“FALDO’S AD­MI­RA­TION WAS SO DEEP THAT HE MADE OVER­TURES TO BUY THE CLUB IN 1996 AFTER THE GLASHEDY HAD OPENED.”

bal­lylif­fin gc– old & glashedy links

Golf Digest Middle East - - The Golf Life Golfers We Like -

When Pat Ruddy fi­nally laid eyes on the 400 odd acres of stun­ning dunes­land sur­round­ing Bal­lylif­fin Golf Club in 1992, nearly 30 years after he was first im­plored to visit, he swooned.

The renowned Ir­ish ar­chi­tect had agreed to ad­vise the club on im­prov­ing the bunker­ing of its Old Links (the full 18 holes of which opened in 1973) but quickly had other ideas. “For­get about bunker­ing the links you have,” he urged. “Lets build a world beat­ing sec­ond links. We can get back to bunker­ing your ex­ist­ing links later.”

Work duly started on the Glashedy Links in May 1993 and, as is the “Done­gal Way”, a place where slow play is clearly dis­cour­aged, the course was of­fi­cially opened on Au­gust 3, 1995.

Bal­lylif­fin sud­denly had 36 holes of world-class golf and vis­it­ing golfers a per­fect ex­cuse to ex­tend any North­ern Ire­land trip to the north­ern most course in the land. Tech­ni­cally the leisurely two hour, 100km drive in­land and then up coun­try from our Bushmills HQ near Portrush sees you leave Wes­teros and cross the bor­der into Ire­land. But it’s well worth the ef­fort.

It’s easy to see why Ruddy and his late busi­ness part­ner Tom Crad­dock fell in love with the place be­cause the Inishowen Penin­sula is one of the most pic­turesque ar­eas in Ire­land. Spread be­tween tow­er­ing hills and Pollen Beach on the At­lantic, they found per­fect, rum­pled links land en­sur­ing there isn’t a weak hole among the 36 weaved in be­tween the wind swept mar­ram grass.

The open­ing hole on Glashedy is an aes­thet­i­cally invit­ing par 4 and the vis­tas ramp up on the 5th, a par 3 played out to­wards Glashedy Rock. There’s an­other mem­o­rable par 3 two holes later, this time played in­land and down­hill to a green pro­tected by a pond (p.60). Later the re­ward for reach­ing the top of the par 5 13th hole is a view back down the fair­way and out to sea, and the short walk to the next hole, a spec­tac­u­lar par 3 played to­wards the ocean and pro­tected by a trio of pot bunkers.

A month into the build­ing of the Glashedy, Nick Faldo he­li­coptered in to play the Old Links which he re­port­edly de­clared “the most nat­u­ral links” he’d ever en­coun­tered. His ad­mi­ra­tion was so deep that he made over­tures to buy the club in 1996 after the Glashedy had opened, a bid that was even­tu­ally voted down by the mem­ber­ship. How­ever, the club did em­ploy the six-time ma­jor cham­pion’s de­sign com­pany to redo its bunker­ing, build new tees and en­large some greens, much to Ruddy’s con­ster­na­tion. The work was com­pleted in 2006 and a promis­ing young am­a­teur by the name of Rory McIl­roy, play­ing off +4, looped the re­vamped lay­out in a course record 67 strokes play­ing along­side Faldo at the re­open­ing. Ruddy might have missed out on the work but the Faldo-McIl­roy con­nec­tion con­tin­ues to play pro­mo­tional div­i­dends to­day.

above: look­ing out to glashedy rock at bal­lylif­fin gc top left: port­stew­art’s club­house over­look­ing the strand bot­tom left: the mag­nif­i­cent 2nd hole at port­stew­art gc

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