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Hidden Gems


Right: Glen of the Downs Below: Rosses Point; Headfort


Secrets are supposed to be kept but when it comes to golf courses it’s almost incumbent upon the discoverer to divulge. By John Fogarty


HiddenGems T


he hidden gem, the clandestine utopia, the glorious stumble-upon... to not


unveil a beauty of a track is just too rude. Across all four provinces, Ireland is dotted


with a bevy of them that even in the shadow of the more popular greats sparkle. Situated on the shores of Lough Muckno


just outside Castleblayney town in County Monaghan, Concra Wood, only in existence since 2008, is one of them – a course of majestic beauty and sterling test that is a welcome addition to a healthy stable of border county courses that already boasts Slieve Russell in County Cavan. Designed by the great uncle and nephew


partnership of Christy O’Connor Junior and Senior, this 7,256 yard-long par 72 is as aesthetically pleasing as the challenge it presents. Feast your eyes and forfeit your confi dence


as you step up onto Par 5 tee-boxes on 13th and 15th and prepare yourself for drives requiring over 200 yards of carry over Lough Muckno to make the fairway. Formidable they sure are, just as is the 17th


hole named An Muirineach (meaning Maram Grass) among the unspoiled sand dunes at the jaw-dropping beautiful links that is Carne in


72|73


Belmullet, County Mayo. Only fully opened since 1993, this Eddie


Hackett creation has been savoured by each and every golfer who has been fortunate enough to play it. Incredibly natural, like all true great link


courses, it has the ability to pit you against the elements in their rawest form and leaves you feeling wholly grateful for it. Along with the County Sligo course at Rosses Point, the north-west area of Connacht can rightfully boast at least two truly magical layouts. Further south along the western coast-line


is another wonderful links, Dooks Golf Club, in Glenbeigh, County Kerry. In a county that is blessed with wondrous


golf courses, here is one that can stand with the best of them even if it doesn’t get the credit it deserves. Surrounded by Ireland’s tallest peaks the


Macgillycuddy Reeks, Dingle Bay, the Dingle Mountains and Slieve Mish, the scenery is breathtaking while the course itself offers a golfer a quality links test but with its own twist. Across to Cork and the Rebel County serves


up a delightful parkland offering in Cork Golf Club just outside the city in Little Island overlooking the harbour.


Immaculately maintained, its maturity and


several elevated greens demands excellent course management in serene environs. Jumping provinces from Munster to


Leinster and there is the sumptuous Bunclody Golf Club on the River Slaney in County Wexford, the only course in Ireland which has an elevator, linking the 17th green and 18th tee-box. A skip north then to the Garden County of


County Wicklow (like Kerry, a host of some of the country’s best tracks) and here we were blessed to come across a jewel in the Glen of the Downs Golf Club in Delgany. Nestling close to the Sugar Loaf and the


Wicklow mountains, it is a real haven with the vista it provides and a host of par 3s designer Peter McEvoy can rightly claim are some of the best around. That’s not to mention the dazzling


clubhouse or the links-like feel given to this 6,443 yard Par 71. Nearby you can fi nd the time-honoured


Woodbrook Golf Club close to Bray, a former host of the Irish Open which has never lost its class. Stepping into the clubhouse is a treat for


golf history enthusiasts just as is walking the fairways of the parklands in the knowledge the


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