“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
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