North West Golf Club Course Review

One of Ireland’s founding fathers, North West Golf Club is home to a fabulous links in a lovely setting

North West Golf Club - Hole 3 - Feature
North West is blessed with a fabulous waterside setting in County Donegal
(Image credit: Kevin Markham)

North West Golf Club Course Review

GF €60-€70; Twilight: €30-€35
Par 70, 6,342 yards
Slope 116
GM Verdict An old, low links with a mischievous heart
Favourite Hole The par-3 3rd plays next to the sea and requires a confident swing to find a small green

North West is one of the oldest courses in Ireland, dating back to 1891. It lies on the Inishowen Peninsula, and many a travelling golfer bypasses it en route to Ballyliffin, home to two Top 100 golf courses. You get a good view of the links as you drive north into Buncrana, squeezed as it is between the road and the sea. Perhaps it looks too flat to grab your attention fully, but it has not idly been dubbed ‘the St Andrews of Ireland’. It is one of the best golf courses in Ireland.

North West Golf Club - Hole 3

Looking back from behind the green at the short third

(Image credit: Kevin Markham)

This is perfect, low linksland and a dynamic links education where your skills in the art of bump-and-run will be well tested. It’s not a pre-requisite by any means but the low approach often trumps towering wedge shots on windy days, or when the fast putting surfaces make it difficult to stop the ball. Many of the beautiful greens just flow out of the land… you can putt from 50 yards if you so choose. That’s how smooth it all is.

North West Golf Club - Flags

The flag hints at one of the course’s main defences at North West

(Image credit: Kevin Markham)

There are so many bewitching folds and idiosyncratic shapes, natural and unpredictable run-offs around greens, and well-placed bunkers that patience and concentration are essential. This is about discipline because the winds sweeping in off Lough Swilly will dictate which parts of your game are tested most.

North West Golf Club - Hole 12

The approach to the super-tough par-4 twelfth

(Image credit: Kevin Markham)

The layout of the course has changed over the years as decades of erosion have stolen parts of the course. Today’s layout presents many challenges… but one in particular catches the eye: on 10 of the opening 11 holes a fade risks going OB. From holes 1 to 5 that means putting a ball in Lough Swilly.

North West Golf Club - Hole 13

Bunkers surround the 177-yard par-3 thirteenth

(Image credit: Kevin Markham)

Holes 11 and 12, on either side of the clubhouse, are two of the stand-out holes while the 3rd beside the water and the delightful 93-yard 16th - named Fairy - are the pick of the four par 3s.

North West Golf Club - Hole 15

The rumpled fairway of the par-4 fifteenth

(Image credit: Kevin Markham)

The par-4 12th is Index 2 and drops down over a gentle ridge for the approach shot. It is the hole with the most movement and the green - so sweetly presented - emphasises the glorious green shapes everywhere. There are only two par 5s, which end each nine at the clubhouse.

Kevin Markham
Kevin Markham

Kevin Markham stepped into a campervan in 2007, and spent the next 14 months playing every 18-hole golf course in Ireland… 360 of them. He wrote two books on the back of those travels and has been working in the golf industry ever since, both as a freelance writer and a photographer. His love of golf courses has seen him playing extensively in Scotland, as well as across Europe. In total, he has played over 550 courses including most of Scotland’s top 100, and over half of Portugal’s growing number. He writes for the Irish Examiner newspaper, Irish Golfer magazine, and Destination Golf, and is a regular contributor to Golf Monthly. He has his own photography website – kevinmarkhamphotography.com – and spends hours on golf courses waiting to capture the perfect sunrise or sunset.

Kevin can be contacted via Twitter - @kevinmarkham