Old Tom Morris Links 1893
In 1891, while a guest of Lord Leitrim at his nearby estate, Old Tom Morris of St. Andrews, a winner of four Open Championships in the 1860’s, took a drive to enjoy the Donegal scenery. Morris was quick to see the golfing potential of this fine stretch of Donegal Coastline and before returning to the home of golf he had staked-out the first Rosapenna Links, incorporating wide rolling fairways amidst the undulating terrain and of course those delightful greens.
Back at St. Andrews, Old Tom was quick to tell of his discovery and so it was that Rosapenna became a place of pilgrimage for golfers at the turn of the century. Amongst those to follow were two other great golfing champions Harry Vardon and James Braid who won 11 Open Championships between them. They added length and more detailed bunkering but were wise enough to leave those wonderful natural greens.
In September 2009 the new Strand Nine opened to replace the original back nine which played across the main road on a number of holes. These new links holes which are now played as the front nine are routed through the low lying dunes to the east of the Sandy Hills and are fashioned much like the original Old Tom Morris Valley nine that runs along the beautiful Tramore beach overlooking Sheephaven Bay which have now become the back nine. Laid out by Pat Ruddy of the European Club these new links holes, which have striking views across Mulroy Bay, have matured to a condition that has seen them settle into the Old Tom Morris Links to provide a seamless connection between each nine. The original back nine of the Old Links known as the “Coastguard Holes” are now played as a separate nine hole course beginning and finishing at the practice ground.
Running to just under 7,000 yards off the championship markers the Strand and Valley nines which now make up the Old Tom Morris Links are a testing combination of traditional and modern links holes which bridge a century of golf design influences.
Sandy Hills Links 2003
The Sandy Hills Links opened in June 2003 and has steadily risen up the rankings of the world’s top golf publications and comfotably sits inside the Top 25 courses in Ireland. Where Old Tom Morris settled for a course alongside the dunes, Pat Ruddy has gone straight through them from start to finish and created an awesome course that will test any golfer, yet somehow still seduce those that cannot live with it. Each hole is spectacular and the views across the Old Tom Morris Links toward the beautiful Sheephaven Bay will salve any wounds inflicted by this incredible golf course. Sandy Hills is in many ways the ideal of a modern links. Intended for the serious golfer, its narrow fairways appear constricting from the tee, but the landing areas sculpted from the dunes are deceptively wide.
Measuring a hefty 7,255 yards from the tips, Sandy Hills was designed with championship play in mind. However don’t allow this to deter you, with a multiplicity of tees there is a length to suit all strengths. Above all, the appeal of Sandy Hills lies in its beautifully balanced routing through the high dunes cloaked in marram grass. These sandhills bear a striking resemblance to the ones near the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland that form the spine of Royal Portrush, Portstewart and Castlerock. Many of the holes feature elevated tees and greens, with drives into natural bowls on the dune floor. Most of the holes run north and south along the dune ridges, parallel to the front nine of the Old Tom Morris Links below, and above Tramore, the large beach along side Sheephaven Bay that caught the Scotsman’s attention so long ago. No doubt Old Tom would approve of what has become of this links land that he so keenly recognized more than a century ago.