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  • Neil White

Rosapenna - St Patrick's

Updated: 4 days ago

Enjoy the read and also listen to The Golf Pilgrim podcast from Rosapenna, St. Patrick's at https://podcasts.apple.com/gb/podcast/the-golf-pilgrim/id1743914901?i=1000655462688 or your favourite platform


Wow, wow and thrice, wow. No wonder St Patrick's Links has gone straight into the world's top 100 despite being less than three years old.


The Tom Doak design takes the breath away and the views across Donegal's Sheephaven Bay are outstanding.


Doak created his masterpiece from two existing courses on land, which now belongs to the Casey family. They also own Rosapenna's Sandy Hills and Old Tom Morris links.



There are nods to Lahinch and Ballybunion but unique touches of flair to the course, which stands just beneath them in Ireland's latest rankings but may go on to usurp them.


And yet the introduction to St Patrick's is unpromising. Barely signposted, it can be found down a dusty track to a tiny car park and a Portakabin-style club shop.


The Rosapenna practice facilities are a couple of miles away at the main complex, so our warm-up was restricted to a tiny practice green.



But as soon as we stood on the first tee, we understood the fuss.


This is a scintillating par-four to a flag hidden by a huge dune on the left and guarded by a deep bunker on the right.


In common with all of the greens, this one swirls so much that it is very tricky to read. They were also unusually slow on the day we played, causing consternation among many golfers.



We were told by the young starter that they were kept slow because if the wind had been blowing, it would have been impossible to keep the ball on the green. We were sceptical about his response.


One of the visual treats is the giant sandscapes around the course, including those on the second hole, which is also defended by a vast ascending green with humps and hollows that would test the finest golfers.


The sea is the backdrop for the third, a wonderful par-three to a flag surrounded by grassy dunes. A short tee shot could see the ball down the false front towards gnarly rough.



It is followed by a not-to-be-missed selfie opportunity on the tee of the par-five fourth because of its glorious seaside backdrop.


The wind was behind us and I found the very back of the green in two. Unfortunately, I didn't take my chance for birdie.


This was the story of my day but it was a pleasure to watch my podcast partner (PP) seize every chance St Patrick's yielded. 



For me, this is a sign of a great course. It will punish the errant but reward those who keep the ball straight and putt well.


He did both and his reward was the best round of his life with a podium finish.


The par-three fifth is played at the water's edge with sandscape in front of the target. 



It curves wildly from left to right, and I was thrilled with an eight-iron shot that followed its central ridge to within eight feet of the hole. 


It is followed by a strategic par-five with a decent carry from the tee and a big decision to go for the green over another tranche of sandy waste.


I opted for safety and claimed par while PP found himself in a deep bunker down the left after trying a more direct route. His recovery was a contender for shot of the day.



We played in the annual Rosappena Muckish Links Classic, and the organisers were benevolent in selecting the shorter yardage granite tee positions.


We agreed that we would have preferred to try the slate tees, which would have given us a better idea of the challenge Doak intended.


For example, the extra length would have made the ninth trickier. 



This par-four requires distance and accuracy off the tee before it turns towards the green, which has a bunker on the left of the fairway, more sand, and a drop-off down the right.


Mrs W and I both were just off the front of the green in regulation but botched long putts.


Be prepared for a long walk and changes in elevation at St Patrick's. Buggies are not allowed, because the course is so close to the water's edge but there is a courtesy vehicle for people who need a toilet break after the front nine.



The rolls on the fairways are pronounced and nowhere more so than on the par-four tenth, where the ball can be filed into a trap on the left of the fairway with another giant bunker guarding the green to the right.


I am not alone in believing the 14th to be the best hole at St Patrick's. Indeed, it stands up to any links hole I have played.


The view down from the tee is sensational, as the par-four bends sharply around a substantial bunker and then runs parallel to the beach.



Regardless, it would have been magnificent, but we matched its drama with our shots. One pal hit conventional belters – drive down the left, followed by perfection into the green.


Meanwhile, the huge trap blocked me out. I took out my three-wood and deliberately struck a low cut to land pin high. 


PP duffed his second shot short of the bunker, chipped blind to within ten feet, and nailed his par. 





The only disappointment was for Mrs W, whose second shot cleared tufty grass on the left and dived down the cliff.


This begins a magnificent run-in that continues on the 15th, a corking short uphill par-three to a two-tier green.


I was chuffed to strike a nine-iron to about ten feet but frustrated to miss the putt for a much-cherished birdie. Nevertheless, the views from the green across the bay were beautiful compensation.




The 16th is a monster par-four, which mortals such as us can only play as a par-five by slamming over sandy waste, avoiding more of it on the right and tangly rough on the left.


By this stage, we were egging PP on towards glory and I was also carving out a respectable score.


However, while he marched serenely on, this hole was my undoing because, after two decent set-ups, I saw my third shot take a slope off the green into the bunker, which guards the right-hand side.


I was miffed because I could see the run-off on the left but thought there was no danger from a filter-in from the right. 



Frustration also followed on the 17th, a gorgeous par-three into a wildly undulating green that took what appeared to be a perfect tee shot bobbling past the flag and down the drop-off into rough at the target's rear. 


Once again, this proved that correct club selection at St Patrick's is essential.


At first, the 18th looks like a strange afterthought – a short par-four that seems innocuous from the tee because of its wide landing area.


But it has a chasm in front of a false-fronted green, deep bunkers on either side and a significant fall-off over the back.


This kick in the tail was in keeping with superb links, which will only improve with age.


In the meantime, the owners need to make the turf on its greens more consistent to make it a perfect rather than simply outstanding round.










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