Links Life - North West Golf Club
We head to Donegal quite regularly, but this is one we weren't that familiar with.
Often called the ‘St Andrew’s of Ireland’, North West is as smooth as silk and reflects the rhythm of the ocean waves that fill Lough Swilly alongside.
It’s easy to stand on the tee of Ireland’s shortest par-3* and assume par is a given. At 93 yards you would, wouldn’t you! But this is a links and there was a good breeze gusting off Lough Swilly when we visited. A ‘simple’ wedge was no longer so simple and as the wind tugged hard at the cuffs of our trousers 93 yards became far more intimidating.
‘Fairy’ is the 16th hole at North West Golf Club, outside Buncrana on the Inishowen Peninsula, and it is one clear reason – of many – to appreciate a links that really isn’t appreciated enough. A generous green is surrounded by six bunkers and sharp fall-offs. Missing the putting surface means inevitable punishment. My double bogey proved the point… and sentenced me to ridicule.
From the main road that leads into Buncrana, you get to see a links that looks flat and open, the clubhouse rising fiercely in the middle, between the entrance and the sea. I’ll admit that North West looks rather benign from out here but just like any great links the devil is in the detail. Bewitching folds and idiosyncratic shapes, natural and unpredictable run-offs around slick greens all make patience and concentration essential.
As that wind continued to beat at us we quickly realised there was no hiding place. The course and the elements are intimately entwined to the point you can’t have one without the other. We discovered that being exposed is part of this links’ DNA and only a smart strategy will produce good scores… and fewer double bogeys.
* On an 18-hole course.
The wind and sea have shaped North West more than any designer and that natural charm adds so much to the golf experience.
How do I get there?
Located south of Buncrana on the Inishowen Peninsula (not far from Ballyliffin), the course is easy to find once you have navigated your way out of Derry City or Letterkenny, on the N13, on the way to Burnfoot.