After playing and staying at Portmarnock Hotel and Golf Links, we headed north up the M1 to Drogheda, which would be our base for a couple of days before heading back up to Northern Ireland. We were staying in the D Hotel in Drogheda and playing at Laytown and Bettystown Golf Club.
Now, we didn’t know much about L&B, except that the photos we had seen of the course looked stunning. It’s not one of the more famous links courses but we were really looking forward to playing there with the General Manager, David Reilly.
History, Disappointment and New Friends
L&B was officially formed in 1909 although golf was played on the land years earlier. A Scotsman, Tom Gilroy, being a fanatical golfer, had built a 4 hole course, close to his home, in the 1880’s. It is recorded that the land was plagued with rabbits and Gilroy eventually abandoned his private course and was involved in the formation of County Louth GC, known as Baltray, in 1892.
When we arrived at the Club, we found out that unfortunately, David, the General Manager had to call off. After speaking with Gavin Byrne, the Club’s Head Professional, he arranged for us to play with three members, who were going out in the Wednesday Open Stableford. This was great on two fronts. One, we got to play with members who knew the course. Two, it meant we were not out at the end of a competition, where it could takes ages to get round.
The course at L&B ranges from 5602 yards to 6426 yards. As there was a competition on, there was only the one set of tees out. I think we played a mixture of tees so I have no idea what our overall yardage was. Somewhere between 6256 and 6426 yards. We met up with Tom, Ken and Bernard on the first tee and after our introductions, we let the boys tee off first on each hole, as they were playing in the competition.
For the first time, and only time it turned out, we started with a birdie on the opening hole. A 3 wood into the right rough, a gap wedge onto the green and a six foot putt. We were off and running, or so we thought.
Approach to The Strand
The second hole, The Strand, at just under 320 yards, should be a birdie chance. As you can see, it’s quite difficult to judge your approach to a green that sits on your horizon. We hit 3 wood off the tee then a wedge to the green, but were on the back edge. The 30 foot downhill left to right putt came up short as we were afraid of putting off the green and down the slope. We also missed the one for par. A 3 putt bogey. The green slopes and the run off areas were to be a significant feature on many of the holes.
The fourth, Bottleneck, was a par 5. At 480 yards, we thought it was a birdie chance. This was to be an incorrect assumption. Our tee shot was slightly left and careered into a bunker face. Our second shot was a trick shot. The ball was perched at the top of the steep bunker face, about an inch from falling back in. Our stance was creative to say the least. We chose a 3 hybrid and had a swipe at it without any lower body movement. Surprisingly, we made good contact, much to the amazement of our playing partners, and knocked it 200 yards up the hill towards the green. Our luck would be short lived as we duffed our chip and ended up with a bogey 6.
Approach to The Mournes
The 5th hole, The Mournes, is one of those hole where positioning your ball on the fairway is key. At 354 yards, it’s not long. The fairway goes from left to right and is partially obscured by a dune on the right. We again went with 3 wood off the tee and cut the corner. We ended up only a couple of yards from a deep bunker, but in a great position. From there we hit a good 7 iron to a green that sat above us. Two putts and another par.
Difficult Par 3
The 6th hole, Aliera, is the first of the par 3’s. At 166 yards, the wind off the sea was into and out of our right. We went with 5 iron to ensure we were up. The wind didn’t affect our short and we missed the green pin hight to the right. Another duffed chip and we had our first double bogey of the round. It’s a green you can’t miss left or right, short or long. If you are going to miss it, miss it short as you can putt it from there.
The 7th is a cracking hole. Named Warren, from the elevated tee you can see the hole laid out in front of you. At 380 yards, it’s not long, but you have to hit the fairway. We decided to hit our 3 hybrid as the fairway narrows the further you go. A poor strike clipped the tree and disappeared to the right into the dunes. We had two go’s with a sand wedge to get it onto the fairway, an 8 iron to the green and two putts and we had our second double, in a row!
The Hen Pen
The second par 3 on the front nine, Hen Pen, is another difficult hole. At 190 yards, it’s slightly uphill with the wind out of the left. We went with a 5 iron and came up short and left. A poor chip and we walked off with a bogey. A par at the ninth and we had reached the turn in six over. Not great and not impressing our playing partners. Hopefully our golf would be better on the back nine.
Things began to look up as we started the run home with two pars at ten and eleven. The final par 3, the 12th, was a bit of a shock. We thought the first two were difficult, we couldn’t even see the pin or most of the green on the 12th.
Where is the Hole on The Quarry?
The 12th, The Quarry, was playing around 175 yards. The green is above you and you can’t see most of it, only a sliver on the left. We couldn’t see the pin unless we walked to our left. It was hidden behind a dune on the right. We hit our 3 hybrid as the wind was into and out of our right. Our tee shot ended up on the top of the embankment on the left centre of the green. The chip down was good but it ran on and we missed the putt. Four over for the three par 3’s. We told you they were difficult!!
Approach to Lighthouse
Many members consider the 13th, Lighthouse, to be L&B’s signature hole. At 414 yards, you can’t really see where you are going on this hole. You can see a bit of the fairway from the tee. The hole goes from right to left. Find the fairway and the photo above is your second shot. The green is guarded by a bunker on the left and a red staked area on the right. We hit a very good driver here, thanks to a line from our members, and a wedge, downhill to the green. We made an easy par but this hole can easily wreck your score.
The 15th hole, Lars, is the hardest and the longest par 4 on the course at 460 yards. The line off the tee is up the right side however too far right and you will be in heavy rough and possibly among the pine trees. We managed to hit the fairway and found the green with a 5 iron. Three pars in a row and only one over on the back nine. Two more pars at 16 and 17 and we stood on the last tee, with a par for 36 back and one over.
Playing the Last
Now, normally we would have a photo of the last hole. However, from the tee on this 480 yard par 5, you can only see a couple of bunkers, a bit of the right hand side of the fairway. We hit a good drive and just missed the bunkers. You also can’t see the green, from any angle. Dunes run almost all the way across the hole so you are playing your second shot blind. The line was the left corner of the clubhouse. Our 3 hybrid was on line, but short.
When we got over the dunes, we discovered our shot had finished behind another dune. Our pitch came up short of the green and 3 putts later, another bogey. It’s a difficult hole as you can’t see where you are going until the very end. It wasn’t surprising that we bogeyed it on our first time playing it. We should have hit our second down the right of the fairway and even though you still can’t see the green, the angle in is much better
The Four Amigos
We found Laytown and Bettystown to be quirky, tricky, challenging, enjoyable, fun, frustrating and visually intimidating. To score here you have to manage your ball strategically around the course. There are a number of holes where to hit the green, you have to be hitting your irons really well. Many of the green complexes have multiple run off areas so clubbing is at a premium. This is a ball strikers course where local knowledge is key to a good round. Hopefully, with the knowledge we gained of where not to go, any return visit will yield a better score.
Where to Stay
The D Hotel
We stayed in the D Hotel in the town centre of Drogheda. The hotel overlooks the River Boyne and is the ideal base to explore the local area, both for culture, shopping and for golf. For shopping enthusiasts, the hotel backs onto a large Dunnes Store and the local shops are a short walk away. There are three cracking links courses nearby. L&B, Seapoint Golf Links and County Louth GC, also known as Baltray.
Our room was large and the bed really comfortable. We had a balcony although sitting out was not an option when we were there as it was cool and breezy. The hotel facilities were excellent and the staff were welcoming and helpful. Note. the car park is not owned by the hotel and is chargeable. Make sure you speak to the reception staff before parking your car.
There are plenty of options for dining out both in the town centre and at the hotel. The Hops Bar and Goodwins Steakhouse and Grill in the hotel both serve lovely pub food and great steaks. Breakfast is served in Goodwins. There is plenty of choice in the buffet selection, both hot and cold choices with local bread and pastries too.
Inside our snug
When in Drogheda, you must pay a visit to a local pub, Clarke & Sons Bar. It’s a tradition public house with small sectioned off areas called snugs. We reckon it’s not changed in the last 70 years, nor has it been decorated in that time. Nicotine stained ceilings, flaking paintwork, engravings in the woodwork and plenty of character. Our description doesn’t sound nice or atmospheric, but it’s a step back in time that you need to experience.
We really need to thank everyone we met at L&B. Gavin, the Head Pro, for stepping in and sorting us out with a game in David’s absence. Ken, Tom and Bernard for their company and the great craic, both on the course and in the clubhouse. David, the GM for inviting us to play. Thanks are also due to Kevin wall, the Revenue Manager at the D Hotel for hosting us and finally Gerry Kelly of Carr Golf, who took time out of his busy schedule to meet us for coffee and to catch up.
Next time, our final destination on this trip, Ardglass Golf Club back in Northern Ireland.