Last week I made a return trip to Doonbeg golf club not really knowing what to expect. The original course was designed by golf architect Greg Norman and I always felt that he had not made best use of what is a pretty incredible bit of links land, in a most gorgeous part of the west coast of Ireland, overlooking the breath-taking beach at Doonbeg.
Notwithstanding that a large track of the land was preserved, for the protection of a small species of snail, I was still disappointed with the original layout.
I had last visited Doonbeg in April 2014, just after the severe storms earlier that year had wreaked havoc on the course and literally washed a number of greens into the Atlantic Ocean. I had seen something similar in Ballybunion when the old second green now the 7th had literally vanished into the ocean in a bad storm many years ago. Since that time Ballybunion Golf Club have spent an enormous amount of money each year protecting their golf course boundaries by the use of gabions, basically cages of stones which they have placed on the shore line to protect their vulnerable sandy soil. This has worked really well and if this work had not been done I wonder how much of the original Ballybunion golf course would be still there today!
Photo taken April 2014 when the original 9th green at Doonbeg was literally blown away. My friend PJ Queally is the good looking model in the photo!
Anyway, just to say that I was absolutely taken with the new Doonbeg. It is in my view up there with the very best golf courses in Ireland. In fact with the new course in Hogg’s Head in Waterville now practically finished and due to open next year, and the new Doonbeg I think that the pool of great Irish golf courses has been considerably enhanced. Martin Hawtree the architect and his team have I think done a splendid job at Doonbeg.
I had serious reservations about what the new Doonbeg would look like because I was not a fan of the work that the same Martin Hawtree had done a few years ago at Little Island where he messed around with the bunkers and put in many unnecessary and silly ones and in my view did a rotten job on the reconstruction of what was a lovely traditional Little Island hole the 12th.
At Doonbeg however he has I think transformed what was a mediocre course, in a great location, into a classic traditional links golf course and yes I am absolutely raving about it..it is up there with Ballybunion, Waterville, Portmarnock, Portrush,Lahinch and all the other top notch Irish links golf courses.
There is however one major problem at Doonbeg and if it is not resolved soon there could well be another major natural disaster waiting to happen. All that is needed is one major Atlantic storm and much of the great work done recently at Doonbeg could well be blown away.
When I visited Doonbeg in April 2014 there were mounds of stones on site waiting to be put into use for coastal protection. This was just after Donald Trump’s company had purchased the golf Course.
It later transpired that Donald Trump’s company and Clare County Council were in dispute about planning permission and also involved in the dispute now are environmentalists and also the surfers who use the wonderful beach for surfing. Not sure what the surfers problems are.
Currently there is no protection in place and the entire strip of land that is adjacent to the sea is totally vulnerable. In fact by the wonderful 18th hole played towards the hotel and clubhouse there is literally two feet of sand between the beach and the fairway. On one of the greens they have put a few bails of straw between the green and the sea. Currently that is the only protection in place. The land is in serious danger of coastal erosion.
Photo of new green with temporary protection.
We are now fast approaching another winter. I appeal to all concerned to sort something out now before it is too late. This wonderful golf links at Doonbeg needs to be protected from the elements. Clare tourism and Ireland needs this type of high class product where the golf course and hotel combine to attract vital golfing and wedding revenues and give important local employment. Doonbeg is a special place but is quite isolated. It needs everything to be right to work well.
Please please will somebody out there sort out this ongoing impasse and let this work begin!
Ted Dwyer Family Business