Jameson Golf Links at Portmarnock - Review
Travel Editor Andy Waple played in the recent launch event of the newly rebranded Jameson Golf Links at Portmarnock just outside Dublin. Here are his impressions of the new design.
The Portmarnock Resort has had quite a history since the land there became a home for members of the Jameson whiskey family.
Liquor legend John Jameson built a small private golf course in the grounds when he moved from Scotland to set up business producing what as since become the world’s biggest selling Irish whiskey.
Golf has been played there since, although the fairways have evolved considerably since the days of gutta percha balls.
It became more widely known to the golfing public in 1995 when a Bernard Langer 18 hole links design was opened, taking in the rolling dunes of the coastline on what is now the back nine.
It was a good, enjoyable resort track, but it never matched the reputation with some of its more illustrious neighbours, despite hosting several professional events including the Irish Ladies Open.
Like so many others in Ireland the resort itself ran into difficulties in the wake of the global financial crash and was taken into receivership in 2011, run by the National Asset Management Agency.
It was bought by US property group Kennedy Wilson in 2014 who started a programme of reinvestment before selling to Canadian Northland Real Estate Properties in 2019.
The Canadians had ambitious plans for the resort from the outset. The first obvious step was to draw on the notable Jameson connection, seen as a marketing opportunity not to be missed.
They also had a vision to seriously upgrade the course to challenge its neighbours, so a multi-million euro improvement project was rolled out. Specialist course renovation designers (re)GOLF were hired to worked alongside course superintendent Fintan Brennan and Director of Golf Paul McCanny.
Much of the work concentrated on the back nine which runs through the coastal dues. Five new green complexes and four tees boxes were built to added interest, variety and challenge. Raising the land also gave previously unseen views of the coastline and the Irish Sea beyond. Unbelievably the work was completed in four months early in 2023 and all 18 holes were soon back in play.
The Golf Course
I had played this course three times previously over the years the last time being in 2012.
The opening holes alway seemed a little bland to me, but on this viewing they have been improved beyond recognition. They fall over gently undulating land with definition provided by numerous stern looking rivetted pot bunkers. Sand texture was good and consistent, helped enormously by clever rollers that do a much better job than ubiquitous rakes.
Course conditioning from tee to green was first class and the clearly defined fairways were like carpets.
It was clear that Fintan’s passion for overseeding with fescue grasses to give a true links-like roll and tight lies had paid off on both fairways and greens.
The first teeing area had been moved to the left giving a great view of the old Jameson graveyard to the right, thankfully out of reach from all but the longest of drives.
There are some very strong pars fours among the opening stretch, made seemingly longer by the typical stiff breeze that defines the Irish coastline. The par 5 4th hole is almost 600 yards from the tips.
A hole favoured by many is the par 4 7th, which although relatively short, is protected by a burn running across the fairway just yards before the apron.
Most of the recent renovation work has been carried out from the 8th hole onwards and changes have enhanced a number of the typical links features we all love and hate in equal measure - elevated tees and greens, blind approaches and doglegs are the order of the day as the course meanders through the dunes to its fantastic final hole featuring a menacing semi-blind tee shot.
Rerouting has made significant improvements and has resulted in the lengthening of the 12th and 14th into par 5s, shortening of the 13th into a challenging par 4 and the creation of a new cheeky one shotter, the 15th, with a new demanding green.
The further change still to come will see the tricky par 3 17th turned into a driveable yet perilous short par 4.
The 18th which requires an accurate drive down the left to avoid dunes and OB on the right is a great finale, with the green perched among the dunes in front of the hotel.
The on-site hotel situated 15 minutes from Dublin Airport by taxi and 20 mins drive from the city centre is a very useful location not only for golf here but at neighbouring venues. It has a spa and plenty of dining options.
The Jameson Bar or the An Sibin pub outside the pro shop are great places for a Guinness or two with, of course, a Jameson chaser.
The current owners have done a great job bringing this resort up to very high standard throughout and the course is now ready to take its place among Dublin’s finest.
Renovations have certainly strengthened some of the weaker areas of the course. The fact that talks are underway to create a golfing package encompassing Jameson Links, Old Portmarnock, The Island and Royal Dublin suggests the resort is well and truly sitting at the same table as the region’s elite.
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