You could argue that because of its eclectic style the course lacks some consistency but I rather enjoyed the variety it provides.
Nestled under the Knockalla mountains The Club was founded in 1891 and is one of the founder members of the Golfing Union of Ireland, the oldest golf union in the world.
The layout we play today is largely the work of Pat Ruddy after he ripped up most of the previous course and remodelled it in 2000 with the addition of nine new holes. Nowadays it is a par 72 with a yardage of 6,172 meters from the white competition tees. Paul McGinley has advised on further improvements in more recent years.
In all truth the course gets off to quite a messy start. The area around the 1st tee, 18th green and clubhouse has a lot going on, a bit too much in my opinion. Not that there is a lot the club can do about it!
There is a road, trees, housing, a car park, the beach and even a subterranean walkway, covered by a visible green mesh, to get beach-goers from the parking lot to the sand! It’s quite a confusing picture but once you have played your approach to the undulating first green complex, with a basin putting surface, you are off and running and don’t look back until you return to the 18th.
The second is not a traditional links hole as such but it is absolutely incredible. From an elevated tee you must decide how much of the beautiful ‘blue flag’ Ballymastocker Bay to chew off with your drive. However, it doesn’t end there because an inlet to the sea has to be carried on your second shot as well, therefore, to a have a realistic crack at the green you must be aggressive with your tee-shot and risk a watery grave... or if the tide is out a sandy one.
After this brilliantly strategic hole we are well and truly away from the hum of suburbia and we now enter the “Valleys of Portsalon”. For the next ten holes of so we weave backwards and forwards between impressive dunes, at times dominantly large, as we play a series of intelligent holes; four of which share a pair of lovely double greens. The bunkering, especially on the fairways, is minimal and that is thanks to the wonderful, rolling terrain we play across. The greens have lots of appeal too; some are raised with drop-offs whilst others are more gathering in nature.
The final third of the round transitions to holes with a more inland feel. The grass is a shade greener and the golf course not quite as pure. That is not to say the quality drops on this marginally more inland part of the course. The 13th is quite an unusual hole and I’m still not quite sure what to make of it; the fairway abruptly ends before dipping down in front of the raised green, a rocky bank covered with trees also interferes on both drive and approach.
The 14th and 15th are perhaps the pick of the bunch over the closing stretch. The former has a fairway that bends and falls dramatically whilst the next is a cunning short hole with a great green complex and is played uphill at right-angles to most other holes on the course.
Portsalson is a bit of mixed bag but it all comes together quite nicely and complements the other courses in Co. Donegal well. If one is familiar with Lundin Links in Fife, Scotland I would say there are some similarities here.
I will admit I did not get the greatest vibes from Portsalon at the time of asking but the more I reflected on the course the more I appreciated it.
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.