Connemara Golf Club - An Irish Golf Adventure

By Alan B. Nichols

Ballyconneely, home of Connemara Golf Club

A "true" links course lies on land that is linked to the sea and, by definition, is one built entirely on beach sand. Connemara Golf Club is one of the few authentic links courses in the world.

The 50-mile drive from Galway City to the course located in the far western reaches of the Connemara Peninsula takes you through breathtaking scenery. I took the northern route that follows the western shore of Lough Corrib until the road veers west to the crossroads town of Maam Cross, where "The Quiet Man," starring John Wayne and Maureen O'Hara was filmed. Some 20 miles further is Clifden, the capital of Connemara, a holiday town known for its pony show. Clifden motorists are greeted by twin church steeples facing each other on the opposite sides of the road.

The course lies on Slyne Head between the majestic Connemara Mountains and the Atlantic Ocean in the tiny village of Ballyconneely, about a 15 minute drive south of Clifden. Because it is remote, the course gets less play than the better known courses.

Connemara was originally routed by the late Irishman Eddie Hackett and completed in the early 1970s by Tom Craddock, who co-designed Druids Glen, among others. At 6,262 meters (add 10% to get yardage) from the whites, it plays to a par 72. The front 9 is flat and includes a series of undistinguished par 4's of between 340 and 370 meters and a reachable par 5.


The course comes alive on the more elevated and duned back side featuring the splendid 200-yard 13th from an elevated tee over a valley to an elevated green with a severely sloped front that rejects anything short. The side also features three par 5's including the straight-away 500-yard 17th to an elevated green ringed by a natural amphitheater.

The dunes here are not nearly so high or prevalent as you will find on the more famous links, making the course especially enjoyable for the more physically challenged players. Golfers not on their A game will also welcome rough that is maintained at ball-finding length. In a quaint visual feature, low stone fences that don't come into play are visible on the front side of this course, which offers eye-catching views from nearly every vantage point.

When I played the course in late May 2000, some of the greens and fairways were a bit thin, the result of trying to maintain turf on sand, especially under frequent and severe weather conditions. But the course is still young and over time turf conditions will improve, given the club's stated commitment to excellence.

The club, which has hosted minor Irish championships, wants to host a world class event. It may get its wish, as a brand new 9, built closer to the sea, joins the current back 9 to create what is expected to be a truly outstanding venue. Eventually the Connemara Golf Club will consist of 36 holes.