The Old Links name is a bit of a misnomer since it actually dates back only to 1973 when the famed Irish links architect Eddie Hackett expanded nine holes into a classic old style links course. What makes it old style is the lack of elevation changes but there is just enough hide and seek of the landing areas to keep you off balance. Distinguishing characteristic of this course are the uneven fairways-there is not a level stance to be found. You get the full washboard effect-rumpled wavy fairways, undulating and full of wrinkles and furrows that will do unexpected and unpredictable things to your bouncing golf ball.
Nick Faldo heaped the highest praise on this course when he first visited it in the 1990s. He fell in love with the course and offered to buy it, but was turned down. The club did employ him to make changes to the links renovating bunkers and moving some tees. The par 5 14th is his original and it is one of the really distinguished holes on the course.
What this one lacks in feature it makes up for in pure links tactics. Since the land is relatively flat and there are not any high dunes to block the wind you get maximum effect from the winds that seem to blow constantly off the Atlantic. A low lofted club is a must here to keep it under the wind and help manage the length of your shots. If you have an old one iron in the closet, bring it with you for this day because it will serve you well.
The green settings are pure links as well (see number three pictured above). Generous when they need to be to help control the low struck approach depending on the wind direction. The bunkering is not overdone but landing in them has it’s price to pay so maneuver the ball carefully. What I found more than anything is that the raw distance means nothing here it is a circumstantial shot makers course-you have to carefully consider all the factors before planning each shot. At the end of this round you are mentally exhausted from the tribulations of the day.
This venue is way out there on the end of the Inishowen Peninsula about as northern most as it gets in Ireland before falling off the island, but it is well worth the trek. This is one of two great courses at Ballyliffen and you need to play them both.
Ballyliffen, Northern Ireland
Architect: Eddie Hackett (1973)
White 71 6612