Tucked away in the southwest corner of Donegal, Narin and Portnoo Golf Club is a links that deserves to be bracketed with many other natural, unspoilt courses that should be given greater recognition.
Narin and Portnoo was formed in 1930 and they played on a 9-hole layout for thirty-five years until it was extended to its current 18-hole size in 1965. The first green keeper, Jim McCole, held the post for over forty years, from 1934 to 1977 – its hearing about people like him that provide a flavour for what clubs like Nairn and Portnoo are all about.
After limbering up on the opening few holes, the routing will take you into the dunes where some spectacular holes have been fashioned, none more so that the 7th, the signature 143-yard par three, played over the chasm to a two tiered green on an adjacent sand hill. And speaking of sand hills, be sure to have your camera on hand to snap this hole with the backdrop of what must be the biggest sand dune in all of Ireland across the bay.
The club revamped the course in recent times, fashioning a new 6th hole from the old 6th and 7th then remodelling the old holes from 11 to 15 – in the process creating three back-to-back par fives between holes 13 and 15. Additionally, the Narin and Portnoo clubhouse was completely rebuilt, opening in June 2008.
Ten years later Gil Hanse was commissioned to redesign the course, so Narin & Portnoo’s future is certainly rosy. The first phase of the project was completely by Hanse and his design partner Jim Wagner in March 2019. “Golfers will be blown away by the natural beauty, interest and quirk that the property offers,” said Wagner. “The new combination of golf holes and greens locations will add challenge and stunning visuals associated with the property.”
Improvements include a new green at the 1st, to the left of the original, a lake which has been taken out of play on the 2nd, with the 3rd and 4th combined to form a new par five. The old 8th is now the new 7th with a blind shot to a new green and two new par threes have also been created on the back nine.