Doak in Donegal

Ireland’s largest golf resort is about to welcome a new course to the family, courtesy of an old 36-hole links layout and the vision of Tom Doak.


Not many people have heard of the St. Patrick’s Links in County Donegal. Fewer still have played it. It was a 36-hole layout with one 18-hole course designed by the legendary Eddie Hackett… and the other by Joanne O’Haire. Joanne’s is not a name that many will recognise and she remains the only woman in Ireland to have designed a golf course. The courses came into existence during the 1980s and 1990s, on a piece of linksland lost in the sandhills of Sheephaven Bay. They were never promoted and sat unloved for many years.


Under new ownership, Jack Nicklaus was brought in during the 2000s but the project never progressed beyond the design stage and the property was subsequently transferred to NAMA after the 2008 financial crash.


It was almost inevitable that the Casey family of the neighbouring Rosapenna resort snapped up the 370 acres in 2012. They appreciated that amongst all of the EU environmental directives and the limited linksland left on Ireland’s coastline, the St Patrick’s courses offered a potential goldmine.


And who better to ‘dig’ for that gold than Tom Doak. He first saw the property in 2014, and mapped out a routing for a single 18-hole course which would take full advantage of those 370 acres.


Doak is one of the top golf course architects in the world today. There are many outstanding architects out there and a list of the best would undoubtedly include Doak, Gil Hanse, Coore & Crenshaw, and David McLay Kidd. It is Doak’s first Irish golf course after an unfortunate false start on the Dingle Peninsula in the 2000s.


This is huge news for Ireland, and even bigger for Donegal. What’s more, Gil Hanse redesigned the links at Donegal’s Narin & Portnoo, which opened for play this summer. So that’s not one but two of the world’s best architects working in Ireland, putting their name to courses that will attract visitors for the design pedigree alone.


St Patrick’s is due to open in the summer of 2021. It will be Ireland’s first brand new course in over a decade. It will be the first full links added to Ireland’s considerable arsenal since Doonbeg in 2001. And yet one of the most remarkable things about this story is that so few people are aware it is happening. Co. Donegal has a superb array of links courses, stretching west from Ballyliffin down to Donegal and Bundoran. In all. It has 225 links holes, and more if you count the innocuous 9-hole courses, all coasting along the Wild Atlantic Way. With the name of Tom Doak on an Irish links, the beauty of this county and its courses will soon be discovered by many more travelling golfers.


It is a collision of the perfect dunescape, beautiful surroundings and the gifted hand of the world’s top golf course architect.