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Trump Doonbeg International Golf Links Feature Review

By: Andrew Picken | Wed 15 Feb 2023 | Comments


Trump International Golf Links & Hotel Ireland, also known as Doonbeg, derives its name from 'Dun Beag', which roughly translated means small fort. This beautiful seaside village grew up beside a castle, which was built in the 16th century for the Earl of Thomond.

Doonbeg is situated on the main coastal road between Ballybunion and Lahinch, one hour from Shannon Airport, in County Clare, which is a truly sublime part of Ireland.

The military theme continues as the land had been scoped and reviewed by members of the Scottish Black Watch Regiment. These officers were tasked with identifying a suitable landscape for the development of a golf course. As part of the same operation, they identified Lahinch. This was chosen as it had an existing rail link in place.

Fast forward a hundred years and the land was acquired by the Kiawah Development Partners and they set about creating a world class venue designed by Greg Norman.

Any mention of Greg Norman and Donald Trump obviously links back to the messy politics of golf. When I was offered the chance to visit, it is a factor that I considered. Having decided to attend I was in no way disappointed by the welcome, quality of service and conditioning of a wonderful golf course and resort.

I was genuinely surprised at the level of goodwill and support that the locals have for the Trump Organisation and it was summed up for me by one local over a pint of the black stuff explaining that the whole parish of Doonbeg has 750 people in it, and of that group over 350 are employed by or connected directly to the golf course. 

The golf course has revitalised the town and it supports it wholeheartedly. I hadn’t appreciated additional links to Presidents of the USA when I became aware that former Vice President Mike Pence was a relative of one of the local village publicans. This town has had more presidential visits than a little and is almost blasé to their impact. 

This venue is aimed at the American audience and has exemplary standards of customer service throughout. Direct flights from the US to Shannon have also enhanced a burgeoning wedding market combined with a first-rate golfing package.

There are a number of wonderful other venues that are within a comfortable travel distance such as Lahinch, Ballybunion, Tralee, Dooks, Waterville and Old Head. Helicopter transfers between these venues and Doonbeg are available and promoted within the course literature. They are a common sight at the venue.

Trump Doonbeg 14th

(14th Hole: Image Credit: Kevin Kenny, KK Photography)

Overall Summary

In general terms, 16 of the 18 holes offer sea views and the soundtrack and smells of the round of golf I played here will remain with me for a long time. There is a smell of the sea and the beach with every shot. Each shot is amplified and enhanced by the sounds of the crashing waves nearby. A memorable golfing experience.

From the back tees it is a true championship links of 7,026 yards with a par of 72. The quality of the turf is simply magnificent and the natural grass pathways are a delight as they meander around the course. The bunkers are penal, the turf is deliciously tight (a fine mix of native fescue, bent grass and ryegrass, with thick marram on the dunes). I had to ask they are that good! I found the need for a decent running game was required at all times.

We walked using the excellent GPS fitted electric trolleys provided for use by guests. This was a day of pure golf enhanced later by some proper Irish weather that at one time was defying gravity by dropping sideways.

Extraordinary Opening Hole

Trump Doonbeg 1st Hole

(1st Hole: Image Credit: Kevin Kenny, KK Photography)

I was excited to play the venue and knew that the first hole was an instant challenge. A visit to the driving range was very useful as the opening tee shot is simply worth the trip in itself.

Chatting to locals in the clubhouse, some of the members run a book estimating where the tee shot of the player on the tee will finish having assessed their form by their reaction to the scene once they have climbed the steps to the tee.

This spectator sport has been happening since 2002 starting with the opening exhibition match between Padraig Harrington and Greg Norman

It is a genuine jaw dropper and I have seen it argued that this is the most challenging opening hole in golf on these islands. 

I defy any first-time player not to be distracted and taking time to photograph the incredible vista that is presented from this tee. There is no gentle introduction into the rhythm of this round. It is straight to the top of the rollercoaster and off we go. I loved it!

A crescent beach arcs into the bay providing around a mile of sand to act as the course boundary. Visually it is simply stunning.

The green complex here on this iconic par 5 is beautiful. It sits within a mound of dunes like an amphitheatre. 

The Front Nine

Trump Doonbeg 6th Hole

(6th Hole: Image Credit: Kevin Kenny, KK Photography)

The 4th encouraged us to open our shoulders with varying degrees of success. The snaking, naturally meandering style of this 592-yard par 5 requires careful consideration.

Then come magnificent back-to-back par 4s. After being exhilarated by the 5th you have a chance to go for the 6th green from the elevated boxes off the white or yellow tees. As you leave the tee, you move past the green of the 13th, and it is worth making a note of what you see there for later.

The 7th is a strong par 3 played slightly downhill to a green framed by a large dune while the par-5 8th dog-legs to the left and concludes on an elevated green that rejected my attempts at an approach shot.

It is a hole where you wonder how you have made such a mess of it, then glance at the card and realise it is stroke index one. It is a tough hole, well disguised and designed.

There are very few halfway houses that I have experienced that sell Dom Perignon Champagne at 395 euros a bottle. I shouldn’t be surprised as this is a Trump venue and at least four had been sold last year. 

Then comes the best short hole on the front nine, playing 175 yards with the beach hard to the left of the small green and a large sand mound and bunkers to the right. Make a par here (the furthest point on the links) and you will enjoy even more the view back along the crescent beach to the clubhouse and lodges.

The Back Nine

Trump Doonbeg 15th Hole

(15th Hole: Image Credit: Kevin Kenny, KK Photography)

The par-4 12th brings us back towards the dunes again. The greens show the renovation work of Martin Hawtree who softened the undulations brought in by Greg Norman.

The 13th is simply magnificent. The charts indicate it is a reachable par 5. Our weather required conservatism and sensible shots that resulted in a hard-earned bogey. It felt like a par.

The 14th has also been reworked to cater for erosion. Rather than playing into the sea this hugs the coastline still providing excellent enjoyment and some wonderful golfing views and problems. 

The 15th hole is said to be Greg Norman’s favourite. This is another very strong par 4 with its green sitting within a huge sand crater. 

Hole 18 as a finishing hole is as strong as the opening, offering the Atlantic Ocean as a boundary. The fairway is rumpled like a badly made bed and offers little chance of an easy flat stance. The closing green sits within a natural amphitheatre, lending extra pressure to any decent round being closed successfully.  

Trump Doonbeg 18th

(18th Hole: Image Credit: Kevin Kenny, KK Photography)

Conclusion

This is an entirely satisfying golfing experience and the customer service standards offered are exemplary. We needed hot showers to thaw out and full use of the excellent drying rooms for clubs and bags. Followed by some of the most delicious clam chowder I have ever tasted and a glass of Guinness. 

This was a wonderful golfing experience of the very highest order. My first reaction on finishing the round was ... When can I do that again?


For more information, please visit https://www.trumpgolfireland.com/ or our travel partners Golfbreaks.


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