14th hole at the re-designed Trump International Golf Links, Doonbeg, Ireland
The re-designed Trump International Golf Links at Doonbeg is a spectacular golf course which is certain to attract golfers from all over the world to golf in South West Ireland. On a recent visit to experience the changes at Trump Doonbeg, I was greatly impressed by the quality of the new course layout. Martin Hawtree, the renowned golf course designer was commissioned to carry out the extensive redesign project (at a cost in the region of EUR 4 million) which has significantly enhanced the course in terms of visual appeal and playability. Eric Trump referred to the opening hole "with it's amphitheatre of dunes around the green" as being one of the courses stand-out holes. It was interesting that he also referrred to the second hole as being spectacular after the changes made to this inland hole. The par 3 14th hole was the signature hole of Greg Norman's original design. Today, it is still the most talked about hole on the course albeit being unrecognisable from it's former guise. The new 14th hole plays back towards the lodge from an elevated tee with stunning views over Doughmore Bay. The routing of the golf course has also being much improved from the original design. We remarked on the course signage and the grass paths between greens and tee boxes. Trump Doonbeg's head professional Brian Shaw talked us through some of the changes that had been undretaken to improve it's appeal to golfers of all abilities. This is a top class links course which can be enjoyed by all, which is really the essence and hallmark of a good golf course. The course features a number of risk and reward shots, but a number of blind shots have been eliminated in the new design. Gone also is the infamous bunker which Greg Norman had placed in the centre of the 12th green. Scott Marr, the course superintendent caught up with us during the round to tell us about the course conditioning and some of the work which had been undertaken over the winter months. It was great to hear that the growth was ahead of expectations due to the mild Winter, in fact the course was about six weeks ahead of where it was this time last year. It is exciting to see Trump Doonbeg in such fine shape. Together with nearby Lahinch celebrating it's 125th anniversary this year (which will be the topic of a separate blog) and Ballybunion just south of the Shannon estuary, this stretch of the south west Ireland coastline is second to none in terms of the quality of it's links golf offering. It reminds me somewhat of the Ayrshire coast in South west Scotland with it's big three courses Royal Troon, Prestwick and Turnberry (coincidentally another Trump golf course). Trump Doonbeg, albeit a relatively young course and without the tradition of it's illustrious neighbouring golf courses, is nonetheless a must-play for golfers planning a South West Ireland golf trip!