Enniscrone Golf Club started out in life in 1918 as a modest nine-hole course. But it was the prolific Irish architect, Eddie Hackett, who put Enniscrone on the map, when, in 1974, he extended the layout to 18 holes. Donald Steel has recently extended the configuration to 27 holes by using new land and adjoining dunes. He has also changed the original flat opening holes, which were out of keeping with the rest. The main course now plots its way through the gigantic dunes and across the folded rippled links land. Now, with 27 holes, there are a number of playing options but it seems fitting that the main course is now called Dunes (the third nine is called Scurmore).
The location is ravishing; Enniscrone is set on a promontory, which juts out into Killala Bay at the mouth of the Moy Estuary. Scurmore, one Ireland’s most beautiful beaches, borders the links, while the moody Ox Mountains provide a stormy backdrop to the east and the Nephin Beg Range dominates the westerly skyline.
The course itself complements its surroundings. The fairways pitch and roll between towering shaggy dunes. Greens are raised on plateaux and protected by deep valleys and ravines, whilst others nestle at the feet of high dunes. There are elevated tee shots and panoramic ocean views. Enniscrone really is a breathtaking golf course with a serious challenge attached.
Stretching out to more than 7,000 yards from the tips, it calls for some solid driving. There is nothing unnatural about Enniscrone; it’s in tune with its surroundings, where there is this ever-present sense of space and freedom.
You must expect a bit of wind here, and that will naturally bring another dimension to the challenge. If you are feeling weary and windswept after your round, why not visit Kilcullen's Seaweed Baths in Enniscrone village? Guaranteed to provide relief from the rigours of the round. Or try and unravel the giant and rampageous Enniscrone black pig myth. But whatever you do, take the time to play this course before it gets too well known and becomes the Ballybunion of the Western Seaboard.
Enniscrone Golf Club was voted 2008 Golf Course of the Year at the Irish Golf Tour Operators Association Awards Ceremony. Enniscrone wins 2008 IGTOA Golf Course of the Year
A round at Enniscrone is a great experience, and if you can see the dune holes in the evening as the sun sets it's one of the most beautiful courses I've seen. Coming at the tail end of a tour that includes Ballyliffin, Rosapenna and Strandhill, the dunes at the West end of the course are still jaw dropping and the biggest we've ever seen. The dune holes twist and turn with elevation changes and scary drives in the ever present wind, and there are very challenging par 3's. The team are friendly and helpful, especially Keith in the office who dealt with our Atlantic Links Pass booking (excellent deal with Co Sligo and Strandhill) with great patience whose twin we met at Rosses Point. Sadly the greens are in a bit of a state at the moment which always takes the edge off, and the flat landward holes, whilst better golf than equivalents elsewhere, disrupted the flow. They certainly have lots of weather in this part of the world, thankfully we watched most of the heavy showers miss us to left and right, but definitely pack for all contingencies. Would love to return later in the season when the greens would be recovered, but I'd be scared if the rough got up !
I had booked a mid-morning tee time as a solo golfer, and wondered whether, even in late March, the powers that be might want to put me in with another group. But such thoughts were banished when, on arrival at Enniscrone, I found that mine was the only car in the car park. What followed can only be described as millionaire's golf, the sun shone throughout and I was virtually the only person on the course.
And what a course. Majestic is the word for this place, as one winds one's way through towering dunes, negotiating narrow fairways (it's not always wise to default to driver, here) and attempting to carry deep gullies protecting classic amphitheatre greens.
The tone was set at the first tee, as I tried to work out whether I'd run out of room if I took driver to the dogleg. That was the first of many judgements (and misjudgements) about clubbing. After a half-dozen holes I'd come up short so often I had to ask a passing greenkeeper whether the distance markers were measuring yards or metres. The only consolation was that most of the way round, short looked a lot less damaging than long.
I thought the first four holes were suberb. Five to 11 are merely good to very good. But from 12 to the finish is simply magnificent, with 12 and 15 being my personal highlights. A terrific golf course, in truly dramatic links terrain. Play it.
Great golf design often involves an evolutionary process and the Enniscrone Golf Club has gone through much since its inception as a golf club in 1918. In 1999 architect Donald Steel added six new holes within the native dunes area for the main layout along with three new holes in the adjoining flatlands to create the Scurmore 9-hole course.
The newly reconstituted Championship Dunes Course provides a refreshing and striking design, starting off with a rousing opening hole and culminating with four holes stretching alongside the Atlantic Ocean before the 18th turns away from the coastline to end the round.
The Dunes 18 stretches to 7,033 yards and plays to a par of 73.
The weakness of Enniscrone is that the middle half of the layout is simply a few paces behind the overall majesty of the holes played through the dunes land. Hole 5 through 10 are not easy per se -- there are three long par-4's in that sequence -- but the issue is about architectural heft or the lack thereof. It just shows how difficult it can be to create top tier holes when the land one must use for such a purpose is utterly featureless in its appearance.
Nonetheless, Enniscrone regains its stride in a big time way with the final 8 holes. The short par-4's at the 12th and 13th are simply delicious in how they differentiate themselves. The 12th climbing uphill is highlighted by a truly ornery putting surface -- three putts happen frequently for golfers who fail to pay heed with their approaches. At the downhill 13th - the risky play is to bomb driver in the desire to reach the green in one large blow with the driver. It is really fool's gold to attempt it but like the sirens who lured sailors to their death the temptation to try can be overpowering. Landing a tee ball on the green is akin to landing a 737 jet on an aircraft carrier. The wiser play is to hit an iron and leave oneself with a simple pitch shot to the dell green.
Once you leave the 13th the demands from the tee become quite challenging. My big issue with Enniscrone is how a number of fairways feature a bottle-neck element. The choke point in the bottle-neck can be so narrow as to preclude longer hitters from being baited to try such a high risk play. Early in the round you see that quite clearly with the par-5 2nd. The same inclusion happens at holes 14-16. I truly enjoyed the par-4 15th -- one of Ireland's really top tier holes. When you walk to the championship tee you can smell the salt air with the ocean ever so close. The tee shot calls upon working the ball from right-to-left but those who get too frisky will pay a major penalty for their aggressiveness. The par-5 16th which follows is a superb hole. The key is working the ball the opposite manner from the preceding hole -- this time with a left-to-right ball flight. The hole keeps moving to the right and the green is deceptive because it appears inviting but is quite finicky on accepting anything but the surest of approaches.
Many people have weighed in with plaudits for the par-3 17th but I see the hole as being nothing more than a basic dropshot hole. If there was ever a way to create a comparable hole to what one plays at Troon's famed postage stamp 8th -- the 17th at Enniscrone could certainly benefit from a bit more imagination.
The ending hole works away from the ocean and the series of bunkers in the drive zone mandates a well-placed shot from the tee. At 465-yards you once again face a bottle-neck fairway. The green, unfortunately, is simply pedestrian in overall character and could stand for some sort of makeover at some point.
Overall, Enniscrone has a number of exciting and demanding holes during its 18-hole journey. Having the course play as par-72 would have worked better -- reducing one of the existing par-4's -- likely the 7th as a long par-4 for the excellent players. By doing so the course would have some real muscle in this stretch of holes.
Where does Enniscrone stand among the hierarchy of top tier Irish layouts I've played? A top ten placement would seem to be beyond its reach now but I can see the course easily securing a top 15 placement. Be forewarned -- when you arrive at the dunes holes -- select a club that will find the fairway - otherwise be prepared to do some serious reloads. Anyone venturing to the northwest corner of Ireland had best have Enniscrone on their golfing agenda.
by M. James Ward
It has been a privilege to have played Enniscrone many times over the last 20 years on my yearly trips to the emerald isles. I have played all the major courses in Ireland and for sheer enjoyment and variety of golf holes Enniscrone stands supreme it is an absolutely magnificent golf experience. I took a group over for their Open Week in 2014 which is the best value Golf week anywhere in the World and the lads were spellbound ! This place is very special from the welcome at the club to the local community in the village great drink and food after a hard day on the links! The last 4 holes stand comparison with the best finish in golf play them at dusk and you will think you have died and gone to heaven. We will be their for the 2018 Open week counting the days down right now!
The weather for our visit to Enniscrone was decent. Apart from a twenty minute squall on the front nine the umbrellas were not required and the sun was out with a stiff two-club breeze more typical of links golf.
If the dunes at Enniscrone GC are high then the challenge of the course itself is monstrous. Ranked 13th in Ireland, 'The Dunes' course starts with what seems a benign opening tee shot on the dogleg right par four 1st, however any notions of easing into the round are immediately denounced when you reach the dogleg and realise what is ahead of you - a brutal uphill approach with trouble in the way of wild fescue infested high dunes on both sides. The exposed openness of the first tee is quickly forgotten as the next three holes, two par fives either side of a tight uphill par three, are routed right through the middle of the towering dunes and leave little forgiveness for wide misses on almost every single shot. The dogleg right par five second hole stood out as one of the best holes on the course, one of seven holes (2nd, 3rd, 4th, 11th, 12th, 13th & 14th) that are played completely enclosed by huge dunes creating a feeling of complete detachment from the rest of the course and the outside world. The par three 3rd required wood off the tee into the wind and the 4th is another dogleg right par five played through a dune tunnel.
Holes 5-8 are routed away from the higher dunes and play closer to the flatland Scurmore nine hole course. The 5th, whilst index 2 on the scorecard, played downwind on the day and its generous fairway from the elevated tee rendered it quite manageable despite the taxing contours on and around the green. Conversely, the par four 6th played like a par five into the wind, the steep slope in front of the plateaued green an additional complication. The 7th is the third of the front nine par fives and features a perched green with fall-offs on three sides and a helpful slope on the right feeding back towards the middle of the green.
After the par three 8th played to the southeast corner of the property, you turn back west and start the long loop that goes all the way around the outside of the course and ultimately leads back to the clubhouse. The 9th and 10th tees are set close to the calmer waterway of the Moy River that flows to the ocean and are played in the same direction with trouble in particular on the left side of both. The par three 11th brings you back towards the more mountainous dunescapes of the western centre of the headland and features a huge grassy drop-off on the right side.
The next two holes are memorable par fours set amidst the highest of the dunes. The 12th is a dogleg left with the second shot played (blind depending on position) over a deep grass valley to a rectangular green carved into the massive dunes, one of the nicer approach shots on the course. The 13th is a driveable (blind) downhill par four that doglegs right to the green hidden behind the dunes, a short hole but treacherous with a lay up strategy not much less dangerous than an attempt at the green, the hole enhanced by its green/red light signalling technology to rival any rail network the world over!
The 14th hole was my favourite on the course, a par five that brings you from the busy western centre of the course out towards the northern seaside homeward stretch via an undulating fairway with typically monumental dunes overlooking on both sides and an approach around the corner to a green that features a complex arrangement of swales and backstops.
The next three holes are played along the northern edge of the promontory with the ocean in view to the left, the par four 15th and par five 16th both with tricky greenside countours and of course dunes all about particularly high on the right and behind the greens on both holes with the coastline away to the left. The 17th is a classic par three, the tee positioned high up on top of a dune and the green laid out invitingly a few feet below tee level. The final hole runs back inland to the south alongside a holiday caravan park towards the clubhouse and is one of the few holes that I can recall demanding a draw off the tee due to the three bunkers right side of the fairway. Despite the more urban, exposed and flat setting around the green, the fairway and green countours maintain the links feel. Some will probably consider the 18th a disappointing finishing hole but that is testament to the supreme quality of rest the course.
Overall Enniscrone's punishing long fescue rough could make the round a major struggle for wayward players, but there is no doubt that it is a dose of golfing paradise.
Pick of the holes:
Par three - 17th
Par fours - 12th, 15th
Par five - 14th
There is nothing but water north, south and west of Carne, so if you want to play some more golf, you need to go east. After an hour of that I arrived in Enniscrone, the last, but by no means the least course on my trip along the Wild Atlantic Way. If you play in the afternoon like I did, I can wholeheartedly recommend visiting the Rosserk and Moyne Friaries in the morning. Small roads and limited parking means no crowds! Click the link to read more… Ireland – any decent golf on the West Coast?
Quite simply one of the very best links courses you will play, anywhere in the world. It is literally, jaw-droppingly brilliant!! Played it twice in a day on a very windy weekend tour alongside County Sligo and Carne with three pals (handicaps of 4, 6, 6, 6) in September 2016. After a somewhat inauspicious first tee shot the course begins to wind its way through some of the largest and dramatic sand dunes you will find anywhere on the planet. It really gets going from the 11th or 12th onwards, although that is not to say the holes that come before are inferior as they are all truly marvellous. It I was being very picky holes 5, 6 and 7 don’t quite compare to the grandeur of the rest of the holes but they are still excellent holes with brilliant green complexes.
I rate it above all the other courses I have played in Ireland, namely Ballybunion Old, Waterville, Tralee, Lahinch, Ballyliffin etc. It is straight in at my all time number 3 behind Royal County Down and Royal Birkdale.
Fantastic Golf Course, great setting and great value. Its a real test and has some of the most dramatic dunes and golf holes you will see anywhere. The warning light system on the blind 13th, probably my favourite hole, was particularly good, cant wait to go back!!
Played for second time in April 2016 on a beautiful stay. What a stunning course and setting and terrific value at about Eur50. Terrific test, great condition, undulating fairways and incredible Dunes. Maybe my favourite course in Ireland. Highly recommend it.
Some might think it strange that golfers return to the same courses when they venture overseas, even if there are plenty of other places to visit that they haven’t yet seen. Well, truth be told, it’s like wrapping yourself in a golfing comfort blanket when you return to the likes of Enniscrone – you basically know what it’s like (as in you’re aware of how good it is) and you just want more of the same, safe in the knowledge that there’s every chance you’ll get what you’re looking for.
I returned here last week for the third time in seven years to sample yet again some of the best links golf that Ireland has to offer. It helped to have Vice Captain Liam Hallinan with me as he helped point out lots of little things around the course that I’d have otherwise overlooked.
The new holes on the front nine attract most of the plaudits and rightly so, but there are plenty of good things to admire on the flatter holes, like the wonderful sets of cross bunkers that lie short of the green at holes 7 and 9.
On the inward half, the 12th is a brilliant doglegged par four, requiring two very precise shots to reach a green that’s benched into the dunes and there’s now a green/red traffic light on the downhill 13th which is triggered by golfers crossing a beam in front of the hidden green but I still think that system won’t stop big hitters going for the green with their tee shot, risking potential health and safety issues.
My latest round on the Dunes course can be summed up by another playing partner who hadn’t been here before, walking off the 18th green with the biggest smile I’ve ever seen on any golfer’s face – no matter how poorly you may have played, if you don’t finish here in a happy frame of mind then an appointment with the local doctor for anti-depressant tablets might well be needed for you. Jim McCann.