Donegal Golf Club
Designers: Eddie Hackett & Pat Ruddy
Opened in 1976, Donegal Golf Club (“Murvagh” to the locals) looks much, much older. Greens keepers, herbicides and watering systems have been held in check here. The fairways are allowed to brown out in the heat, such as there is, of summer and wild miniature daisies bloom in the hollows where the water accumulates after a rain.
Hackett provided an ingenious routing that reminds one of Old Tom’s at Muirfield. The first nine runs anti-clockwise around the perimeter of the property and the second nine loops clockwise inside. Ruddy gave the old girl sharper fangs when he toughened and improved the course in 2000. The opening nine is set amongst high sand dunes affording several shots down to the fairway from elevated tees and one lovely plateau green, the fifth, a very challenging 190 yard par three. The finishing nine is much flatter but, owing to Ruddy’s work, perhaps more resistant to scoring than the other nine. If Hackett was known for moving minimal earth for a minimal fee then Pat should be memorialized for providing minimal landing areas and bailouts. I find the 5th through the 8th holes at Murvagh every bit as good and challenging as the 4th through the 7th at Cruden Bay. I find the 18th the most demanding hole at Donegal off the tee and one of the best finishing holes anywhere. See if you agree.
Two pieces of advice. Play this course if you are ever in or near County Donegal. And if you do play it, keep your eyes out for an ancient Ping Pal putter with a black Tiger Shark oversized grip. Last time I played Murvagh, I stopped at the toilet behind the second green to relieve myself, leaned the putter up against the outside of the building, walked off without it and went looking after the seventh hole when we were once again near the strategically placed toilet. It wasn’t there and hasn’t seen since.