In 1892, the Black Watch Regiment, whose hardy souls were stationed nearby, came across this wilderness of dunes, and being good Scotsmen they instantly realised that this godsend was meant to host a golf course.
These days Lahinch is home to two fantastic golf courses, the Old and the Castle, both of which thrill visiting golfers with soft spot for traditional links golf. Ideally situated literally a stone’s throw from the town from which its name is derived, Lahinch also boasts ample practice facilities and a fantastic clubhouse, not to mention a friendly membership who are more than accommodating to visiting golfers.
Like Ballybunion, which is located further south on the other side of the Shannon estuary, Lahinch is set amongst the dunes that dominate this stretch of the south west coast, and golfers including Lahinch on their golf tour itineraries are assured one of the best links golf experiences in the country.
All you need do to understand the quality of golf on offer here is to look to the list of famous names that have left their fingerprints on the course. Old Tom Morris was heavily involved in Lahinch’s formative years and Dr Alistair Mackenzie – he of Augusta National and Cypress Point fame – has since sprinkled his magic dust over the links, resulting in one of the most enjoyable tests of golf in Ireland; one that Phil Mickelson certainly has a soft spot for. Of the links at Lahinch, the legendary left-hander said, “I’m actually a member at Lahinch. Lahinch is one of my favourite golf courses in the world.”
While the setting here is pure, quintessential links and so enchanting it seems fairytale-like, it is however, double-edged. Totally exposed to the elements, the course’s character can change in a heartbeat so be prepared for a rough ride should the weather take a turn for the worse. One thing that never changes though; is the inherent challenge the course presents.
Quite simply, Lahinch is a shot-maker's haven and somewhere where the grip it and rip it mentality will more likely than not, prove to be futile and often catastrophic. Golfers are required to employ their creativity and innovation to offset awkward stances created by the endlessly rippling links land. Discipline, patience, and perseverance are required to combat patches of heather and gorse, not to mention the sometimes relentless wind.
Intimidating, all or nothing tee shots, ingenious bunker placement – one of Mackenzie’s hallmarks – and several blind shots also add to the challenge and charm of the Old Course. For lovers of links golf, Lahinch is simply not to be missed.
One last tip...the local goats who inhabit the course are the perfect barometer. When they’re casually grazing the links, all is well. When they’re seeking shelter, so should you!
|Designed by||Old Tom Morris, Dr Alistair Mackenzie & Dr Martin Hawtree|
|Opened for play||1892|
|Previously hosted||Irish Open (2019)|
|Blue||6,950 yards||SSS 74|
|White||6,613 yards||SSS 73|
|Green||6,339 yards||SSS 71|
|Red||5,502 yards||SSS 74|
Signature Hole – No. 6: Par 4, 424 yards (Blue Tees)
There are many holes at Lahinch which could rightly claim to offer a “signature” experience, such is the quality of the course as a whole, but it’s the holes late in the back nine and around the turn, those close to the shore, which really add some sparkle to Lahinch. While it’s a tough call, we’ll go with the par 4 6th as the signature hole.
The tee shot here is a demanding one, played to an elevated fairway, between two banks of dunes that line both sides of the hole. Once you emerge over the brow of the slope, the Atlantic Ocean suddenly appears, serving as a dramatic backdrop to the approach shot. A massive crater with a small bunker at its base serves as a distraction while over the approach shot, as do the spectacular views on offer out over the ocean.
The green, which seems to be perched on the edge of the world, is multi-tiered and well protected by dips, hollows, bunkers and banks of rough at the back. If you walk off with a par here, give yourself a pat on the back.
Lahinch Golf Club is ranked as one of the best courses in Ireland
Naturally, countless golfers flock to the fairways of Lahinch to have a crack at the Old Course, and while it would be fair to say the Castle Course is not quite in the same league as its older sibling; that is not so say it’s not worth playing. This is a bona fide links test, and one that is just as fun to play as the Old Course.
Laid out in the mid 1970s, the Castle Course occupies a patch of links land slightly further from the coast than its more established sibling, but the test of golf is entertaining nonetheless. The Castle is far shorter, more forgiving and less undulating than the Old, so it’s a great place for the higher handicap to get a taste of what’s to come on the Old, as well as offering a slightly more relaxing day on the fairways for the more proficient golfer.
The remains of Dough Castle, after which the course is named, are visible from various viewpoints around the course and is prominent towards the end of the front nine, especially on the 7th hole, adding a unique charm to the course.
|Designed by||Commander John D. Harris|
|Opened for play||1975|
|White||5,488 yards||SSS 67|
|Green||5,334 yards||SSS 66|
|Red||4,967 yards||SSS 70|
Signature Hole – No. 6: Par 3, 211 yards (White Tees)
The 6th is a beautiful par 3 which would certainly not look out of place on the neighbouring Old Course. The tee shot is played over a valley towards a well protected green with Dough Castle looking large in the background.
Picturesque, playable and yet potentially perilous; this hole is everything Lahinch Golf Course embodies.
The clubhouse is a welcoming place where even as a visitor you still feel like member of many years. Part of the charm of the clubhouse is that homely feeling and so it is important that you take some time to enjoy it. Enjoy the friendly and welcoming environment as you get ready for your round. You can also expect a nice pint of Guinness when you get in to discuss your round over. Make sure that you visit the pro shop and take a memento of the famous course home. Lahinch is a course that real discerning golfers know of and so you get serious kudos if you have played it. For the ultimate experience, get a caddy to help guide you around the course. You will be helped to play your best and also learn some more about the hallowed turf.
Some of the best players in the world are honorary members of the club including Irish greats such as Darren Clarke, Paul McGinley and Padraig Harrington. There is a reason that these golfers love this course, now it is your chance to find out this magic for yourself.
As far as I can tell, Lahinch doesn’t quite have the same reputation as the likes of Ballybunion and having recently played the Old Course, that’s a real puzzle as this course is an absolute cracker.
Having been eased into your round the testing holes start coming thick and fast from the 3rd onwards, with the final few holes of the front nine and the beginning of the back being the most spectacular on the course, skirting along the coastline and offering some awe-inspiring views out over the ocean. Have the camera ready when you reach the par 3 11th and par 5 12th as they are particularly pretty.
The course then starts to move back inland – it’s never too far away from the coast – and while the holes don’t offer the same amazing views, they are equally testing and enjoyable. Lahinch doesn’t have a single weak hole and it offers great variety as well, with tough par 3s being offset by reachable par 5s that offer good scoring opportunities for those who play them well.
I know some golfers aren’t massive fans of blind shots, of
which there are a few at Lahinch, but I happen to think these enhance the test
put forth by the course which is a very fair one indeed. Missing fairways at Lahinch is
a sure fire way to drop the odd shot but the rough is fair and doesn’t gobble
up balls like some other links courses I have played in the past, giving golfers the chance to salvage the situation with a good recovery
Lahinch is spectacular, fair and thoroughly enjoyable
with a fine clubhouse to boot. It's better than I had expected prior to travel, deserving of more recognition as one of Ireland's best courses and
an absolute must for any golfer heading to this part of the country.