Some days on the golf course offer little solace, in terms of shot-making, scoring, overall performance. Today was such a day, despite dazzling, sunny weather in the northwest of Ireland. Indeed, the only bragging rights to accrue from the golf game came in the form of confirmation from my A Position colleagues – Peter Kessler, Hal Phillips, and Jeff Wallach.
I had told them that Sandy Hills Links at Rosapenna Hotel & Golf Resort was the toughest course I’d ever played; and at the conclusion of the round there, my perspective had three new converts. Designed by native son Pat Ruddy and opened in 2003, the par 71, 7,177-yard layout in the County Donegal town of Downings, is a brutal test: ball-swallowing fescue, blind landing areas, gaping bunkers not always visible from the tee or on approach shots, and blustery conditions.
Earlier in the day, we’d played Glashedy Links, 7,220 yards, par 72 from the back tees. Sister layout to the Old Course at Ballyliffin Golf Club, Glashedy, also designed with Ruddy (in partnership with the late Tom Craddock) shares a couple of traits with Sandy Hills Links. These include some dramatic changes in elevation and the striking capacity to look much older than they actually are.
And while Glashedy Links is plenty difficult, Sandy Hills Links is in a different category. It’s a roughly two-hour drive between the two, but the commute – mostly on extremely narrow, hedge-line roads, can be almost as intimidating as the courses, especially when you’re not used to driving on the left side of the road.
Like the stunning scenery at both Ballyliffin and Rosapenna, the motoring can be spellbinding, but you still have to pay attention.
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