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  • Neil White

Trump International Golf Links Ireland (Doonbeg)

Ever seen a golfer literally cartwheeling down the fairway?

The impressively athletic lady was picking up her rhythm from loud dance music on her phone and followed the impromptu performance with an accomplished iron shot from the rough towards the 12th green.

Her husband shrugged his shoulders as we applauded from the adjacent 8th tee.

This could only happen in America…

But while we were in Trump country, it was actually the west coast of Ireland.

Doonbeg bristled with Stateside-standard service from the moment we were stopped by a friendly chap in an official jacket a quarter of a mile before we reached the imposing Trump Ireland International clubhouse.

We were among the few non-American players but, no matter, the caddy master’s team took our clubs and had the craic in the same way that they would have with all visitors.

Customer service is clearly high on the agenda at Doonbeg but the course is a curiosity - with some fabulous seaside holes alongside less memorable ones.

Doonbeg’s opener whets the appetite – a par-five with a green framed by towering dunes.

It gives a chance of an early score if deep sand traps can be avoided and a swirling green negotiated.

Next most memorable is the daunting 599-yard par-five fourth which demands a tee shot down the left to avoid bunkers and rough. I was delighted to be at the back of the green in three after a drive and two hits with my three-wood.

The fifth – one of the trademark short par-fours is where the Atlantic Ocean first emerges – behind a sloping putting surface wedged between two grassy dunes. Precision will reap rewards.

A classic photo opportunity appears on the sixth with grassy mounds to the right and a near-deserted beach and lapping waves to the left.

The sea was akin to a millpond on the April day we played and the sun was out.

Thus, these narrow par-fours offered chances to score which would have been much tougher if the wind had been blowing.

Of the five par-threes, the 9th is most testing – demanding a carry over lethal rough and with bunkers either side of a green sited only a few yards in from the shore.

Animals on the neighbouring farm were braying as we took on the intriguing par-five tenth which is protected by a stream across the fairway and down the left-hand side. I would imagine this to have far greater peril in worse conditions.

Hole 13 is arguably the most fun on the links. It is a strategic par-five, winding upwards from left to right. I giggled as my compadre reckoned the deep bunkers in front of the green were gurning at us. Are they deliberately set up to look like a troll's face?

Doonbeg’s signature hole is the 14th– a gorgeous downward par-three with the clubhouse over the bay in the distance.

And it boasts a stunning 18th at the side of the ocean up to a green in front of the grand façade of a clubhouse which could have been modelled on James Bond’s Scottish home in Skyfall.

I made one of the best sand-save pars of my life but, sadly, there was no crowd to appreciate it.

Other guests, including the cartwheeler, were inside, telling tales of their day.

Our friendly starter had told us that there was no doubt that the resort and Greg Norman-designed course had been given extra impetus since Donald Trump took over in 2014.

But while there are high standards of service, a cool pro’s shop and a memorable sense of place about Doonbeg, there are some surprisingly scruffy elements.

For example, the practice area, course walkways, tee boxes and, at times, fairways, fell below the pristine standard which would usually be associated with high-end golf.

We had played nearby Lahinch the previous day, so perhaps it was simply the case of after the Lord Mayor’s Show.

However, I have the impression that Donald Trump would not want to be in the shadow of others.

If so, his Irish course needs a bit more than its six or seven outstanding holes, American-style hospitality and a dancing girl.

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