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Portumna Golf Club Review

By: Andrew Picken | Thu 27 Jul 2023

In my introduction to the ‘Hidden Heartlands’ trip, I mentioned the joy I have experienced through Irish golf. I have been blessed to play some incredible and iconic venues and every new Irish trip provides moments that make unforgettable memories.

Golf is important but the overall experience is also something that I value. It’s about the people and places I experience during the golfing journey. My visit to Portumna Golf Club cannot be remembered without a smile and fond memories.

I knew from my initial research that Portumna was a parkland golf facility that has gone under the radar for many years. It was clear that it is an ambitious, aspiring venue with a package for the visiting golfer that is already well worthy of a visit. They have secured substantial funding and the plans for the future are exciting for the membership but also the visitors.

Situated on the shores of Lough Derg in County Galway, this golf course has been developed by the local community and its love for the game.

The History

I usually find that research into the history of a golf club provides a glimpse into its DNA and Portumna proves this point perfectly. Started in 1913 from land rented from local farming families, it filled a gap for access to the increasingly more popular sport of golf. Located near to the racecourse, it provided an excellent canvass on which to sculpt and design a parkland golf course.

Leasing the land with a promise of ensuring grazing rights meant that the initial greens were all fenced to protect the green surfaces. The previous deer park grazing is reflected within the current club crest.

Portumna Golf

Post war acquisition of the site by the Forestry Commission and foresighted management by club elders led to a more secure future for the venue. Designed through evolution and consent of the committee this venue soon established itself as being an important community asset.

Word soon spread about the quality of the venue on offer and the club became a victim of its own success by discovering that the clubhouse facility was too small to cope adequately with the number of visiting golfers. 

Developments to the clubhouse later allowed for the club to purchase the land outright and Eddie Connaughton was commissioned to create an 18-hole championship layout on the site.

Well known in his native Ireland, he has an impressive catalogue of work that has been enhanced by the developments he has introduced at Portumna.

The Front Nine

I enjoyed the flow of the front nine with the opening holes hugging the exterior boundary of the course. The third is a decent dogleg left into a well-proportioned and protected green complex. The 4th hole is another intriguing and challenging short hole. I enjoyed the first par 5 on the course due to its setting and proximity to the extensive ruins and stone towers that are to be found at strategic high points around the layout.

I understand that these towers were vantage points installed to watch the horse racing that have now been adapted to provide better views on a couple of semi blind driving holes. They are fascinating constructions.

Another par 5 patrols the outer edge of the course boundary and is a straight hole protected by its length and well-placed bunkering. The final holes to the front nine run parallel back to the clubhouse.   

Portumna Golf

The Back Nine

The second nine opens with a short hole that is again running in the same direction as the 11th. Well-presented and excellently kept greens add value to the package for the golfer.

The course was very busy with lots of golfers, yet the pace of play felt comfortable with no real pressure on our group. The 12th hole is an interesting dogleg sharply right at 90 degrees. An interesting challenge to avoid a substantial forest to the right shoulder of the hole. The green is funneled at the end of a channel of trees that are imposing if you are out of position in any way. This is a golf course that rewards accuracy because the trees and their locations are penal if a player leaks off-line.

I particularly enjoyed the closing holes from the 15th onwards. I would suggest that the 17th is the signature hole with a visually challenging tee shot presented due to the proximity of the extensive lake that is in play for its length.

The 18th is decent way to close the round with its proximity to the waiting gallery and clubhouse.

Playing these final holes was a strange experience as we pushed on to avoid some looming rain clouds. I could hear the sound of an amazing male voice choir. Was that a loud car sound system or just me imagining things? 

This was a genuine counter point to the quiet nature of the course as it is blissfully secluded from any external noise.

As we walked off the 18th green and looked towards the clubhouse it became apparent. There were around 100 Welsh golfers from a society who were enjoying a post-match drink and presentation and they had spontaneously broken into song. It was simply beautiful. Melodious and a wonderful way to finish a wonderful round of golf.


This is an aspirational golf club that is set to attract the visiting golfer as well as providing an excellent local membership package. The number of visiting societies who return annually gives me the best indication of its quality and attractions. I loved it!

The clubhouse and its welcome is simply outstanding. Home cooked, locally produced fare with care and attention. Simply brilliant. The sea food chowder some of the best I have ever tasted anywhere. The service despite the number of customers was superb. We even got to join in with some of the singing. An amazing way to conclude a round of golf.

Sean's Bar

We had a post round debrief in the usual fashion at Portumna and were then taken to Sean’s Bar in Athlone. Established in 900 AD this is a magnificent watering hole. The oldest pub in Ireland, petitioning to become the oldest in the world. A discreet door provides access to a tardis like museum of Irish history and craic. It is in Lonely Planet’s guide to the best 25 pubs in the world. 

Please do not expect to go here for a quick one. We did and failed!

Live music, fantastic beers and a globally diverse clientele. This is the hidden side of Irish golf and it was worth the journey in itself. If you are in Athlone please do not miss out on the chance to experience this venue.

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