*Dromoland Castle Golf Course

In this week’s article from Pádraig McGrath, the PGA Golf Professional delves into detail on the new heights reached at the Women’s Irish Open 2023 hosting golf club, Dromoland.

I joined Dromoland in 1990 and I’ve seen the golf course flourish over the years with two major revamps in particular, one over two decades ago where they dug up all eighteen greens and re-laid all new sand-based greens as well as redesigning some of the layout of the golf course. But this latest revamp which began only a couple of years ago has in my opinion turned Dromoland into one of the country’s finest parkland courses. The beauty with Dromoland as a golf course is the vast amount of land available to course designers to work with. They have so many options where they can locate new tee boxes which can completely change the design of a golf hole.

Since the appointment of Dromoland’s Golf Director Eamon O’Donnell along with Golf Manager Mark Reynolds, Triona and Neil Dromoland has reached new heights in every aspect, from the course design and the new vast improved clubhouse transformation. In particular Eamon’s vision and ideas have helped the Managing Director Mark Nolan and Director Mr. John O’Brien to invest heavily in the golf course and you can clearly see the benefits of all of this investment today. But investment is also nothing without the hard-working Paul Coleman and his team who give their continued dedication to their craft, alongside the recent investment which was best showcased in the past two summers with the hosting of the Women’s Irish open. It was amazing to see a course you know so well, flourish to a level I didn’t realise was possible. In particular there are three new golf hole designs that I feel have notably changed for the better from this investment and these holes are :

11th hole : The 11th hole at Dromoland is a 543-yard Par 5 with a severe 90° dogleg turn left to right. This tee shot is one of the toughest tee shots in the county because you have to carry your drive over heavy rough which is all Out Of Bounds. I watched several of the LET lady golf professionals hit it Out Of Bounds from the tee at the Ladies Irish Open last year at this hole. Also, the clearance of the old dead wooded area means you can clearly now see the hole all the way to the green across the vast lake. You have to carry your drive anything from 230-280 yards depending on how much you decide to cut off the corner. There is a new cleverly situated bunker about 260 yards from the tee box and my advice is to anyone who is not familiar with this hole to stay well left of this bunker from your tee shot. It is a true risk and reward tee shot because the carry looks inviting however the more you try to take off the more risk you are taking.

Once you get the tee shot away you are now faced with a new extremely daunting second shot into a green surrounded by water rapping about 240° around the green. In the past the water was only placed in the front portion of the green but last year they expanded the hazard to wrap all the way around the right-hand side and around the rear right-hand side of the green as seen in the photo attached. So now not only are you trying to carry the water for you second shot from 250-200 yards but you also have to content with not hitting your approach over the green to a newly cleverly placed freshwater lake. The 11th at Dromoland is now one of the strongest Par 5 holes in the world. Make sure to take a photo at the new St. Andrews Bridge with the stunning historic medieval Dromoland Castle in the background.

16th Hole : The main change to the 16th hole is the positioning of a new tee box high up in the tree tops to the left-hand side of the current back tee. If you are familiar with the tree that lies in the middle of the 16th fairway you are now looking directly towards the top of this tree. It is probably playing close to the same distance because even though the new tee is further back the elevation of it makes the hole play to a similar distance however the view from this new tee is spectacular. You can now see clearly all the way to the Rine river that meanders across the fairway splitting the hole into two segments. The second shot is to a highly elevated green which always plays a minimum of two clubs extra and sometimes up to four clubs extra if the hole is playing into its usual westerly breeze. It is no wonder this hole is Index 1 because it is long and you’re distance control needs to be perfect to hold this narrow back to front elevated green. If the pin is tucked to the right-hand side the second shot is twice as difficult as the right side has only half the length of green and it is well protected by a deep bunker that will gobble up every shot that comes up short of this green. Trying to hit the right club to achieve the perfect distance and launch trajectory to this severely elevated green that usually plays into a stiff breeze, “that you can’t always feel from the fairway below” takes precision and talent. This truly is one of the greatest golf holes on the planet.

18th Hole : What can I say but the newly designed 18th at Dromoland Castle Golf & Country Club is now one of my favourite finishing holes that I’ve ever played. Standing greenside watching the three-way playoff on this hole was an amphitheatre experience I will never forget. This Par 5 hole now starts with a huge risk and reward tee shot to a newly wide-open fairway if you are long enough to hit the 264 yard carry over the renowned historic lake at Dromoland Castle. The shorter hitters have to also take on a 200-yard carry over the marsh deep grasslands that resides along the lakes shore. This tee shot is not for the faint hearted and it has destroyed many a good scorecard over the years. The main new feature and my favour change to the 18th hole is the clearing of all the dark deadwood trees that were an eye sore and blocked the incredible view of the lake. The removal of this deadwood has truly brightened up the whole area and now there is a 360° view around the lake which is just truly breath taking. The second half of the fairway is now some 40-50 yards wider however it still is not an easy second shot approach to the green because the course designer Ron Kirby has brought the water more into play by wrapping it in around the front right-hand side of the green. Also, you have to content with the tall historic cypress tree that stands over 120ft tall sitting 90 yards from the green in the centre of the fairway. Not only have you the choice to hit a fade or draw around this tree for your approach shot but you also have to contend with pot holes bunkers protecting the left portion of the green and the lake protecting the right-hand side. The lake also wraps around the rear right-hand side of the green so going long is also not an option. This approach shot desires an aggressive attack that has the right curvature to content with the monstrous cypress tree and distance control to clear the hazards that await any shot that lands short or long at this hole. This newly designed final hole I think anyone will agree is now one of the strongest finishing holes from around the globe.

I have to also commend Dromoland for planting thousands of new trees on the grounds a few years ago before the works begun. Their forward thinking of planting this new plantation has not gone unnoticed.

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Subscribe for just €3 per month

If you’re here, you care about County Clare. So do we. Did you rely on us for Covid-19 updates, follow our election coverage, or visit The Clare Echo every week for breaking news and sport? The Clare Echo invests in local journalism and we want to safeguard its future in our county. By becoming a subscriber you are supporting what we do, will receive access to all our premium articles and a better experience, while helping us improve our offering to you. Subscribe to clareecho.ie and get the first six months for just €3 a month (less than 75c per week), and thereafter €8 per month. Cancel anytime, limited time offer. T&Cs Apply. www.clareecho.ie.

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