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.
Quaint Ballyconneely, home of Connemara Golf Club
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.
One of the back holes at Connemara
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
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.
An Irish Golf Adventure