I was lucky enough to get the chance to play the best golf courses in Sligo recently as part of The 2015 Social Media Links Challenge while also getting in a pre-tournament round at Strandhill Golf Club which served as great preparation also. Staying at the Yeats Country Hotel Spa & Leisure Club it provided the ideal base for a golfing trip to remember and I would recommend Sligo to all keen golfers who enjoy great links golf and also superb hospitality and service.
Arriving on Thursday 13th August 2015, I spent the first 3 hours of the trip in my Audi en route to Sligo from Limerick – leaving at 7am it promised to be a long day but with blue skies all the way to Strandhill Golf Club there was certainly the excitement of playing a new course for me. An absolutely stunning location greeted me at approximately 10am and I managed to get in a few pre-round photos before checking out the clubhouse. A very welcoming building with Cyril in the Golf Shop adding to this – I was booked in on my own (on ladies’ day as well!) so I was hoping to get paired up with some green fee paying golfers if possible, Cyril obliged and I was paired with 3 Americans from New York who were in Sligo more for the Fleadh than golf but they were still getting in a few holes at Strandhill during the week – Sean, Paul & Brian would strangely enough by my guides for the 18 holes as they had played the course 2 days previous! Even with this in mind I was still asked on the 1st tee – “where are we going here, Tom?” Definitely a case of the blind leading the blind to start with anyway!
The 1st at Strandhill is a dog leg left par-5 with a semi-blind tee shot in that you rarely see where you opening effort ends up but it is still easy to see that the hole goes left even though the fairway initially slopes from left to right – my trusty snap hook obliged on the 1st and I was in the centre of the cut and prepared off the tee. The layup is straightforward enough but then it gets interesting – a well-protected green with bunkers in front and many slopes to contend with around the green itself made the middle left pin nearly inaccessible for our approach shots. I bailed out a touch right and managed to 2 putt for par and was happy with that. 3 more pars followed in various fashions – a few long 2 putts and a much valued up-and-down on the 4th. The par-5 5th is a lovely hole bringing you back towards the Clubhouse while the sloping fairway makes the layup more difficult than you might like, the green is again well protected with a bunker short left (where I ended up!) and plenty slopes to contend with from there. A bogey 6 resulted from my approach shot that met a sandy grave! Further bogeys followed on 6 and 7 while I managed a long par putt on 8 to get back on track. 6 is a gorgeous dog leg right par-4 that takes you back towards the beach while 7 runs parallel with the beach but it’s a pity it wasn’t closer to it – the smell of fish n’ chips nearly made me forget about my run of bogeys! The 9th is a nice par-3 to close out the front 9 with it playing usually between 125 – 140 yards, I didn’t manage to get the club right on this occasion so I was back on the bogey train!
The back 9 begins with a testing par-4 with trouble down the left hand side, so much so I took an advance look at the 11th fairway from the tee! 10 brings you back towards the Clubhouse so we decided to grab a few refreshments without delaying the round too much – the guys needed to collect their kids from the music school but I was happy enjoying the beautiful weather and fantastic golfing test. The 11th a lovely uphill par-4, if you can get your tee shot away you should just have a short iron to wedge in but I would think this is different when the wind blows! 13 is probably my favourite hole on the course, a sharp dog leg right par-4 with one of the best protected greens I have ever seen. You have 2 options off the tee really – hit it where you see it with a long iron or fairway wood or take on the carry over the white stone to the corner of the dog leg. We all tried the carry over the white stone, to varying degrees of success! The green is superb, bordered on both sides by sand dunes with just a narrow entrance should you need to hit a low linksy approach shot. 14 is a decent par-3 which is adjacent to the 7th hole and again gives you a lovely view of the beach. It plays about 2-3 clubs longer than the 9th, well at least on the day we played it anyway. The 15th is an interesting steeply uphill par-4, you can take on the carry over the dunes on the left off the tee and bank on a good bounce, thankfully I managed that carry but couldn’t manage a par in the end! Back up at the top of the course we were again back near the Clubhouse for the closing 3 holes, by this time the New York/New Jersey contingent seemed to be pressed for time and decided they would play best ball for the last of your golfing adventure. 16 is a straight par-4, slightly downhill to a huge green. Distance control for your second shot is key as there are many pin position options including a plateau on the back of the green which I’m sure will provide for some tricky 2 putts. 17 is a good par-3, playing the guts of 180 yards from the whites and into the breeze had us thinking of a long iron or possibly even a fairway metal. Back close to the beach now we were again enjoying the vista that accompanied us along the 2nd, 3rd and 4th holes which provide an excellent and enjoyable test. 18 is a tough finishing hole, long par-4 uphill back towards the Clubhouse. The drive is narrow with Out of Bounds and lateral hazards down the right while heavy rough awaits you on the left hand side – the trusty snap hook wasn’t as trusty here as I ended up in the aforementioned heavy rough but the resultant bogey did not take away from a thoroughly enjoyable round of golf.
Many thanks to Strandhill Golf Club for a super day – your course is a gem and I look forward to playing it again in the future. Huge thanks to Cyril in the Golf Shop and my playing partners – Sean, Brian & Paul – for a thoroughly enjoyable day. Hopefully Sean will get the putter out of the bag in the near future, an amazing “putting” technique with a wedge!
It was now the mid-afternoon and I took the short drive from Strandhill through Sligo to Rosses Point where I would make my home at Yeats Country Hotel Spa & Leisure Club for the night. Yeats Country Hotel Spa & Leisure Club is the only hotel located in the scenic village of Rosses Point, a discovery point on the Wild Atlantic Way. This hotel boasts 98 well-appointed rooms (luckily one of them mine for a night!) overlooking Sligo Bay, and has a large leisure centre complete with pool, Jacuzzi, sauna, steam room and fully equipped gym and gorgeous spa, which offers world renowned seaweed baths ideal for soak those aching golfing muscles after a day on the links (unfortunately I didn’t have time for this!!). Yeats Country Hotel Spa & Leisure Club host a Golf Classic twice year, in May & October – 5 wonderful nights’ B&B plus 5 evening meals in their Elsinore Restaurant along with 3 rounds of golf on 2 of Ireland’s finest links courses. The tournament organiser, Roddy Gillen, will ensure all Ladies & Gents entered will have a great time, both on and off the course! For further details on this call +353-71-9177211 or email email@example.com.
Yeats Country Hotel Spa & Leisure Club is ideal for golfers, no more than a wedge from the 1st Tee at County Sligo Golf Club and also close to some lovely pubs like Austies (good food there too!) and Harry’s (even though they didn’t have Sky Sports for the golf!!). Yeats is a beautiful spot and my room was fantastic, perfect for a chill out after a great day on the links. The facilities at Yeats are great – rooms are beautiful, they have 2 bars (2 big thumbs up in my book) while their restaurant was excellent as well. After a few hours in the Clubhouse at County Sligo GC to watch Round 1 of The PGA Championship I headed for bed, there was another long day ahead tomorrow. Next up would be Rosses Point the following morning!
Rising at 7.30am I looked out my window (there were 3 big ones actually!) to see misty rain and hear the wind buffeting about, not the ideal start to the day but maybe after breakfast it wouldn’t feel as bad. A lovely buffet greeted me in the restaurant and after having my fill of cereal, toast, juice and a full Irish I was definitely ready to take on the World…………and hopefully County Sligo Golf Club as well! This is a serious test of golf and the changes the course is currently undergoing will have future benefits for sure. Straight from the 1st hole you are tested and although it can seem like an easy enough start as both the opening holes are relatively short there is not lack of danger to be found luckily our 4 did not find much trouble but still found pars few and far between early on. While 1 and 2 are short enough par-4s the 3rd hole is a testing par-5 with the tee shot with some tactical decisions into your mind, the longer hitters can try to carry onto the lower fairway but that shot is fraught with danger. The 4th, par-3, is a superb short hole and with the left hand pin and left-to-right cross wind it was near impossible to get close to the flag even though we were informed an earlier Hole-in-One from Barry Hennessy playing as part of our Social Media Links Challenge tournament! 5 is another par-5 and takes you down onto the lower part of the course – it’s a good opportunity for birdie but you still need to negotiate the downhill tee shot and the crosswind as well. 6 and 7 are probably the 2 toughest par-4s I have played back-to-back, the green side water hazard on 6 contributing to an extremely difficult approach shot. 7 provides a tough tee shot, if you can hug the right hand side you will have a shorter shot into the green but there is tough rough down that side while bailing out on the left leaves you with a longer second shot to contend with. 9 is a lovey par-3 and even though it can play as little as a wedge you better get you ball on the green because there are many slopes and bunkers to contend with if you don’t!
The second 9 at Rosses Point is a superb run of holes, starting with two testing par-4s in 10 and 11 followed by 12 which is one of my favourite par-5s in Ireland, with Ben Bulben behind you from the tee and the sea in the background behind the greens it makes for a wonderful golf hole. 13 is a sweet little par-3 with danger everywhere except for possibly front left. Thankfully I had a nice run of pars and good swings going by the time I took to the tee on 13! 14 is a testing par-4, especially with a meandering water hazard to contend with off the tee and then a challenging and well-protected green which we all found tough with a tight right pin position. 15 isn’t all about the tee shot but it seems like it is! Clear the dune on the right and it should be plain sailing, of course you still need to miss those bunkers on the left side of the green too. The 16th is a very challenging par-3 with room to bail out on the left should you err with your tee shot, a par 3 here and you’re a happy golfer. 17 is a beast, a tricky tee shot in that you can run into the rough even with a straight tee shot so tactics and an exact yardage is crucial. The uphill second shot is quite testing and requires the same exactness with yardage and direction that hopefully worked for the tee shot, I got neither shot right on the day! 18 is the only slightly blind tee shot on the back 9, over the stone and then start praying! If you can keep the ball down the left side it will help your approach shot as there are cavernous bunker to contend with on the right hand side of the green. A par-par finish and dinner will taste all the better in the Clubhouse!
My guilty pleasure and favourite course in Sligo is Enniscrone Golf Club! Perched on the Sligo/Mayo border it is heaven for anybody that loves links golf! If you haven’t played this beautiful golf course yet get yourself to Sligo and take on the challenge. I am lucky enough to have played the course numerous times and I have to say that on Sunday 16th August 2015 it was in the best condition I have ever seen it, and definitely up there as one of the best courses in Ireland based on the way it is being presented and maintained at the moment. I’ll do you a favour and not go through each and every hole at Enniscrone, you should really see it for yourself and you will be happy when you do.
So that was my trip to Sligo – it’s a lucky county to have 3 fantastic links courses and I count myself lucky to have played them for sure! Throw in a few nights at Yeats Country Hotel Spa & Leisure Club and you’ll be laughing, an ideal base for a golfing trip in the West of Ireland.