golf in the North West of Ireland. It is simply too tight to offer truly great golf but it makes the most of its small nature. And should one be able to forgive it this main weakness – hardly its fault because coastal erosion has played its part over the decades – then you will discover some scintillating links golf.
After just one hole I was left in no doubt that there is some real quality here; the bunker scheme, the quality of turf, a fine green complex and the low-lying ground undulations all screamed of excellence. It was abundantly clear that you were going to get more of the same for the next 17 holes…. and you do!
Indeed the opening four holes – all played into a fierce wind on my visit – are a joy. The short 3rd is a wonderful hole as you play to a pushed-up green close to the sea with wooden sleepers nearby and the smell of sea whistling up your nostrils. The new fourth has also been created exceptionally well.
The flatter fifth and sixth are not quite up to the same standard and are a bit up and down, as is the 10th and 11th, but the remainder of the course is very strong. In fact surprisingly some of the holes in the middle part of the property provide the best golf. The excellent run from the 12th to the 16th delivers a couple of outstanding holes and this stretch ends with one of the cutest holes I’ve played; at just 93-yards “Fairy” is a little tease of a hole with cunning bunkering and a bewilderingly, undulating green where you must cross a charming little bridge to get to the green.
North West provides 18 highly engaging golf holes and this is mostly thanks to the brilliant green sites throughout and the aforementioned low-level movement in the land on what looks like a flat property upon first inspection.
When I say that the course is narrow I mean just that and with the proximity of the R238 main road the eighth hole (clearly not part of the original routing) is an insurance claim waiting to happen. Indeed the large slice I hit on the sixth hole 20 minutes earlier could also have had severe consequences had my ball hit any of the passing traffic, which it fortunately avoided, but for the eternity of time my ball hung in the air I was wondering if my own golf insurance covered me in the Republic of Ireland. It was a rank bad shot but at this hole, the short 8th and also the tenth it could all spell danger. In the health and safety world we live in it wouldn’t surprise me if further alterations to the course were made in the future.
None of this should really take away from the quality of the golf though. On a trip of eight golf courses in Donegal the one at North West proved to be the surprise package of the lot. The excellent fescue greens were a joy to putt on, the green-fee was more than reasonable and the 6,342 yard, par 70 course just exuded fun as well as having lots of character.
North West is perfectly located for golf throughout the North West of Ireland and especially Ballyliffin. My simple advice would be to include it in your trip to this part of the country.
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.