Feted American architect Tom Doak has built a links in Scotland, renovated a heathland in England and is now poised to create 18 new holes in Ireland.
The charismatic designer – the man behind many of the greatest modern courses in the world – has been engaged by the Casey family who own Rosapenna to build a course on land that occupies the dormant 36-hole St Patrick’s Links.
The routing has been established and the new course is expected to be ready for preview play next year.
Rosapenna already has two 18-hole courses, the muscular Sandy Hills by Pat Ruddy and the Old Tom Morris, which has nine holes the eponymous architect and nine holes from the Strand course.
Doak’s associate Eric Iverson, who worked on the Old Tom Morris, a decade ago will take the lead on the project and will be helped by NCG Top 100 panellist Clyde Johnson of Cunnin’ Golf.
By any standard, this is an exciting development. Firstly for Rosapenna and the Casey family but in a wider sense for the north west of Ireland.
It has long been our feeling that this area is under-appreciated but has also perhaps not reached its potential given the coastline and dunes of north-west Ireland.
Adding a Doak links to the area gives it a lift in every sense and would it be a surprise if Doak had a look at Rosapenna’s Sandy Hills while he was on the property?
Add two world-class links there to the two at Ballyliffin and it makes the journey to the top of Donegal very worthwhile – and for your information, while it is obviously in the Republic of Ireland, the best way to get there is actually via Belfast.
So you can add in Royal Portrush and Portstewart to your trip too.
Or if you have more time, add in Rosses Point, Enniscrone and Carne further west before sweeping back into Northern Ireland to tick off Royal County Down before the short journey back to Belfast.
New par 3 for historic Scottish links
Elsewhere, Kilmarnock (Barassie), the former Open Final Qualifying and Amateur Championship venue, now has an impressive new par 3.
In the early 2000s, the Ayrshire club on the outskirts of Troon added nine extra holes to the existing historic 18-hole course, primarily to add length to the championship course and offer members more challenge and variety.
However, two parts of the site required having to walk over 400 yards between holes and Barassie have moved to address this issue in an era of trying to speed up the sport.
Working with designer Paul Kimber, an exciting new short hole with good drainage was created in order to remove the walks. After gorse was taken away and sand imported from other parts of the site, the new 12th, known as ‘Hillhouse,’ replaces the former par-3 6th hole.
The 12th is 145 yards and features an undulating green, pot bunkers around the green and a view to Arran looking back down the hole.
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