Ballyliffin (Old)

Ballyliffin (Old)

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Ballyliffin (Old) Golf Club

Ballyliffin (Old) Golf Club | Top 100 Golf Courses in GB & Ireland

As the northernmost golf course in all of Ireland, Ballyliffin can be considered something of an outpost. Indeed, arriving in this tiny Donegal town (population approximately 500), it is hard to imagine it could be home to one let alone two internationally renowned links courses.

Not many people know that northern tip of Ireland is actually in the Republic, rather than, as you might logically expect, in Northern Ireland. But the wild county of Donegal, for so long overlooked as a holiday destination on account of its remoteness, in fact stretches from the west coast up into a dramatic area of jagged coastline, from where the next land heading north is Scotland’s western isles.
So even given the Republic’s vastly improved road network (it is now possible to bypass the bottlenecks of Sligo and Donegal towns on your way up the west coast), it takes a certain amount of determination to get to Ballyliffin, which overlooks the Atlantic Ocean and, to be more precise, Pollan Bay. But as with so many of golf’s great pilgrimages, taking the trouble to come here is more than worth your while.

Visit Ballyliffin's website here.
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A Brief History of Ballyliffin (Old) Golf Club

The Ballyliffin Old Course's evolution is a testament to the enduring passion for golf in the region. In 1947, it began as a modest 9-hole layout. Over the years, as the popularity of the course grew, a significant expansion project was undertaken in 1973. This transformation saw the course extend to a full 18 holes, providing golfers with an even more comprehensive and challenging experience. 

The Ballyliffin Old Course's rise to prominence in the world of golf is underscored by its role as a host for prestigious tournaments. In 1998, it welcomed the Ladies Open, a significant event that showcased the course's ability to challenge and inspire golfers at the highest level of play. Two decades later, in 2018, the course was once again in the spotlight as it hosted the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open, attracting top professionals from around the globe and further cementing its reputation as one of the top Irish golf courses.

The Ballyliffin Old Course isn't just a place to play golf; it's an immersive experience that celebrates the timeless allure of links golf, providing an opportunity to connect with the land, the sea, and the spirit of the game.

Ballyliffin (Old) Golf Club Review | NCG Top 100s

The Old, which is not actually especially old at all, dates back to 1947 while the Glashedy Links opened in 1995. But it is evident that much changed in the world of golf architecture in the near-half-century that separates them. The Old, which measures 6,600 yards from the back tees, was originally laid out by committee members and significantly remodelled by Eddie Hackett, the godfather of Irish golf, 20 years later.
It is simply a reflection of the peculiar topography of the land. Few other layouts boast quite so many corrugated fairways that mean a level stance is approximately a three-times-a-round experience. Given the spectacularly exposed nature of this area, these uneven lies add much to the strategy. It is simply impossible to determine which way the weather is coming from as it rolls off the Atlantic and around the mountains that form the backdrop to Ballyliffin.
Find yourself with an uphill lie and it is a skilled links player indeed who can avoid hoisting his shot way up into the air and therefore at the mercy of the wind. Similarly challenging is trying to predict the bounce of the ball on a downwind shot when the fairways are firm.

In fact, that does not happen to the same extremes as on Scotland’s dryer east coast in warm summers. So much rain falls in this area – do not even consider coming to Ireland’s north or west coasts without some decent waterproofs regardless of the time of year – that Ballyliffin rarely loses its green tinge.
Like many venerable seaside courses, the Old would be much diminished without its omnipresent weather, but as it is the holes change character from one day to the next – and sometimes several times in between. Highlights include the par-five 5th, that curves gradually to the right down what the locals describe as “the fairway of a thousand shadows” when played on a sun-kissed evening. Elsewhere, the holes are of a consistently high and challenging standard while rarely straying into the boundaries of greatness. The best stretch of holes comes towards the end, where the sea is nearer and a couple of fascinatingly contoured greens (especially at the short 16th) add intrigue.
Nick Faldo fell in love with this course on his first visit and recently carried out some modernising work on the Old Course, adding some bunkering and redesigning tees. Needless to say, it all fits in with the overwhelming naturalness that it would be a crime to diminish in any way.
Those who have played both courses in the same day will be even more ready for rest and refreshment, which is best achieved with a seat by the window in the first-floor bar with a pint of Guinness in hand. From there it is possible to look right across the links and ponder what might have been – or, of course, bask in the glow of the memory of a rare birdie or two.

What are the Ballyliffin Old Course green fees?

For a standard visitor, the course costs €200/£171.62 to play, however for residents of Ireland with a valid Golf Ireland Membership, it costs only €80/£68.65 .

Where is Ballyliffin located?

Ballyliffin Golf Club is located in County Donegal, Ireland, situated on the Inishowen Peninsula. Ballyliffin Golf Club is known for its stunning coastal views and is one of Ireland's top golfing destinations.

The City of Derry Airport is the closest airport to Ballyliffin, located in Eglinton, just outside Derry. It's approximately a 1.5 to 2-hour drive from Ballyliffin. The nearest train station to Ballyliffin, County Donegal, is in the town of Derry, which is located across the border in Northern Ireland. The train station in Derry is called "Londonderry Railway Station."

However, it's important to note that this station is still a considerable distance from Ballyliffin, and you would need to arrange additional transportation, such as a taxi or bus, to reach Ballyliffin from Derry.

Visit Ballyliffin's website here.
Go back to the NCG Top 100 Great Britain & Ireland list.