Our Third Links Course on Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way, Donegal Golf Club

Situated on the coastline known as the Wild Atlantic Way, Donegal Golf Club is located on the Murvagh peninsula in South Donegal on the west coast of Ireland. The original course design was by Eddie Hackett, an Irish golf course architecture legend. The course is also known locally as Murvagh, the Muirfield of Ireland. Over the years the course has been re-moulded by the “Master of Links Design” Pat Ruddy.

Murvagh is not an old club. It opened in 1960 and the current course was constructed in 1973. It surprises us that all the courses we have played on this trip. the two courses at Ballyliffin and Donegal are less than 65 years old. These courses are so natural that they feel as if they have been around for decades longer.

The Right Tees

We always emphasise that choosing the correct set of tees to play from is paramount to your enjoyment of any course. It is especially important here where there are five sets of tees to choose from ranging from 5792 yards to 7456 yards. We chose to play from the green tees at 6498 yards and it turned out to be the correct decision.

The course is a par 73 with the front nine almost 200 yards longer than the back nine. As we stepped onto the first tee, a squall blew through. We had heavy rain for about two minutes and the wind got up. We managed to wait long enough for it to blow through and off we went with the full waterproof suit on and after a couple of holes, the sun came out. A proper links day.

The Opening Nine

As always, we have selected what we consider to be the best or most individual holes on the course. You may disagree but then again, it’s all about opinions, isn’t it? We hope you enjoy our choices.

The approach to the 2nd green

Our favourites on the front nine were the 2nd, the 5th and the 8th holes. The 2nd hole is a par 4 of 377 yards but it’s the 3rd hardest hole on the course. A decent drive will leave you a mid-iron shot to the green. Looking at the approach shot, visually It’s deceptive. You have to club up as anything short will roll back off the front of the green. Accuracy is key here as the green is small. If you make a par it will bring a smile to your face.

The aptly named Valley of Tears

The 5th hole is the course’s signature hole, the Valley of Tears. Similar in design to the famous 16th hole at Royal Portrush, Calamity, for us it was playing 174 yards. Fortunately, it was downwind and our solid 7 iron found the middle of the green. What you can’t see in the photo is a large bunker in the dip short of the green. it sits to the left of the bunker you can see. Now we know where the “Valley of Tears” moniker comes from. Don’t be short on this hole.

Quirky and Challenging

Our 3rd shot to the 8th

The 8th hole is a par 5 of 478 yards however it plays longer than that as it’s uphill. The second shot is blind so we walked up and had a look. The is a sliver of fairway to the left and there is a plateau over the hill then an embankment with rough. We hit a layup shot onto the plateau which left us with a great view of the green as you can see above. Our advice is to play this as a three-shot hole and avoid a potential disaster.

Cracking Par 5’s

Our favourite holes on the back nine were the 12th, 14th and 17th holes. Two of these holes, 12 and 14 are par 5’s and the 17th is a par 4.

The 12th hole

This par 5 was playing 533 yards, which was the longest hole we played. Its design made it a 3 shot hole for us. The landing area for your tee shot is wide and inviting. The ditch running across the fairway 30 yards short of the green made it a layup with an iron. This left us with a pitch shot of just over 110 yards and a straightforward par. Beyond the ditch, bunkers protect the green so if it’s in your range after your tee shot, you need to be able to carry it to the green.

The 14th hole

This par 5 plays 504 yards. As with the 12th, this was a 3-shot par 5 for us. Again, there is a ditch and bunkers short of the green so if you go for it in two, you need to be able to carry the yardage you have left. We don’t hit it that far so a drive, an iron and a pitch gave us a birdie putt, which we didn’t convert.

New Hole Design

The 17th hole

The 383-yard par 4 hole has recently been remodelled by Paul McGinley’s Design Company. Your ideal tee shot is just left of the bunker on the right side of the fairway. This will leave you a short iron into a green protected by three large bunkers. You can’t see much of the putting surface so trust your yardage.

In Our Opinion

Donegal Golf Club is certainly worth a visit. It’s a course that will test your strategy and your ball-striking abilities. It’s a long track, the course from the green tees was the second shortest of the five sets of tees. However, it’s not a hard walking course. Yes, there are a few hills but we didn’t find it too challenging.

The course was in very good condition and the greens were a pleasure to putt on. The Club has recently engaged Paul McGinley’s Course Design company to make further alterations to the course. It is proposed that seven of the holes be remodelled. Plans for holes 2, 3, 4 and 5 along with 16, 17 and 18 have been drawn up and agreed upon by the membership. The 17th is one of the first holes to have been completed. The proposed changes will only enhance these links even further.

Thank you to Grainne (pronounced Gronya, yes we had to look it up!) Dorrian, the Club Administrator at Donegal Golf Club for hosting us and Sean in the pro shop for his advice about the course.

Where to Stay

The Sandhouse Hotel

We stayed in the 4-star Sandhouse Hotel and Marine Spa in the village of Rossnowlagh, which is less than a 15-minute drive from the golf club. The location of the hotel is right on the spectacular Rossnowlagh Beach, which you can drive onto and park your car. The area is popular with the surfing community. There is a surf shop right across the road from the hotel, which even has a Surfers bar which is open in the summer months.

Our Room

We were lucky, we had a large spacious room on the top floor which looked out onto the beach. It was mesmerising and calming, sitting looking out at the Atlantic Ocean. We ventured out before dinner and walked a couple of miles along the beach. We were not alone. There were dog walkers, paddlers, families and older couples like ourselves just enjoying the walk and the fresh air. This is a special place and you should make the effort to visit.

Outstanding Food

We had dinner in the hotel’s Glasshouse Restaurant and the food was wonderful. We had the sirloin steak with brandy and peppercorn sauce and also the Supreme of Chicken wrapped in Proscuitto Ham. Not in the photos are our potatoes and fresh vegetables that accompanied our mains. The restaurant looks out over the beach and with a setting sun, lovely wine and wonderful food, our meal was simply perfect.

After a great night’s sleep, we had breakfast in the same restaurant. All the ingredients for our breakfast were locally sourced and you can tell that through the flavours in the bacon, sausages and organic poached eggs. What a way to start your day.

We highly recommend the Sandhouse Hotel for a few night’s stay. The rooms are comfortable, the food is fantastic and the location is exceptional. If you need to unwind, this is the perfect place to do so. Thank you to Maggie Lyons, the hotel’s Front Office Manager for organising our stay. We will be back!

At a Glance
  • 18-hole championship links course
  • Excellent practice facilities with a driving range and short game area
  • Welcoming staff in the clubhouse and pro shop
  • 15 minutes drive from Donegal Town
  • For more information, visit Donegal Golf Club
  • For information about the hotel, visit the SandHouse Hotel





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