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Dromoland Castle Golf Club Feature Review

By: Andrew Picken | Thu 18 May 2023

Last autumn, I enjoyed another wonderful golf trip to Ireland. I flew from Birmingham Airport directly to Shannon. A 90- minute relaxed flight followed by a short hire car trip to Dromoland Castle. We also visited Trump Doonbeg and Limerick golf courses during our trip.

We based ourselves in the award-winning, historic Strand Hotel in Limerick. It has an excellent location allowing easy walking access to the city centre. 

The trip began on Halloween. I have never been a fan of this event fearing that it was over commercialised. But I had no idea that this holiday was such an important thing within Irish culture. 

Halloween is a bank holiday in Ireland and it is widely celebrated. It originated from a Celtic festival over 1,000 years ago from which the current practices derive.

The atmosphere in the city centre was electric that evening. We had a brilliant night visiting Locke’s Bar on the riverside to enjoy excellent food followed by live music and dancing. Irish craic at its best.

So good in fact that I am already planning a return trip to coincide with next year’s Halloween festivities.

Dromoland Castle

Dromoland Castle

An easy 20-minute drive took us to Dromoland Castle. The roads and infrastructure in and around all the Irish airports I have visited are excellent and driving in this country is a simple pleasure to be relished and enjoyed.

The home of the 2022 KPMG Women’s Irish Open only a few weeks before our trip. In fact, I had researched the venue using the Sky Sports coverage of the event as a guide.

Before venturing out onto the course in wet and windy conditions, we visited the Fig Tree restaurant and it offered simply superb golfing fayre in preparation. This rain did not diminish the enjoyment of the excellent venue in any way.

The castle is one of Ireland's finest created in the 16th century by the Pain Brothers. It is set within 450 acres of amazing scenery next to the shores of Lough Dromoland. The castle has a unique history with its owners being intertwined with the history of the county and country.

Guests interested in non-golfing activities have a wide range to choose from including the services of a resident genealogist, falconry, fishing, clay shooting, horse riding, walking and jogging using well signed and maintained pathways. 

Cycles are available for hire as are paddle boards from which to explore the loch and the incredible views offered of the castle and its surrounding countryside.

The castle also offers a 30-page whiskey menu with Irish whiskey and cocktails. I did not sample it but am told that the Wheel of Fortune crafted with Jameson infused with vanilla tea and coffee beans, lemon juice, sugar and egg white is one of its most popular.

I also declined the offer of an introduction to paddle boarding in preference to access to the wonderful championship standard, parkland golf course.

The Golf Course

Dromoland Castle

It is clear that this is a high-quality parkland course from the moment you drive through the gates. It exudes class, combining gentle hills, ancient trees and unexpected water hazards to deliver a demanding and exhilarating course.

Buggy paths form a clear part of the course design yet do not impose themselves, but as a first-time visitor I enjoyed the buggy experience rather than carrying as there are some decent walks between tees and greens. 

When I have the pleasure to return, and I will, as it is that good, I will elect to walk as I am sure that the distances and gradients are easily manageable. It was designed by internationally renowned architects, Ron Kirby and JB Carr.

The championship course plays over 6,824 yards from the back tees and 5,242 from the front, presenting an enjoyable challenge to both amateurs and professionals.

The Front 9

The opening hole plays uphill with a sloping fairway and no bunkers. None are needed.

Hole 2 is a reverse of the first but it is a clearly defined separate challenge. Out of bounds runs the entire length of the hole to its right border. Ranging from 457 yards to 390 yards this is a challenge to all levels. Bunkers are strategically placed at the elbows to doglegs. The green is a busy tiered complex also protected by bunkers.

All of the short holes at Dromoland are excellent, but the third hole is framed beautifully by a curtain of trees to the rear. Distances range from 197 yards to 141 depending on choice of tees.

I like the style of the 5th hole, a par 4 ranging from 412 to 375 yards. Out of bounds ranges the full length of the left of the hole and careful position off the tee will be rewarded. The greens are very well protected by bunkers.

The 6th hole ranges from 593 yards to 459 yards and rates as the second most difficult hole on the course. The ideal landing area for the opening tee shot is to the right towards the trees away from the out of bounds that run the full length to its left side.

The common landing areas are well protected by bunkers and fairway trees requiring very accurate placement of any shot to keep the hole in play. Another complex green awaits. This is a lovely looking hole. 

The 7th hole at Dromoland Castle is a real jaw dropper. It’s a beauty. I am told that the camera operators for TV were excited at the prosect of showing this hole to a TV audience. I completely see why. All its hazards are within view. The drop in gradient providing stunning views of the green and castle beyond. Playing from 179 yards to 126 yards this also offers different heights as well as distance. 

The 9th is a great risk or reward par 4. It is badged as Dromoland's version of the 10th at The Belfry. Weather conditions dictated my choices for the day but as the yardage ranges from 323 yards to 274 yards there are options available for the ambitious tee shot. The green is designed to hold a long shot by being bowl shaped again tempting for the confident driver of the ball.

The Back 9

Dromoland Castle

Number 10 is another memorable hole played over or from a lake dependant on the choice of tee box. The lake intimidates visually at all points off the tee. Another excellent and testing golf hole.

Number 11 is an epic par 5 ranging from 543 yards to 463 yards. The tee shot will require a decent carry to avoid the marsh area that is marked as out of bounds but also do not be too greedy by trying to take off too much of the corner with the tee shot. The fairways are tight with water and out of bounds to the right so again accuracy for the lay-up is a necessity.

The 13th is another interesting short hole playing from 158 yards to 107 yards. Short and downhill with the River Rine running across the hole adds to the visual interest and the test. Very well bunkered, this is a hole requiring finesse not brute force.

Another risk or reward hole, the 15th offers tees ranging from 273 yards to 234 yards. The green angles from the tee box and the bunkers are very well placed to capture anything but the best struck shots. 

Number 16 is the hardest hole on the course. A tree sits mid fairway around 200 yards. Tee shots left bring the river into play as it runs diagonally across the hole. The green is exceptionally well guarded and I think this hole favours a cautious approach to every shot.

The 17th is another demanding but beautiful short hole. I loved the natural feel of this and was not surprised to find that little shaping had been done to create such a natural but challenging hole.

Finally, the 18th is an excellent finishing hole offering tests and challenges with every shot played. There is a large sycamore tree indicating that it is 100 yards from the green and this is to remain in perpetuity due to its links to those who created and supported the venue from its inception. It was loved by Mr Carr during his design process and it offers a genuinely different way to finish off a round of golf at this superb championship venue.

The practice facilities are superb as you would expect and the hotel is simply gorgeous.

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