Vast sand hills swathed in knee-high rough, quick greens with perplexing run-offs and a superb variety of holes, Lahinch delivers rugged seaside golf in a pure form

Lahinch Golf Club Old Course Review

Green Fee Range: €180-€230

Medal Tee: Par 72 – 6,613 Yards

Visitor Times: Every day, check with club for details


Lahinch Golf Club Old Course Review

A round at Lahinch is an exciting adventure and an exacting test. A design that has evolved over 125 years, it has been shaped by Old Tom Morris, Alister MacKenzie and, more recently, Martin Hawtree. It’s a supremely natural course and one where every shot in the bag will be tested. The fairways run through huge grass-covered dunes to fast greens with devilish run-offs. There’s a great mix of holes, some asking for raw power, others for a more subtle approach. It will be exciting to see the top players take on Lahinch for the 2019 Irish Open.

Related: Dr Alister MacKenzie: Augusta’s Designer

Those who first commissioned Lahinch chose this plot of County Clare linksland over another 20 miles south, where Greg Norman’s 21st-century Doonbeg now stands, which should give you some idea as to the stunning nature of the terrain upon which Old Tom Morris was asked to weave his design magic in 1894.

Morris described it as being, “as fine a natural course as it has ever been my good fortune to play over”, and few who have visited this west Ireland classic would disagree, despite several changes over the years, most notably from Dr Alister MacKenzie, and more recently Martin Hawtree in 1999.

Hawtree’s brief was to reinstate some of the MacKenzie features lost in the 1930s, and today’s visitors should be delighted that the links now features the best of both Morris’ and MacKenzie’s design worlds, along with more recent sympathetic refinements.

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The layout plays over wonderfully rumpled links terrain where the Inagh River meets the Atlantic, weaving between, and sometimes over, sizeable dunes.

The two most famous holes are classic Morris. The par-5 4th – The Klondyke – at first snakes through the dunes before serving up a blind second shot over them, while the 5th – Dell – takes ‘blind’ to another level, a short par 3 to a long shallow green sandwiched between 30ft dunes front and back.

The 6th then plays back towards the ocean, and one of Lahinch’s greatest strengths is that a significant number of fairways, greens or tees lie a mere chip and run from either the crashing Atlantic waves or the calmer Inagh estuary.

Course changes since previous ranking

According to club manager Paddy Keane, “All pathways are now grass – new short game Academy which includes a short game range, chipping green complex, bunker practice areas and driving nets.

Numerous annual course improvements including: rebuilt fairway bunkers on the left of the 2nd hole into the landscape and lowered the left-hand side of the fairway to enhance visibility of the lower fairway from the tee box; dune hills between the second and third fairways were completely rebuilt to give a more natural structure and to more readily facilitate golf strokes; grass pathways from the men’s 15th tee to the fairway have been lowered to improve visibility of the fairway from the tee box. At the same time a new ladies’ tee was constructed; flat area right of the approach to the 17th green was re-contoured to better frame the hole and additional work has been done to improve the dunes behind the green; Championship tees on specific holes were rebuilt along with the white and green tees on the 12th hole; New Championship tees on the 17th and 18th holes were constructed which extended the length of the golf course above 7,000 yards.”

Proposed course changes

“Too numerous to mention but includes development of indoor practice facility to include swing room (trackman & san-lab putting studio); simulator; indoor nets etc.”

Golf Monthly Verdict

A blend of raw nature and subtle architecture.