Home of the Jameson estate and mansion, The Portmarnock Hotel and Golf Links offers a unique attraction for travelers just outside of Dublin. In the 8th century, this land on the east coast of County Dublin belonged to the monastery of St. Marnock. In fact, the first hole on the golf course is bordered on the right by the ruins of St. Marnock Church and its graveyard. (Shots to this resting place are out of bounds, I might add!)
In 1847, the Jameson family, of Irish whiskey distilling fame, built the St. Marnock Estate and Mansion, which is now the section of the hotel known as Jameson House. In 1858, the family developed its own private nine-hole golf course, one of the earli- est in Ireland. In 1995, Bernhard Langer incorporated much of that original course into his design for the Portmarnock course, making use of the dunes and natural surroundings to create a unique links course. With elevated greens, blind shots, native grasses and doglegs, it is a very challenging course and one that most American golfers would not see at home.
On your way to the first tee, pay homage at the plaque commemorating the marriage between members of the Jameson and Haig families — the two greatest distilling families of the time. It was unveiled by King Edward VII in 1907, while Ireland was still ruled by the United Kingdom.
The hotel and pro shop staffs do all that they can to make guests feel relaxed and comfortable. The guestrooms and amenities are modest, fourstar level. The Jameson Bar is certainly worth a stop to sample some of the “brown stuff” or to down a Guinness while you immerse yourself in a little turn-of-the-last-century Irish history.
Hole 4 (580 yards, par 5)
This is the longest hole on the course, which means you’ll need to send a clear, crisp shot off the tee box. But beware if you really unleash one: A trap lies 298 yards from the back tees on the left side of the fairway. It’s best to aim for the center right, not too far right though, or you’ll be in danger of entering the mounds and rough. Your second shot — with a fairway wood — needs to stay clear of the three traps on the right side of the fairway. Shots to the green normally play longer and three traps guard the front and sides. On the other hand, you want to avoid the back green, or you’ll risk your ball rolling off.
Hole 5 (474 yards, par 4)
You need two well-struck shots to reach this green and you must avoid the gorse, which lies on the left side of this fairway. Not familiar with gorse? It’s an oft-used hazard on Irish and Scottish courses, and you will curse the day you were born if your ball enters this thorny thicket. On your approach, you will need to avoid the water hazard to the right. Two bunkers protect the right side of the green. To avoid your balling rolling off, it is best to run up on the green.
Hole 8 (411 yards, par 4)
This hole is the first of the original Jameson Links holes from the 1850s that Bernhard Langer incorporated into his redesign. It’s a dogleg left and the turn can be cut, but it is tricky one as a trap lies 264 yards at the turn to catch those trying to “go for it.” The green is elevated and surrounded by dunes. Overshooting the hole can put you in a precarious spot.
Hole 9 (172 yards, par 3)
Another of the Jameson Links holes, this is also the only bunkerless hole on the course. From the tee box, you have a beautiful view of the sea and the beach below. This makes for an interesting shot decision as the wind from the ocean, depending on the day, may come into play. My shot had to be aimed out to the beach on the left where the wind carried the ball to the green on the right.
Hole 12 (362 yards, par 4)
Depending on the tee box you play, your drive might be a blind shot to the fairway. Do your best to avoid the fairway bunker on the left, which is perfectly placed to catch shots off the tee. There is a generous landing area on the right, but you must avoid the rough, which is high, in typical links fashion. The green is very well protected, and a clean high shot to the right was needed the day we played. Because of the incline, balls on the front may hit and roll off the green.
Hole 15 (431 yards, par 4)
This hole was the ruin of me, as I landed in the rough and brush on the right side of the green, losing two strokes. It’s a par-four dogleg right at the beginning of what the club pro says are “the finest closing holes in links golf.” It also is the third and last of the original holes from the old Jameson course. You must drive to the left of the fairway in order to miss the two fairway bunkers on the right and to set yourself up for your approach shot to the green.
Hole 17 (204 yards, par 3)
You’ll need a well-struck tee shot to reach this elevated green. Depending on the wind, club selection can range from a driver to a seven iron. A solo bunker protects the front of the green.
Hole 18 (449 yards, par 4)
This is the course’s signature hole, and it demands your most accurate drive of the day. The tee box is set in the high dunes and you must aim your shot toward the left side of the fairway. On the right is no-man’sland, with high dunes and high rough, if your ball lands here, it will be nearly impossible to find. From your near-perfect drive, you will have a midiron shot to the green, which resembles a natural amphitheater protected by three traps.
PORTMARNOCK HOTEL AND GOLF LINKS
Co. Dublin, Ireland
tel 353 1 846 1800, fax 353 1 846 1077
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