Doonbeg Golf Links
Designers: Greg Norman & Martin Hawtree
When Greg Norman was selected as designer for a proposed course on the links of Doonbeg, the two-time Open champion knew it was a defining moment in his career as a golf course architect. During construction, Norman was the definition of a hands on designer, making some 23 visits to Doonbeg, and openly shared what was at stake…
“This is the course I want to be identified with, one I will be able to say with pride.. I did that one.”
The Shark could not have selected a more ideal landscape for his one and only course in the British Isles. The towering dunes and weaving valleys supplied a delightful selection of natural holes. Most of the greens and fairways were merely mown shorter, with very little earth moving involved in their construction.
Along the way, an endangered microscopic snail was discovered in the dunes – a find that would saddle the course with additional restrictions and require scrapping the original design several times over. Rather than retooling the layout to one that would flow naturally yet still within the environmental constraints, Norman traded the spectacular dunes still at his disposal for a routing that was, at best, disjointed. The outcome was a course with tees shots hit over greens, and three green to tee walks across another fairway. The praise for the drama found at Doonbeg was often negated by the criticism of its awkward routing. A view that competing architect, Tom Doak, captured in the newest edition of The Confidential Guide to Golf Courses…
“In the end, it’s a beautiful place and full of thrills, but like the rest of Norman’s career, a bit haunted by the thought of what might have been.”
Enter Donald Trump and the architect of his excellent course near Aberdeen, Martin Hawtree, who was also responsible for a fabulous facelift at Lahinch a few years ago. In his improvements to Doonbeg, “The Open Doctor” has left no stone unturned and no hole untouched. In some cases like the 1st hole, the green has been re-contoured rather than moved with run offs to chipping areas instead of Norman’s deep rough. In others, the green has been moved into a dune setting and/or closer to the next tee. Other changes are more subtle like pinching the drive on the 8th with the extension of two dunes in the right side of the landing area. The old signature 14th hole, along with its thimble sized green, has also been replaced after being lost to the sea during recent storms.
The net result is that Hawtree, working with the same environmental restrictions, has created a course which fits the setting much better than Norman’s and flows quite naturally from one hole to the next. It is only fitting then that Doonbeg has a new name, as with that fresh identity comes the opportunity to finally live up to its long held potential.
Major Basil Haversham, OBE
Independent Travellers: The club is located on the north/west side of the N67 in County Clare. It is well sign posted from the N67. Report to the Professional’s shop to register for play. The staff in the Professional’s shop will direct you to the Caddie Master to claim caddies or trolleys.