Portmarnock Golf Club: Hallowed links will have you grinning from ear to ear
- Jay Coffin
- Oct 5, 2011 12:00 AM ET
PORTMARNOCK, Country Dublin, Ireland -- When playing golf in Europe it's always a treat to drive into the car park at the club and notice what year the course opened.
Knowing you'll play on grounds that have withstood the test of time for over a century makes the experience greater. No way a golf course can be disappointing if people have loved it for longer than anyone has been alive.
Portmarnock Golf Club is a traditional links gem that fits the bill perfectly. It was built in 1894, has hosted 19 Irish Opens and one of the more memorable Walker Cups in the history of the biennial team matches.
Legend has it that on Christmas Eve in 1893 Scottish insurance broker W.C. Pickeman and friend George Ross rowed from Scotland to the peninsula of Portmarnock to explore the possibility of creating a great links golf experience. They discovered a peninsula that covered 500 acres, which was better than they had hoped.
Actually, the area had been used as a makeshift golf course since 1858 when the well-to-do Jameson family, who lived on the north side of the property, owned the land. John Jameson, owner of a Dublin distillery, agreed to lease the land to Pickeman and Ross for 25 years so that they could develop a golf course. So, with Ross, Pickeman and Jameson serving as the club's first officers, Portmarnock opened in 1894.
The course is as relevant now as ever. The 1991 Walker Cup saw a winning American team, led by Phil Mickelson, defeat a Great Britain and Ireland team that boasted Irish legends Padraig Harrington, Paul McGinley and Garth McGimpsey.
The first Irish Open was at Portmarnock in 1927 and the last was in 2003, when Michael Campbell beat Thomas Bjorn and Peter Hedblom in a playoff. In between, names like Ben Crenshaw, Mark James, Sam Torrance, Seve Ballesteros, Bernhard Langer, Ian Woosnam and Jose Maria Olazabal have all won Irish Opens at Portmarnock.
On this windy September morning it was a challenge to hit fairways, but more of a challenge getting the ball to stop on the greens. But with golf in Ireland, expect to battle some elements.
The par 3s were a highlight even though there were only three -- the par-72 layout had three par 3s, three par 5s and 12 par 4s. By the time you reached the first par 3, the seventh, you were ready to see a short hole. But it was 170 yards directly into the wind. The 148-yard 12th was a treat as well. I hit 4-iron as hard as I could into the wind, but it came up short in the right greenside bunker, bringing double bogey into play.
Another feature that jumped out was how well manicured the chipping areas and putting surfaces were. Standing on the first green with the Irish sunshine radiating down made the experience almost angelic. The next 17 greens were pure as well, making it easier to make putts. Rolling the ball from well off the green was easy and often the preferred shot.
I had been to Europe plenty and played golf in Ireland on three different junkets, including at many of the country's best tracks. But I was playing with two Americans who were Irish golf rookies grinning from ear to ear along every step of Pormarnock's hallowed links.
It was memorable for me, unforgettable for them.
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